When Bobby first floated the idea of spending a whole week talking about Iceland, it occurred to me that I didn’t know anything about Iceland other than Björk. Well maybe I knew a little bit more. I knew the most visible work of contemporary architecture in the country is undoubtedly the Harpa Concert Hall, which we’ve already talked about a few times before Bobby even knew he was going to Iceland. But I did learn this week that the concert hall looks like this at night and that the irregular facade of Harpa mimics the basalt geology that you can find in other parts of Iceland.
Another one of the country’s most celebrated buildings was also inspired by basalt columns, the Hallgrímskirkja, a church designed by Guðjón Samúelsson. Samuelsson started to draw the church in the ’30s, but it wouldn’t be completed until the ’80s over three decades after his death. But it’s no coincidence that these two examples of the built environment in Iceland are inspired by the natural environment in Iceland. If I had to summarize what I’ve realized about Icelandic Architecture, it would be that everyone wants to go outside, but often find themselves stuck inside.
So I wanted to find a project where the connection between the inside and outside was a bit more obvious and explicit. That’s when I found the Blue Lagoon, a spa designed by VA Arkitektar. The project clusters around the periphery of a bright blue lagoon and isn’t quite the spectacle that Harpa and Hallgrimskirkia are, but what it does beautifully is facilitate interactions between the built and natural environment. And even if the buildings aren’t themselves spectacles, the overall place is spectacular. In part, this is because of the sharp contrast between what was there and what’s been added. Plus, what could be a better way to experience the architecture of Iceland than visiting a spa where you can slip easily from inside to out? Spending half your time relaxing and half the time floating in the environment that has inspired many of the interesting buildings around you; just feeling buoyant in a vibrant blue lagoon that’s unlike anywhere you’ve ever been.