The three-dimensional rhomboids of Iceland

The new Harpa Concert Hall has become the new icon of Icelandic, creating a unique space for the music.

Underground Reflections of Light - Grjótagjá, Iceland

Hi, am I, Rodolfo, the unique human on the planet able to discern between a facade of paper and other of fabric (from afar, obviously), but you do not think that I have lost my famous (and prodigious) humility, “au contrarie” (would say my French cousin), I have the greatest present, now that I have discovered (or rediscovered) an island and a city which makes years fascinated me, at least in part (the truth ahead).

But let’s go to the start of the journey, I was looking an island (relentlessly) to build a beautiful building when I was invited to a very special excursion: a tour of the scenes of the popular series “Game of Thrones” in Iceland. I accepted, not so much by the route as by the place, an exquisite island that had not considered and to which I owe great moments of leisure and business. So, we visited Grjotagj (who has forgotten the love between Jon and Ygritte?), Dimmuborgir (where live the Wildlings) or Hofdabrekka, Vik i Myrdalur (the famous mountains of Frostfangs).

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After the tour, I escaped of my companions to go to the capital of the island (Reykjavik), I had in mind the building that I was interested in its observation and, also, the material that I wanted to see in action. The construction was inaugurated in the year 2011 and it is nothing more and nothing less than, the Harpa Concert Hall (Auditorium and Congress Centre, as we like the mix) and is part of an ambitious plan for the regeneration of the port, the construction started in 2007 by private equity, but quickly the crisis halted the investment. The Icelandic Government continued the work whose final cost was 164 million euros.

The architecture group Danish of Henning Larsen Architecs was responsible for the design of the building, in total 28,000 square meters of built area facing the sea, with a nothing negligible view of the skyline of the city and the surrounding mountains. The hall of the building welcomes you in submissive reflection, teaching you the outside as nobody in Iceland. Since there, arrive to four rooms, three large with access from the South or from the racks in the North and the last one, on the upper floor, a multifunctional room for shows, banquets, exhibitions and other activities.

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The idea of the designers to the project was the create a dialogue (are you surprised?) between the volcanic nature of the region and the construction, so the lobby and the corridors are made with concrete pigmented of dark, similar to the basalt of the Icelandic mountains and the main room is red, like the inside of a volcano (with a capacity of 1,800 people). The property features with room trials, changing rooms, administrative offices and, of course, shops and bars and restaurants (the most important of any public building).

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The star, however, is the main (in the South) facade, conceived with a three-dimensional rhomboids called “quasi-bricks” (about 823), whose main characteristic is that it consist of a steel frame and different types of glass in its faces (up to 10 types of glass), so some are more reflective than others, there are different colours and, combined, make a spectacular kaleidoscopic game. It is not actually a facade, it is art, the partial proof of this is that the famous Danish artist Olafur Eliasson intervened at its creation.

The LED´s ligths (always led´s) are an important part of the design, the “quasi-bricks” (having twelve faces which can lock up a person), it are integrated over 700 strips of this type of lights, of approximately 1.5 meters in length. The company responsible for the development of this equipment has been Zumtobel, had to create luminaries to adapt them to the building, this lamps are now among its commercial products (good job). Each device can act independently, changing the color with the programmatic “sound” you want (even in this is musical).

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The main construction company was the company IAV, whom is so proud that he has published a book entitled “Build Harpa” (they have not imagination) they develop everything that happened during the work. Not in vain, the building received in the year 2013 the Mies Van der Rohe and, in the year of its opening, more than one million people visited it, going on to become the favourite icon of the island (not by everybody, obviously).

The third in discord (so to speak) of this great work, the Group local of architecture Batteriid Architects, tells us how used computer systems to create a digital modeling and three-dimensional models to visualize and bring to reality the construction. Thus, the other facades of the building are composed of steel frames and crystals with disparate forms based in the projections of the “quasi-bricks” (I can’t get used to this name). The edges of the building, where coincided the two types of facade (the flat and the rhombohedral), had to be designed by the hand due to its complexity.

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But the material that I needed to see in action is none other than the silicone, which, since its creation, the world has changed for ever (at best). The silicone is made up of oxygen and silicon, which are the most abundant materials of the Earth’s crust (not going to end), the silicon is a non-metal, and together to the oxygen create a chemical substance that offers resistance to moisture, to electricity, to heat, and even to the ultraviolet rays. It is odorless, colorless and inert used in medicine with great success for the manufacture of prostheses and implants, in the creation of toys and even in toothbrushes (ask to Carme Chaparro).

In the construction, this product is used for molds, lubricants, sealants and adhesives, today became an almost indispensable element in the execution of large porticos glazed (as our auditorium). Thus, 9,300 glass panels covering the 12,000 square meters of facade are subject to the metallic structure using structural silicone (with some mechanical help, everything must be said). This is a kind of very durable silicone to the mechanical stress created by the structural movements.

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The application of this product is in the form of gel, filling the holes between two materials, so that its contact is perfect, we must make sure that the surfaces are completely clean. The truth is that I loved the incredible facade of the Auditorium, the distribution of the silicone around of the perimeter of the joining of its parts, as I would have liked to put some. Now, peaceful, in my routine, I know that I can count on this fantastic insulation and adhesive in my future edification, and I thought that we should give it an award. Bye bye.

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