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Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center

Harpa – Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre gathers inspiration from the northern lights and the dramatic Icelandic scenery.

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 irregularly-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 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.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-02-759x506 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

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. 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. The building is the first purpose-built concert hall in Reykjavík. It houses the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and The Icelandic Opera.

Henning Larsen Architects with acoustics by Artec Consultants Inc and a façade by Olafur Eliasson in collaboration with the architects, Harpa is to become home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera, and thus a major addition to the Icelandic and European cultural scene. It will also serve as a tourism and business hub, providing flexible facilities for programs and international events.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-04-759x506 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

Situated on the border between land and sea, the Concert Hall stands out as a large, radiant sculpture reflecting both sky and harbour space as well as the vibrant life of the city. The spectacular facades have been designed in close collaboration between Henning Larsen Architects, the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and the engineering companies Rambøll and ArtEngineering GmbH from Germany.

The Concert Hall of 28,000 m2 is situated in a solitary spot with a clear view of the enormous sea and the mountains surrounding Reykjavik. The building features an arrival and foyer area in the front of the building, four halls in the middle and a backstage area with offices, administration, rehearsal hall and changing room in the back of the building. The three large halls are placed next to each other with public access on the south side and backstage access from the north. The fourth floor is a multifunctional hall with room for more intimate shows and banquets.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-06-759x506 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

Seen from the foyer, the halls form a mountain-like massif that similar to basalt rock on the coast forms a stark contrast to the expressive and open facade. At the core of the rock, the largest hall of the building, the main concert hall, reveals its interior as a red-hot centre of force.

The project is designed in collaboration with the local architectural company, Batteríið Architects.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-07-759x506 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

The Masterplan:

Harpa – Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre forms part of an extensive harbour development project in Reykjavik, the East Harbour Project. As the name indicates, the overall objective of the project is to expand and revitalise Reykjavik’s eastern harbour with a new downtown plaza, a shopping street, a hotel, residential buildings, educational institutions and mixed industry. The overall intention is to generate life in the area and to create a better connection between the city centre and the harbour.

Situated outside the city’s building mass, the building will become a significant icon in the city – a visual attractor with a powerful and varying expression. The isolated location will mean that, to a great extent, the changing climatic and light effects will be exposed in the facades of the concert building, often in contrast to the narrow and shady streets in the rest of the city.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-11-800x1200 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

The Facades:

Henning Larsen Architects has designed the facade of the Concert Hall in close collaboration with the local architects Batteríið Architects and the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.

As the rest of the building, the design of the facades is inspired by nature. In particular, the characteristic local basalt formations have provided the inspiration for the geometric facade structure.

Made of glass and steel in a twelve-sided space-filling geometric modular system called the ‘quasi-brick’, the building appears a kaleidoscopic play of colours, reflected in the more than 1000 quasi-bricks composing the southern facade. The remaining facades and the roof are made of sectional representations of this geometric system, resulting in two-dimensional flat facades of five and six-sided structural frames. In order to develop these ideas the team worked with three-dimensional computer models, finite element modelling, various digital visualisation techniques as well as maquettes, models and mock-ups.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-13-800x1200 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

Light and transparency are key elements in the building. The crystalline structure, created by the geometric figures of the facade, captures and reflects the light – promoting the dialogue between the building, city and surrounding landscape.

One of the main ideas has been to “dematerialise” the building as a static entity and let it respond to the surrounding colours – the city lights, ocean and glow of the sky. In this way, the expression of the facade changes according to the visual angle. With the continuously changing scenery, the building will appear in an endless variation of colours.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-15-759x506 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

The Facilities:

Throughout the design process, emphasis has been placed on giving Harpa enough versatility to host large and intimate events simultaneously and without interference with one another. Harpa’s facilities, which offer some of the most technologically advanced equipment available, are thus capable of accommodating everything from large conventions, concerts, and exhibitions to smaller banquets and meetings.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-21-759x506 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

With acoustics design and technical facility planning provided by the world renowned Artec Consultants Inc, designers of the Jazz at Lincoln Center space, the Bartók Béla National Concert Hall in Budapest, Sala São Paulo and the Culture and Congress Center in Lucerne, Switzerland, Harpa will join the ranks of the most prestigious international concert halls in the world, as a prominent member of Artec’s family of halls. In addition to hosting an array of international music events, Harpa will also become home to the esteemed Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Icelandic Opera, both known for their professional artistic programs. Reykjavik has been waiting for decades for this new hall and its addition to the city´s energetic musical life.

The main concert hall, the largest of four in the Centre, is capable of accommodating up to 1,800 people. A spacious entrance hall is located on both the first and second levels and is the ideal space for exhibitions, large banquets, and receptions. There are two meeting halls on the first level as well as various smaller meeting rooms. Additional amenities include boutiques, a viewing balcony, a bar and restaurant with direct views across the harbour, a ground-­-floor bistro, catering, and underground parking options.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-22-759x506 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

Process & Collaboration:

The Concert Hall and Conference Centre is part of an extensive harbour development project in Reykjavik – the East Harbour Project. The project was initiated in 2004 as an PPP competition, which means that the competing project groups – consisting of both private and public parties – are responsible for investments, construction and operations themselves. However, due to the difficult economic situation that Iceland has found herself in since autumn 2008, the municipality of Reykjavik and the Icelandic Government has attended to the completion of the project themselves.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-19-759x506 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

Henning Larsen Architects applied for the prequalification and won the competition together with the team Portus Group consisted of the contracting company IAV, the operating company Nysir, private investor Landsbanki, the engineering company Rambøll, the local engineers Mannvit, the local company Batteríið Architects, the artist Olafur Eliasson and the company Artec Consultants from New York providing consulting services in acoustics.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-10-800x1200 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

The extensive international collaboration has resulted in entirely new work processes in which a high degree of information sharing and communication has been a both demanding and rewarding dimension. In 2008, an exhibition at Reykjavik Visitor Centre has provided visitors with an insight into the process and the many different parties’ approaches and demands.

Harpa-Reykjavik-Concert-Hall-Conference-Center-By-Henning-Larsen-Architects-05-759x506 Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects

© Nic Lehoux

Project Data:

Project name: Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center
Location: Reykjavík, Iceland
Type: Dance / Music Center, Theatre and Auditorium
Gross floor area: 28,000 m2
Key Numbers:

  • The bottom slab is 8.000 square meters.
  • The building is 43 meters tall (141 ft).
  • 30.000 cubic meters of concrete will be cast in the whole building.
  • The whole building site with adjacent building is 60.000 square meters (15 acres)
  • 2.500 tons of construction steel and 4.000 tons of reinforcement bars will be used in the building
  • 200.000 cubic meters of soil were removed from the site before construction began.

Construction Year: 2007 – 2011
Type of assignment: First prize in international PPP competition, 2005
Cost: $150 million
Completion Year: The opening concert was held on May 4, 2011


  • 2012 – DV’s Cultural Award, Dagblaðið Vísir, Iceland
  • 2012 – Civic Trust Award – Civic Trust Foundation
  • 2012 – Travel + Leisure Magazine Awards – Best Performance Space
  • 2011 – FORM Magazine Awards, Sweden – Scandinavian Building of the Year
  • 2011 – World Architecture Festival Award – Shortlisted

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Austurnhofn TR – East Harbour Project Ltd.

Responsible Partner: Director Peer Teglgaard Jeppesen
Architect/Design Manager: Assoc. Partner Ósbjørn Jacobsen
Project Manager: Architect Klavs Holm Madsen
Masterplanner: Batteriid Architects
Theatre Consultant: Artec Consultants Inc.
Landscape Architect: Landslag efh and Lisbeth Westergaard
Artist: Olafur Eliasson
Acoustics: Artec Consultants Inc.
Operator and investor: Harpa / Portus Group
Engineers: ArtEngineering GmbH, Mannvit, Hnit Verkis and Rambøll
Contractor: IAV hf., Iceland Prime Contractor Ltd.
Façade Contractor: Lingyun
Text Description: © Courtesy of  Henning Larsen Architects
Images: © Nic Lehoux

Materials and Sources:

Acoustical System: Artec Consultants (Performing arts venues’ acoustics and theater design) artecconsultants.com
Theatrical Equipment: Waagner-Biro waagner-biro.at
Building-Management Systems: ÍAV; Rafmiðlun and Rafholt rafmidlun.is
Ceilings: Ceir (grid ceiling in foyer) ceir.com; QB-ceiling
Concrete: BM Vallá bmvalla.is
Flooring: Flotgólf and Húsasmiðjan; Shelgason (basalt floors) shelgason.is
Glass: South China Glass; Scholl Glass; Samverk samverk.is
Lighting: ÍAV, Iceland; Exton (production) exton.is; Zumtobel (façade) www.zumtobel.us

Location Map:

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Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall & Conference Center / Henning Larsen Architects
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