A pair of Icelandic architects, now transplanted to Los Angeles, has designed a new hotel for downtown Reykjavik.
It’s a small, boutique affair, with 18 rooms and four suites, all set inside a renovated 1920s building. And it’s imaginative.
“The client wanted a hotel to give the traveler a high--tech, memorable experience, like the Northern Lights Bar.” says Tryggvi Thorsteinsson, partner in the firm they call MINARC. “The hallway experience is like walking through a lava field, and fools you into thinking the hallway is longer.”
Guests step out of the elevator and into a pitch-black space that lights up in a few seconds. “You go from blackness into interesting shapes for lava flow,” he says.
Walls in the bathroom are designed to remind people of the Icelandic desert – the biggest in all of Europe. “It’s made of endless black sand and rock formations,” says Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir, also a partner in the firm. “And each bathroom wall is a custom piece.”
Two of the hotel’s suites have an outside sauna for cold winter nights – and views of the Northern Lights. “It’s a magic moment you’ll always remember,” she says.
The pair took their cues from nature. Their concrete reception desk in the lobby is designed to look like a glacier. The light pendant hovering over it is called the Nest. “You walk in and the hotel is supposed to be your nest for the night,” she says.
And the hanging chairs are shaped like a raindrop. “It’s a reference to our weather conditions – because water is the beginning of all life,” she says.
In fact, most of the firm’s work is inspired by the natural world they experienced early in life. “We grew up in Iceland had the great experience of not seeing the sun for three months a year,” Thorsteinsson says. “You use the things around you – you re-use them and rethink them.”
And downtown Reykjavik is a better place for that.
J. Michael Welton writes about architecture, art and design for national and international publications, and is architecture critic for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. He edits a digital design magazine at www.architectsandartisans.com,, where portions of this column first appeared, and is the author of “Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand“ (Routledge: 2015). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at: @mikewelton.