Design Lab
For Interior Planning & Strategy

Tectonic Elevation, Iceland 2020

Idea Competition for a Landscape Tower

Designed as a ‘tower’ the building is developed vertically with two things in mind. Principally, to create elevation over the ridge occurring between tectonic continental plates, so to provide viewing platforms at a higher altitude. Secondly, to showcase the horizontal forces and the sliding movement that exist at the meeting point of the plates. We found that to build at the recommended overall height on such an open, horizontal landscape, rich with the subterranean power specific to this rare meeting point, would require such approach. Located at the European side of the ridge, the views offered are mainly straight towards the adjacent continents of Europe and America. When arriving by car from the European side, visitors are lured in by the primarily obstructed view towards America. Propelled by curiosity, the visitor soon finds out it is worth the climb. Arriving at day or at night the building captivates with its iconic, upward bending and unusual shape. It is positioned as an anchor point between the newly created parking space and the two bathing caves. As a visitor center it provides shelter from cold southern winds in winter, and allows the pleasant summery air to flow over the more populated northern side of the building, with its terraces leading up to the cave. A central assembly area right after the main building entrance is equipped with a sunken, cozy fire place area where guests can warm up. Gender neutral Bathrooms and the management office are located on the same level. A dramatic cascading staircase begins here, and leads up to a self-service café area. As Visitors ascend further, the main attraction of the building, the different viewing spaces, are accessible. The larger visitor platform opens up towards the West, facing America, creating the perfect place to watch the sunset. Towards the East, also visible from the stairs, we are offering more private, upholstered viewing cabins, to meditate and relax in lying down watching the polar light. Maybe you can book a time slot for their visit. We imagined the building partially constructed in on-site produced concrete, all the other parts we envision produced remotely and assembled on site. In addition to its ability to inspire, the retreat’s landscape also lends itself well to geothermic technologies. Utilizing the cave’s naturally hot water, we designed a self-sustained heating system through which the water can circulate and warm the entire building. The new structure is also strategically oriented to protect against unpleasant winter winds, the brunt of which will be absorbed by the structure’s body. This clever design, in addition to the snow stoppers placed on the building’s roof, provide adequate cover to the outdoor meeting space below on the northern side of the building. With this built-in shield from wind and sliding snow, guests can congregate comfortably here, at the entrance to the cave year round.