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Harpa in Reykjavik wins 2013 Mies van der Rohe Award

Harpa is the winner of the 2013 Mies van der Rohe Award for contemporary architecture. Photo: © Nic Lehoux

Harpa – Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Center – in Reykjavik, Iceland, is the island nation's first purpose-built concert hall, designed by a collaboration between Copenhagen, Denmark-based Henning Larsen Architects and several Icelandic firms: Batteríid architect, Att Arkitektar, and Studio Olafur Eliasson.

Harpa plan drawing. Image: Henning Larsen Architects

The 28,377-square-meter (305,450-square-foot) building stands on a waterfront site on the capital's eastern harbour and was developed as part of a master plan to grown and revitalize this part of the city. Harpa is the 2013 recipient of the biannual Mies van der Rohe Prize, also known as the EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture.

Inspire by nature, the facades of Harpa are alternatingly cellular or crystalline. Photo: © Nic Lehoux

Its angular glass facades have a cellular or crystalline structure. Some facades are three-dimensional space frames composed of hundreds of vertically oriented steel-frame prisms stacked in overlapping courses, while other surfaces are flat glass-and-steel curtain walls composed of irregularly shaped cells.

The ceiling of Harpa's multilevel atrium is lined with grids of hexagonal mirrored tiles line, helping to distribute precious daylight deeper into the building. These panels also work in combination with the prismic quality of the facades to produce lively interior daylighting effects.

Select glazing is tinted. Photo: © Nic Lehoux

The building consists of both concert and conference spaces, including four main halls. Dark red panels embossed with a simple rectangular pattern are used in the main concert hall, which has four seating levels. Seen from the atrium the arrangement of the halls is intended to evoke the geological massifs that mark the Iclandic coastline.

The concert hall of Harpa. Photo: © Nic Lehoux

Project Credits
  • Client: Austurnhofn TR – East Harbour Project Ltd.
  • Design Team: Henning Larsen Architects, Batteríid architects, Studio Olafur Eliasson, and Att Arkitektar
  • Consultants: Artec Consultants, Almenna Consulting Engineers, Verkis Consulting Engineers, Verkhönnun Engineers, Ramboll, ArtEngineering, Efla Engineers,, Hnit Consulting Engineers, Mannvit Engineers,, IAV hf., Iceland Prime Contractor, Landslag, ASK Architects, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Jasper Parrott

View of Harpa across the Reykjavik harbor. Photo: © Nic Lehoux

The building was among five projects shortlisted for the award.

The jury was composed of Wiel Arets of Wiel Arets Architects; Pedro Gadanho, Curator of Contemporary Architecture MoMA New York; Antón García-Abril, Ensamble Studio; Louisa Hutton of Sauerbruch Hutton Architects; Kent Martinussen, of Danske Arkitekter Center (DAC); Frédéric Migaryou, director of Architecture & Design, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Ewa Porebska, Editor-in-Chief, Architektura-murator; Giovanna Carnevali, Fundació Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona.

Light plays across an interior stair at Harpa. Photo: © Nic Lehoux

Harpa elevation drawing. Image: Henning Larsen Architects

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