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Visiting The Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik Iceland

Visiting The Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik Iceland

By Toronto

Iceland is home to many things… waterfalls, lagoons, and even really, really, realllllly good hotdogs – but did you know, it’s also where you’ll find one of the BEST DESIGNED BUILDINGS IN THE WORLD!

Located in downtown Reykjavik, The Harpa Concert Hall (as it is officially known) is home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera. It has four large halls – the largest can accommodate up to 1800 seats. But it’s size alone isn’t the only reason why you can’t miss it… the envelope of the building is wrapped with 714 uniquely shaped glass panels, each giving off a different colour or shade depending on how the light hits it! It is also the proud winner of the prestigious European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award, the European Commission and the Mies van der Rohe Foundation beating 335 other works from 37 European countries!

The History of The Harpa 

The hall was designed in collaboration with Danish-Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson along with his Studio, and the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects who also built the Opera House in Copenhagen. 

Harpa celebrated its opening with a concert on May 4th, 2011 – but its rise to fame started much earlier.  Construction started in 2007, and at that time the plan was to build an  “Icelandic World Trade Center” complete with hotels and luxury apartments. But then the financial crisis hit in 2008, and deeply impacted the country.  Things got so bad that the project was essentially put on hold and sat half finished. Thankfully Icelandic Government stepped in to save the project and funded it to completion.

According to the Grayline Iceland blog, the hall got its unique name through a public competition:  Over 1,200 residents entered over 4,000 names. The winning name, Harpa, is an Old Icelandic word that refers to a time of year, and it is also a month in the old Nordic calendar, and the first day of the month of ‘Harpa’ as it was known was the first day of summer.

Visiting The Harpa Concert Hall

After crossing waterfalls, and hot-springs from your to-do list, be sure to include a stop at The Harpa.  It’s free to visit, though access to certain areas may be restricted while events are being held. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to see, and offers a warm refuge from the windy Reykjavik streets!

Visiting The Harpa for your first time is much like walking into a giant igloo (much warmer of course)! The sheer size of the place is incredible, and the transparent walls allow for some spectacular views of the bay and mountains in the distance.  The ceilings are capped with reflective mirrors that further distort the sense of space inside the Hall. You’ll be in awe at the architectural and engineering marvel that went into its construction… but if “world-class design” isn’t your thing, there’s also a restaurant and gift shop (complete with furry hats) – as well as guided tours of the Hall.

Prior to visiting Iceland, I had no idea the Harpa even existed.  With all that the country has to offer, visiting “another building” never really registered on the itinerary of things to do – but after seeing it’s beauty first hand, I’d highly recommend it as something everybody should see while in Iceland… below are some of the other sights we took in while on the trip:


3140 Dufferin St

3140-3170 Dufferin St. To Be Redeveloped

By Architecture, New Condo Developments

What Do They Want to Build at 3140-3170 Dufferin Street and 60-68 Apex Road?

Add another application to the developing Dufferin St strip! In 2015, RioCan submitted an application to amend the Official Plan at 3140-3170 Dufferin Street and 60-68 Apex Road.  Currently the site is home to TD Canada Trust, Staples, Tim Hortons and Swiss Chalet… but if all goes according to plan, 2 new condo towers will be built on the site.

The application is calling for two mixed-use buildings of 28 and 22 storeys separated by a new public road. The proposed redevelopment will include 578 residential units and 5,632 square metres (60,622 square feet) of at grade retail space. It will also include 878 parking spaces, 1135 bicycle parking spaces and even a new public park as part of the redevelopment. Below are some early drawings of what the development may look like:

3140 Dufferin St 3140 Dufferin St

According to the proposal, the building will look as follows:

Building One

Building One (or Block 1), will front on Dufferin Street, will include the development of a 22-storey mixed use building with 263 residential units and 4,848 square metres (52,183 square feet) of grade-related retail and service commercial space.The building will consist of a 5-storey podium along all street frontages, an 8-storey mid-rise component along Dufferin Street and a 17-storey tower component above the 5-storey podium. The podium transitions to a mid-rise component for Levels 6, 7 and 8 located along the Dufferin Street, providing an outdoor amenity area in the northwest quadrant of the 6th level.

A total of 263 units are provided within Block 1, including 92 one-bedroom units, 136 two-bedroom units, 27 three-bedroom units, and 8 live-work units. Amenity spaces are provided on Levels 6, 9, 14 and 18. In total, Block 1 includes 617 square metres of indoor amenity space and 1,869 square metres of outdoor amenity space.

The building includes two levels of underground parking and parking areas central to Levels 2-5, accommodating a total of 444 parking spaces. A total of 667 bicycle parking spaces are provided.

Building Two

Building Two (or Block 2) 

Block 2, located West of Building One, will have a site area of 4,470 square metres (excluding the public park and half of the northsouth public road) and will include the development of a 28-storey mixed use building with 315 residential units and 784 square metres (8,442 square feet) of grade-related retail and service commercial space.  The building will consist of a 6-storey podium and a 22-storey tower. 

The ground floor includes two retail units, one along Apex Road and the other in the northeast corner of the building. The residential lobby has frontage on the proposed new public street located south of the retail unit. The ground floor also includes 10 townhouse units within the podium that front onto the proposed new public park and 6 live/work units within the podium that front the proposed new public street, between the residential lobby and retail unit. The interior of the ground floor is utilized for bicycle parking, waste facilities, elevators and stairs, all accessed by a central hallway. The remainder of the podium (Levels 2-6) is occupied by residential units along the perimeter and a double-height fitness area on Levels 2/3.

Residential units within the podium are accessed by a central hallway connected to the centralized elevators and stairs. An outdoor amenity area is located on Level 4. Additional indoor and outdoor amenity space is provided on Level 9, 14 and 18. The top of the podium, at Level 7, is utilized for a green roof. The tower contains residential units accessed by a central hallway, which is connected to centralized elevators and stairways. The proposed height to the top of the 28th floor is 89.0 metres, with a height of 95.0 metres to the top of the elevator overrun/rooftop mechanical. 

A total of 315 units are provided within Block 2, including 8 bachelor units, 99 one-bedroom units, 149 two-bedroom units, 53 three-bedroom units, and 6 live-work units. Amenity spaces are provided on Levels 2, 4, 9, 14, and 18. In total, Block 2 includes 1,309 square metres of indoor amenity space and 1,012 square metres of outdoor amenity space.

My Thoughts on the Proposal

The success of the Treviso development is proof that Dufferin, North of Lawrence is ripe for development! The west side of Dufferin has much larger lots than the East, and I think utilizing the lands make most sense.  The retail at grade helps keep business in the area, and the towers above can add to the shortage of housing options in both the city – and the Dufferin and Lawrence neighbourhood.  In the City report, there were a lot of items that needed addressing, but my hopes is that they all get sorted out and the Dufferin strip continues to develop!