Environmental psychologist Páll Jakob Líndal fears downtown Reykjavík is losing its character, RÚV reports. “The buildings are getting bigger and consequently the characteristic features of the centre are changing drastically,” Páll remarked. “In the development that has taken place now in recent months in the city – the biggest buildings that have been here for decades are being taken as the reference point, the lower limit of what is now being built.”
Lækjargata street in the heart of the city centre is the site of two major construction projects – both involving the building of new hotels. One of the projects, the 118-room Hotel Reykjavík, just steps from Iceland’s parliament, was originally designed to fit with the character of surrounding buildings. After years of delay, a more modern design for the hotel was approved.
The City of Reykjavík originally approved the first stages of the project in 2008, which involved the demolition of the existing building on the lot. The Executive Board of the City Council approved the project under the conditions that the new building would conform in style with buildings in the proximity. The original design shared with media at the time shows gable roofs and dormer windows in a similar style to neighbouring buildings.
Although hotel was scheduled to be in operation by 2009, the project has experienced several delays. The original building was finally demolished in November of 2017, and in the meantime a new design was approved, which appears to not conform to the original style requirements.
The approved design for Hotel Reykjavík. Photo: Atelier Arkitektar.
Since the project was originally approved, archaeological remains were found on the lot. The remains appear to suggest that Reykjavík was settled before 874 AD, the widely-accepted beginning of the age of settlement. “This is where Reykjavík began. And we have to think about how we will link this new development with that history. With the fact that Ingólfur Arnarson was once here,” Páll asserted. “That we hold this historical connection high because it’s one of the things that makes Reykjavík, Reykjavík. That’s the history.”