The Icelandic National Concert & Conference Centre and Hotel

Iceland Go Full Screen

Hljodaklettur/ The sound of rock

Here is an island. Remarkable in every way. A northerly climate, spared neither by cold, nor wind, nor rain. A position on the globe that divides the seasons into light and dark. A young, changing, eruptive relief. An ocean. And a light that everyone agrees is magic. No place in the world is comparable to this island, with its jagged, mossy rocks, its bogs and wild rivers, its sulfurous springs gushing forth, Hekla’s anger.
Here is a nation with an ancestral heritage, inhabited by the original myths and legends of the North, blessed with a rich and faithful language.
Here is a city, a port, Reykjavik, borne of the cold waters of the ocean and the hot waters of its underground springs, buzzing with tumultuous youth, rubbing shoulders with the fine flower of nation’s artists, actors and musicians (of course) in the city’s cultural venues.
This nation, this city, is invested today with a grand cause, a great ambition: to build a new cultural complex that will satisfy national and Scandinavian audiences and attract visitors from around the world. The project aims especially at music lovers, to attract them to Reykjavik as they might go to Bayreuth, to Salzbourg, to Lucerne, to the Met, to La Scala, to the Berlin Philharmonic. To this demanding public we must offer not one, but two perfect musical instruments.
A conference center and a first class hotel are here also. They will be built adjacent to the concert hall, and the political, scientific, business and cultural events that take place there will give life the complex life at all times, in all seasons.
An exceptional site, at the junction between the city center, the port, and the ocean, is set aside for the project. The unabashed ambition is to put Hljodaklettur on the map of the world at its very opening.
It is no small challenge for an architect to create an instant landmark. Clearly it must be something very different from the heroic monuments one might encounter in Singapore or Shanghai, Milan or New York, Valencia or Tenerife. A specific place calls for a specific project. Without specificity, no sense of belonging, no emotional tie, no prideful feeling of possession can grow. But this Hljodaklettur could not exist anywhere but here. It belongs here. Original, yes. Unique, certainly. But grown out of, and anchored in, Icelandic soil.
Here we have an invented landscape, totally modern, new, artificial, that marries with the familiar silhouette of Iceland’s mountains, borrows its natural materials, rocks and stones, basalt and red lava, moss and lichens in a sort of feigned mimicry. Feigned, because mixed with these natural materials are materials from human industry: glass in various states and colors; bright satin aluminum for cladding the little buildings of the hotel whose forms echo of the domestic fabric of the city nearby. This friction between nature and artifice continues beneath the hill: the meandering public spaces serving the different program functions are treated as a sort of luminous cavern made of undulating walls of wood stripping and supple, gently sloping floors. The functional elements are designed with the preciousness they require. Set like gemstones in their somewhat rough and unpolished gangue, they appear all the more comfortable and refined.
Hljodaklettur is a landscape-object that openly displays its contrasts and contradictions. Serious and relaxed; familiar and strange; mysterious and open; simple and sophisticated. Opaque, luminous, modest, aristocratic, it seeks to intrigue. Like its name: Hljodaklettur. The sound of rock.

Status: Unbuilt
Location: East Harbour
Dates: May 2005
Usable Floor Area:
HOTEL: 16,224 m2
SITE A: 6,250 m2
SITE B: 12,450 m2
TOTAL PARKING: 30,050 m2
Gross Floor Area:
HOTEL: 21,091 m2
SITE A: 6,600 m2
SITE B: 13,150 m2
TOTAL PARKING: 31,635 m2
Program: Concert Hall, conference centre and hotel
Site A: National Bank of iceland and retail
Site B: Office, retail, cinema and Film and Art Academy of Iceland
Client: Austurhöfn-TR ehf
Contract type: Competition
Investors: Vidhöfn ehf. (group of 3 investors), Eykt ehf. (Construction company), Festins ehf. (Holding company), Sparisjodabanki islands hf (bank)
Investors Project Manager: Hjörleifur Stefansson
Engineers: OVE ARUP
Architectural Team Jean Nouvel - Ateliers Jean Nouvel
​Project Manager: Florence Rabiet
Architects: Toshihiro Kubota, Kirsi Marjamaki Mas, Mathieu Forest, Claude Godefroy, Marie-Hélène Baldran, Sebastien Abribat, Isabel Diaz, Julien Fajardo, Sara Axelsdóttir, Nabila Zerrouki, Isabelle Agostini, Fabrizio Fiorentino, Jose Pomares, Martin Tegaldo, Arnaud Dupont, Jean-Francois Winninger, Mizuho Kishi, Pedro Dimis Rodrigues
Local Architect: T-Ark
Acoustic and Scenography Consultant: Artec
Scenograph: Ducks
Consultant in Acoustics: Kahle Eckhard
Cultural and Conference Consultants: Asa Richardsdottir, Bergljot Jonsdottir, Rosbjörg Jonsdottir
Synthesized images: ARTE-FACTORY, Jose Pomares, Mizuho Kishi
Model: Jean-Louis Courtois