LocationReykjahlíð, Iceland
TeamTomas Kozelsky, Viktor Odstrčilík, Alexandra Georgescu, Kateřina Čenovská, Kateřina Baťková, Nikola Linhartová, Markéta Fišerová
VisualsJanoušek & Havlíček

The journey and experience of Iceland are the inspiration for this narrative, of which nature is the central figure. The strategic placement of the new structures highlights the uniqueness of the location and provides visitors with augmented views of the land. The curated experience is designed as a series of ‘wow’ moments, as each phase of the journey presents diverse sights of the land: the crust, the caves, the fissure from the inside, the rift in its whole length, the Hlíðarfjall mountain on one side and the Hverfjall volcano on the other.

The architectural solution is also thought of as a filtering and leading element for the tourists to explore the land within confinement, adding safety and avoiding further damage to the environment. The itinerary begins with a gathering refuge where visitors recharge, collect information on the area and get ready for the tours. Cladded from the outside with modular insulating sandwich panels and a steel grating system, the volume is opened-up by central glazing that invites visitors to its warm interior, where functions include a cafeteria, an information point with a library, washrooms, a small back-office, and a technical and storage space.

Visitors are then taken through a predefined path that leads either to the viewing tower or to the caves. In order to filter the number of tourists normally walking over the crust, the free-of-entry route to the tower is designed as a deviation from the natural way along the rift, but still providing the full experience of a hike along, and over the canyon. Additionally, the physical experience of crossing the canyon brings awareness to the unique rift’s location in between the Eurasian and American continents.

Once reached the viewing tower, travelers are taken through a staircase leading both down one story into the fissure and up three stories to the viewing platforms. Openings into the main volume are made towards different viewing directions, in order to provide diverse experiences at each level. The underground balcony is fully surrounded by rocks, safely experiencing the feeling inside the fissure. The first and the highest platforms have views looking towards the mountain, while the middle level looks towards the rift in its whole length and to the Hverfjall volcano. At the highest slap, an in-between sitting platform allows visitors to rest while viewing the breathtaking land from above.

The monolithic design of the volume creates a contrast with the organic volumes of nature, therefore making the new object perceivable as a man-made form from a distance. The metal grid enveloping the vertical structure of the tower is perceived as a see-through object from afar, but once inside, it feels enclosed, allowing for a greater perception of the chosen views. Overall, the design solution is considering both the experience from the visitor’s perspective and the responsibility towards the land and the property, while also tackling the issue of the extreme conditions of the Icelandic weather. The tangerine colour on the metal structure helps identify the new-built even in the harshest weather conditions, especially in the case of the walking pathways, which need the most visibility in the snowy months.