All posts filed under: Opinion

When an earthquake in Chile reveals a solution for the housing crisis in Iceland

Architect Rafael Campos de Pinho

In the worst housing crisis of the last 50 years, home ownership in Iceland has decreased by more than 10% in a decade. Just before the 2008 crash over 86% of homes nationwide were owned by their residents. Since 2012 the rate has been floating around 78%. More people are renting even though buying a home is considered a priority. Besides, rent can be more expensive than monthly mortgage repayments. For those who can afford the down payment, buying is an obvious choice. However, in the current scenario saving up for a down payment is not that simple. Property prices escalate faster than purchasing power and banks aren’t lending as easily. 90% mortgage loans haven’t been around for a while, and the vacation rental industry is swallowing every reasonably located studio and one-bedroom flat. Few affordable apartments are being built and buyers have to fight over whatever is available. As a consequence, micro-flat blocks have been popping up as an affordable alternative. Tiny homes are culturally acceptable in dense cities like Hong Kong and Paris. …

HA06 is out!

The sixth issue of HA is hot off the presses and sure to please Icelandic design and architecture enthusiasts. This time around, the magazine contains nearly 140 pages of interesting content— which, when it comes to the Icelandic design scene, there’s definitely more than enough of. Our cover story is an interview with Jón Helgi Hólmgeirsson, the lead designer at Genki Instruments, and is accompanied by a photo essay that was produced in collaboration with Studio Fræ. Next, fashion designer Sunna Örlygs shares some insight into the process behind the graduation project she completed as part of her Master’s study at ArtEZ, including a video shot by photographer Magnús Andersen. Paul Bennett, the chief creative officer at IDEO who brought half the audience to tears with his personal DesignTalk at the 2017 DesignMarch festival, writes about his experience with our country and society in an open letter to Icelanders.   Ásmundur Hrafn Sturluson and Steinþór Kári Kárason—the architects and owners of Kurt og Pí who just won the 2017 Icelandic Design Award in November for …

Thoughts on Landscape

Landscape is a multi-layered concept and phenomenon, and as such it has been the subject of a diverse range of disciplines and studies. A broad overview of the different approaches to understanding landscape shows us that there are two basic sides to the concept, which have received differing amounts of attention from those who study it – the two sides in question being firstly landscape as a physical and visible phenomenon, and secondly landscape as the intangible and invisible intertwining of the being that perceives and the phenomenon that is perceived. What follows will be a summation of my thoughts on the interplay of these twinned sides, and how landscape affects us all, both as a concept and as a phenomenon, whether it interacts with us in our daily lives or as a subject of study, in fields such as architecture and design. Much as I did in my piece on beauty for the HA website 1, I wish to begin by examining how the word landscape is used in our day-to-day vocabulary. The initial …

Hlemmur — Transit Transformation

Reykjavik transport hub Hlemmur has been resurrected, reborn into the role it was always meant to assume; that of an indoor market, an essential feature in a city where outdoor activities are infeasible for most of the year. Architect Gunnar Hansson’s distinctive building, once one of Reykjavík’s best-known meeting places for punks and misfits, has undergone renovation and is now a popular food hall, a place where a broad variety of both fresh and prepared food can be found and purchased. Hlemmur square, located in the eastern corner of central Reykjavik, has a long and colourful history. Food has been sold at Hlemmur square for over a century The year 1904 saw the construction of a new house on the lot by 125 Hverfisgata, a house affectionately known as the North Pole (Norðurpóllinn). Food was sold there, mostly to travellers passing through. At the time, the area around Hlemmur was considered the city’s eastern limits, with only a scant few houses standing further east. Travellers to and from the city were consequently frequent visitors, and …

Student Series 2017 / Through the Looking Glass

Interview with professor Thomas Pausz

Through the Looking Glass is a series of spotlights showcasing new design talent. The series offers an in-depth look into six exceptional graduation projects from the Iceland Academy of the Arts, along with an introductory interview with Thomas Pausz—a professor of product design at the Iceland Academy of the Arts and the curator of the 2017 BA degree show TEIKN / GESTURES. In the interview below, Thomas helps us gain a greater perspective on this year’s graduating students and insight into what young designers are making today. Through the series, we hope to gauge the upcoming creative pulse in Iceland and offer a window into how a new generation of creatives is responding to times of environmental anxiety, political instability and redefined values. — As the curator, how would you characterize this year’s graduating projects? I was very inspired by the humour with which the students are addressing difficult topics. We live in confusing times, with a disturbing political and ecological crisis, but this generation is making the choice to challenge the gloom and to …

HA#5

Is out now

The fifth issue of HA magazine on Icelandic design and architecture is out now. In this fifth issue of HA we cover a lot of ground and consider projects, ideas, and dreams. Fittingly for the summer edition, we discuss a few projects that were introduced at this past DesignMarch. Among them is an interview with the design team And Anti Matter, which reveals just how important it is to have a holistic approach when presenting design. We also cover Siggi Odds’s rune project and Aníta Hirlekar’s new clothing line – as both of them garnered well-deserved attention at DesignMarch this year. In this edition we also approach issues of city planning from a new perspective. We join Birkir Ingibjartsson, architect, as he allows himself to dream of the metropolis Reykjavík. In the article “Nowhere Land”, Birkir considers how we might consummate the city in four steps; the city that we abandoned after the impractical dreams of the modernists came to nothing. We look at how the educational programme Biophilia has contributed to innovation in schools and shaken up traditional teaching methods in the Nordic countries.  …

Cabinet of Curiosities

IAA Product Design Graduates 2016 Part 2

This year’s BA graduates in product design displayed a cabinet of curiosities to show their final projects backed with rich research. In the first part of this two-part-article, we spoke to Gardar Eyjólfsson, who is the director of studies in Product Design and who lead the final project course together with Thomas Pausz. In this second part we highlight one exemplary project by BA graduate Kristín Sigurðardóttir.   Kristín Sigurðardóttir – The Alchemist For her final project ‘Utile’, Kristín Sigurðardóttir created obsidian by recycling stone-wool, then made tiles from it. “The starting point was glass recycling. I got really interested in it when I found out about the non-existing glass recycling in Iceland and all glass is imported. To my surprise, bottles we return to the recycling centers are not sent abroad for recycling in other countries, like we do with the plastic and aluminum, and we do not have a glass factory in Iceland to recycle it either. So thousands of tons of glass have been used in landfills. Some experiments have been made to recycle …

“Reporting from the Front”

Conversation on the Venice Biennale 2016

Text by Mark Smyth (MS), Sigrún Sumarliðadóttir (SS) and Giambattista Zaccariotto (GZ)   GZ: In the press conference and introduction of the Biennale in Venice 2016 it was stated that it has been organized around the statements that the built environment is key for the quality of life of the majority and that it is there implicitly for the common good. A common good, which is threatened by a number of existing problems that are ongoing, such as natural disasters (mostly man made) and purely economically driven construction. These spatial conditions are reducing the possibilities for humanity, in terms of our rights, physical and psychological needs. This has been called the built environment of banality or mediocracy and there are inherent drivers that produce and reproduce it. One of the drivers that has been considered key, is the use of the built environment as an economical tool rather then a social one or a goal for a welfare infrastructure, this is a key theme in Aravena’s biennale. SS: Keeping this in mind, Aravena organised the …

Biennale report #2 – Social Sustainability

The potential for architecture to engage with the community

Architects Sigrún Sumarliðadóttir, Mark Smyth and Giambattista Zaccariotto, give us an insight into some of the highlights of the 15th Biennale of Architecture in Venice 2016. Globalisation has separated the general public from the perceived architectural elite. The role of the architect, in some cases, needs to broaden to look beyond the object (building) to the economical and social interventions required to better serve a community. One of the main emphasis of the curator Aravena this year is a focus of architectures role in improving the quality of daily life by improving the quality of the built environment and reconnecting with the users/citizens (what Aravena calls “the civil society”) that are often excluded from the process of its making. Improving the quality of daily life of people is a complex affair and the solution or intervention required can be a new physical object in the landscape but not necessarily, in other cases slight changes in the existing can be enough or even just encouraging changes in behaviour, breaking the vicious circle of the status quo/business as usual. Below are …