The exterior of the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre on my second visit. All photos are by the author.

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Maybe I am biased because Olafur Eliasson is one of my favorite artists, but his collaboration with Henning Larsen Architects on the Harpa concert hall and conference center — which was completed in 2001 — is  the best example of contemporary architecture I have ever seen.

The geometric patterns of multifaceted and colored mirrors and glass panes make for a dazzling display of light and color that is a joy to be inside. As you move through the building, different shapes or colors emerge and disappear; this is the scale that art attempting to probe human consciousness needs to be truly successful. Although I spent a couple of hours wandering this building, I know these photos will not do my experience justice.

This is right after the main entrance, looking up from the lobby.

Another view from the lobby, just to the left, on the second visit, with more sunlight.

The view from the first floor, as far away as I could get from the lobby.

A view from the top floor of the facade and ceiling.

The wall and ceiling above the lobby and cafe.

Looking away from the cafe from the top floor at the ceiling and facade.

Closer to the facade and ceiling at the top floor.

Ceiling — you can see a reflection of me taking the photograph in the top middle.

A view from outside, after heading towards the back of the building.

The proper right side of the building with seating overlooking the harbor.

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Ben Valentine

Ben Valentine is an independent writer living in Cambodia. Ben has written and spoken on art and culture for SXSW, Salon, SFAQ, the Los Angeles Review of Books, YBCA, ACLU, de Young Museum, and the Museum...

One reply on “Olafur Eliasson’s Wow Opera House in Reykjavik”

  1. Ben, a couple of things:
    1. Wow, gorgeous. I really want to see it.
    2. Will you let me edit your articles again? I’m pretty sure ‘prode’ isn’t a word.
    3. This reminds me of a more decorated version of Denmark’s national library. I wonder if Eliasson took some inspiration from it, since he was born in Copenhagen? Look up images of the Black Diamond for comparison. The outside shape and the slanted stairways on the inside look especially familiar.

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