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09.04.2020

Harpa (concert hall)

Harpa is a concert hall and conference centre in Reykjavík, Iceland. The opening concert was held on May 4, 2011. The building features a distinctive colored glass facade inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland.

History

Harpa was designed by the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects in co-operation with Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. The structure consists of a steel framework clad with geometric shaped glass panels of different colours. The building was originally part of a redevelopment of the Austurhöfn area dubbed World Trade Center Reykjavík, which was partially abandoned when the 2008 Icelandic financial crisis took hold. The development was intended to include a 400-room hotel, luxury apartments, retail units, restaurants, a car park and the new headquarters of Icelandic bank Landsbanki. As of 2015, apart from Harpa, only the hotel looked likely actually to be built.

Construction started in 2007 but was halted with the start of the financial crisis. The completion of the structure was uncertain until the government decided in 2008 to fully fund the rest of the construction costs for the half-built concert hall. For several years it was the only construction project in existence in Iceland. The building was given its name on the Day of Icelandic Music on 11 December 2009, prior to which it was called The Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre (Icelandic: Tónlistar- og ráðstefnuhúsið í Reykjavík). The building is the first purpose-built concert hall in Reykjavík and it was developed in consultation with artistic advisor Vladimir Ashkenazy and international consultant Jasper Parrott of HarrisonParrott. It houses the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the offices of The Icelandic Opera.

In the opening concert on 4 May 2011, Iceland Symphony Orchestra performed under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy with the Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson as soloist. The concert was broadcast live on RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

The Icelandic Opera performs at the concert hall even though the venue is primarily designed for concerts, lacking a curtain, proscenium, and any of the traditional stage machinery.

Harpa is operated by Portus, a company owned by the Icelandic government and the City of Reykjavík.

In 2013, the building won the European Union’s Mies van der Rohe award for contemporary architecture.

The current director of Harpa is Halldór Guðmundsson.

Appearances in popular culture

In its unfinished state, Harpa (under the earlier name Tónlistarhús) appears in Gæska: Skáldsaga by Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl, where it is temporarily turned into a mosque with the addition of a minaret.

It was the setting of an episode of the Netflix series Sense8.

It appeared in the Netflix series Black Mirror on the episode "Crocodile".

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