Winners of the Lækjartorg city square competition announced

With the proposal “Civic Hot Spring” Karres en Brands together with Sp(r)int Studio have won the international competition to redesign part of Reykjavik’s city center. The project includes Lækjartorg city square and adjacent streets in 1ha revitalization of the public space in the historical center.

“Civic Hot Spring” aims to create a highly recognizable urban destination, true to its heritage yet bold and forward-looking. A perfect manifestation of the soul of Reykjavik with its collage of old and new buildings, intimate and monumental spaces, ephemeral and enduring interactions and forward-looking population.

A cultural stage

Located at the intersection of the historic city and new development, between the cabinet of the prime minister and the city courthouse, Lækjartorg is an extremely relevant cultural space in Reykjavik. A place for daily interaction, weekly markets and spontaneous performances but also a stage for social discourse and protest. A true symbol of the democratic and inclusive values of Icelandic culture.

A climate oasis

A highly complex urban stage addresses the harsh local climatic conditions. The design maximizes sun exposure and wind protection using local planting and topography to shelter. The main architectural intervention ‘’The Halo’’ with its robust curtain protects from the wind and harvests the underground thermal heat, creating a comfortable urban space in the harshest conditions. This makes Lækjartorg a space where nature, design and technology work together in the most optimal way.

A playful framework

With a simple topographic gesture, a complex space is created, articulating a rich gradient of subspaces, uses and programs interwoven into the dynamic city square. These gestures are inspired by Icelandic natural formations and cultural iconography.

The Hot Spring

At the center of the square is the“The hotspring”, an urban interpretation of the natural spring, its raw natural warmth and its primordial role in social interaction. It is essentially a low lying water element cut in the terrain, defined by a long wooden bench with high protective backrest, designed to bring people together in a safe, sheltered and climatic comfortable space.

The Halo

“The Halo” above “The hotspring” is the carrier of interactive lighting and a performative curtain, which can be closed to provide a shelter or be used for performances and exhibitions. Various markets can take place around its edges, using the Halo as a supporting structure.

We will begin work on developing the competition sketch into a preliminary design. We look forward to starting our first project in Iceland together with our partners, Sp(r)int Studio.

Civic Hot Spring – redesign Lækjartorg city square and adjacent streets          

Location: Reykjavik, Iceland

Assignment: Masterplan, square and street design, street furniture design

Size: 0.7 ha

Client: City of Reykjavik

Copyright: Karres en Brands + Sp(r)int Studio

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Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at