Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Happy, happy Harpa

Tonight marks the opening of a new concert and conference hall in Reykjavík, as of now the official home of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera. It has been five years in the making, two and a half good ones and two and half difficult ones as the country had gone semi bankrupt half way through the works. It is not easy to conduct the construction of a 280000 ft2 hall when you have no money and must finance the project by selling bottles for recycling. But where there is a will there is a way.

There are 4 main halls in the building in addition to various meeting rooms and exhibition spaces. The photo shown here above is from the main hall, probably arranged before construction was complete as it is so painfully evident that photoshop or some computer program was used to add the audience to the image. I guess the recycling finance budget did not allow for better graphics. But the real thing is much more impressive, this room seats 1600 people and although it is huge the acoustics are impeccable according to those that attended the sneak peek general practice of the opening concert.

But aside from the glamorous inside what really makes this building something else is the glass artwork facade designed by Ólafur Elíasson, an Icelandic artist renowned worldwide for his large scale installations. The building is beautiful to behold, in particular when the sun is shining and the iridescent surface is awaken and comes out to play. I am 100% certain that if the traffic administration were to gather data regarding accident frequency on the street passing Harpa there will be a marked increase in collisions on the days the sun is out, drivers are sure to be more mesmerized by the electric colors than the bland black pavement in front of their hood.

If you are coming to Iceland anytime soon or even any time later – make sure to check out what is happening at Harpa. Numerous foreign artists are already booked to appear. Pianist Jamie Cullum, tenor Jonas Kaufman, singer Elvis Costello are amongst those expected this summer and surprisingly enough Larry King is also doing a show, albeit his input does not involve not a musical number.

While looking for photographs of Harpa to accompany this text I went onto one of the Icelandic design web sites. There I got sidetracked for a bit as the newest article was about the latest toilet on the market – heralded in the headline as the most cool toilet around. Seeing that I have just installed three new toilets without ever giving it a thought that I should be shooting for cool, I of course took the time to see what I had apparently missed by a hair. I must say that the drug inducing the kind of stupor I would have had to have been in to buy the contraption has yet to be invented.

This toilet appears to have been designed by someone with an attention deficit disorder of the highest magnitude. Sometimes during the initial designing phase he or she got lost, forgot the original intention and the result is a toilet equipped with a remote to control the multiple gadgets and functions installed in this no longer basic item. Seeing is believing. The cost is 6300 USD, I am willing to bet a lot that the producers have a plaque in their boardroom stating: “A fool and his money soon part.”

The integrated bidet function is an accident waiting to happen, if you watch the advertising video you will understand what I am referring to.  

And lastly – I should probably get in touch with the company to see if they sell a sink to go with the toilet. You see, if it is still in the designing phase I can suggest a button for the remote: Puke declogger.

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Yrsa,

    I was blown away by the Concert Hall.


    I was...uhh...washed away (?) by the Kohler creation. I watched the video twice, which probably qualifies me for sex offender status in some jurisdictions.

    The question isn't WHAT were they thinking, it's WHERE was their collective head while they they were coming up with this one.

    Then again, with all the thought that went into creating this special place for poster(ior)ity, I think I know exactly where it must have been!


  2. Hi Jeff - you probably hit the nail on the head regarding where the inventor "sat" when coming up with this ridiculous thing.

    I can't understand who would want to control the water used for flushing, or want to stream hot air from underneath the toilet. Prince Charles maybe?

  3. First, I want to congratulate the people of Iceland who were willing to do so much to create this beautiful cultural center. The Sydney Opera House may soon be replaced as the most recognized monument to culture.

    Instead of concert halls, the United States spends its money on sports stadiums.

    I love your comment about the Harpa coming out to play in the sun. It must be breath-taking.

    But, oh your comments about the toilet! Again, I was laughing so hard my eyes were watering and it took a few attempts before I could read the entire description. I think this whole thing was concocted by a fraternity at an engineering school like the US universities MIT and CalTech. Kohler paid the students an outrageous fee for the design which they promptly spent on beer and pretzels, the very things that helped them invent the toilet in the first place.


  4. Prince Charles is probably so used to hot air coming at him from so many directions that he might not even notice. Then again...

  5. Hi Beth,

    I am afraid Iceland is much the same as the USA and other countries when it comes to prioritizing sports - we have stadiums in every nook and cranny. I guess they had run out of places to put them when the idea for the concert hall finally arose.

    The franternity connection is not far fetched. Unfortunately the design is not worth its weight in beer or pretzels.

    all the best Yrsa

  6. The concert hall is breathtaking. The numi-not so much. Far too much thinking. and what happens if you push the wrong button. Sorry, it's what came to mind. I like your books very much.

  7. Hi Lil - I am happy to hear you like the books. I am now on the prologue for the 6th Thora novel and the words are not exactly flowing forth. It helps to know that the results are appriciated, in particular at moments like these.

    I for one would hate a gadget toilet - and would 100% press the wrong button all the time. Hear music when I wnated to flush and boil my feet when I wanted the contraption to close.

    all the best

  8. As I recall from eighth grade, "Numi" is Latin for "Go on the papers."

    You had me gasping for breath, Yrsa, and the concert hall just strengthens my resolve to go to Iceland.

  9. What a fabulous looking building (though as a sports saddo I'm also a big fan of sports stadiums.)

    Hope the words start flowing soon Yrsa.

    Oh and that is one pricey bog.

  10. Hi Tim - you are welcome anytime, my house has an extra room and is almost, almost finished.

    Hi Dan - the wrods are not exactly flowing but getting there. They are trickling now which is an improvement from sludging along like hot tar as they were before. And if you decide to come to Iceland you now know that we have facilities where you can see sports - fancy a game of rather badly played footbal?