Hafnarhús – Depot of Ideas in the City Centre
Hafnarhús was originally designed as an office and storage building for Reykjavík Harbour during the fourth decade of the last century. At the time, the harbour was the city’s lifeline to the outside world and so Hafnarhús was an active part of city life right from the start. The building’s design was influenced by a style known as functionalism which demanded that form and functionality worked together. Thus, the building’s original purpose was reflected in the design, connecting it to its environment.
Towards the end of the 20th century, the area around Reykjavík Harbour underwent extensive development due to changes in the harbour activities, which caused Hafnarhús to lose its original role. A decision was made to install Reykjavík Art Museum in a part of the building with the hope that the museum might renew the previously lost connection between the city centre and the harbour. In this way, the art museum could help activate the surrounding city area, making Hafnarhús once again an active part of the city centre, this time round through art and culture. The architect firm Studio Granda won the competition to design Reykjavík Art Museum in Hafnarhús. Their proposal incorporated the building’s history with an aim of reopening the connection to the harbour. It also sought to retain the characteristics of the original building and preserve the historical connection, including the yard in the centre of the building which has few parallels in Icelandic architectural history.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hafnarhús becoming one of the three buildings of Reykjavík Art Museum. The exhibition focuses on the building and its history and transformation is viewed through sketches and photographs, among other things. It also examines how the museum building, as a space, interacts with the art and connects to its environment, the city centre.