SCHOTT solutions no. 2/2011 > Architecture

The glass façades of the concert hall with their kaleidoscope-like reflections are the result of a unique collaboration between the well-known artist Olafur Eliasson and Henning Larsen Architects. Photo: Nic Lehoux

Play of Colors with Glass

The impressive Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre Harpa reflects the nature of this volcanic island. Its multifaceted glass façade corresponds with the sounds of the sea, city, and sky.

Dr. Gabriele Reinartz

The impressive new Concert and Congress Centre Harpa fits in just perfectly with the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik’s harbor area. It consists of four halls, whose names allude to the forces of nature: earth, fire, water and light. The 28,000 square meter building that was just finished this summer is the result of a unique collaboration between the well-known artist Olafur Eliasson and Henning Larsen Architects, Copenhagen. Eliasson, who lives and works in Berlin, designed the glassy façade that faces south. He was inspired here by the nature of Iceland and crystallized basalt columns, in particular. As he explained in an interview, ”I wanted to design a building that not only looked attractive but is also highly functional.” And succeeded in doing so. Nature meets architecture in the façade he designed.

At first glance, the glass front that faces the center of the city appears to be a flat surface, but really isn’t. It follows its own geometric principle instead. To achieve this, the artist arranged about 960 three-dimensional hexagonal bricks in such a way that the ­façade sticks out on the outside in a zigzag. His colleague, ­ Einar Thorsteinn, created the unusual geometry of the glass blocks. Thanks to this, Eliasson was able to give the front a new spatial dimension. ”Einar has an exceptional sense of ­geometry, which has been a great inspiration to me since we first met,” he raves. The play with shapes of the hexagons continues on into the lobby by projecting their outlines onto the walls and floors.
Photo: Nic Lehoux
The main idea behind light and transparency is also reflected in his choice of glass. Some of the glass blocks were designed using SCHOTT NARIMA® color effect glass that reflects the changing light conditions during the day. The façade as a kaleidoscope of colors – made possible by the optical interference layers of this dichroic color effect glass. The colors vary depending on the incident solar radiation and viewing angle. The spectrum ranges from the warm golden colors of glowing lava to the ice blue glaciers of winter. And at night, the façade glows in red, green and blue, thanks to how the glass blocks are illuminated by LEDs that can be controlled individually. Besides color ef-fect glass, Eliasson also used more than 1,000 additional, rather unique five- and six-sided glass elements, including the optical interference anti-reflective glass AMIRAN® from SCHOTT supplied in the form of a laminated glass. They achieve higher transparency because, wherever the anti-reflective glasses were used, the viewer is able to see inside the building without being bothered by any disturbing reflections.

The static building ‘dematerializes’ and Harpa enters into a dialogue with its surrounding environment. This makes the impressive monolith located in the small and rather tranquil city of Reykjavik look somewhat airy and aesthetic. ”A façade performs much the same function as human skin. It serves as an intermediary between the inside and outside world – in this case, between the concert hall and the city,” Eliasson notes in describing his artistic approach. The first concert was held at the Harpa in early September, 2011. Nevertheless, this is only the start. Plenty of other events will follow. After all, “Harpa” not only means ”harp”, but is also the name of the first month of spring in the Nordic calendar – it thus symbolizes the beginning of better times. And this is exactly what Iceland, a country battered by the financial and economic crisis, needs. <|
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