Harpa - Reykjavík Concert Hall Responding to Unique Combination of Needs
by Ed Arenius | partner | November 18, 2010
As we enter the final few months until the opening of Harpa next summer, it’s interesting to look back on our 13 year history of continuous work on this project. It was in 1997 when we first were engaged to work with the government on defining what, for this specific community, was needed in terms of spaces for the performing arts.
That first study looked at what the needs were and made preliminary definitions for spaces that would respond to those needs, and of course, predated the appointment of the architects and other team members.
In creating the Basic Designs for the performance spaces at Harpa, we were challenged to create rooms that responded to what was a fairly unique combination of needs, encompassing conventions, symphonic music and chamber music, concert operas, televised award events, jazz concerts, and many other types of events and art forms. The response we developed had 4 main performance spaces; the concert hall, a rehearsal/recital hall, a divisible multipurpose hall and a fourth lecture-type hall. The biggest challenge was the combination of the primary usages of concert, convention, and concert opera. This was achieved by creating flexible stage, acoustic, and rigging environments. These four main spaces provide a very flexible platform of stages and seat counts to accommodate a wide variety of performance or convention types for the enjoyment of the inhabitants and visitors to the City of Reykjavík.
As I look back on the early, early sketches I created with the Artec team, which ultimately were part of the obligatory requirements of the architectural selection process, I can see that while some things have changed, the fundamentals of the room concepts created in those first 2-3 years still live in the spaces that will open in 2011.
We were very pleased that Henning Larsen Architects was ultimately selected (as part of the Private Partner team at that point) as the design architect, and we’ve enjoyed a very dynamic collaboration with them, and indeed with the entire design and construction team, as our Basic (room) Designs and facility planning groundwork have been developed architecturally, turning the aspirations of 13 years ago into the reality that will be experienced by audiences next year.