The Shaping of a Capitol City

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik was contemplating removing its downtown airfield, a major military transit base during WWII and now an airstrip for domestic flights. The runways, immediately adjacent to the center city seemed to be an anomaly in the dynamic development and expansion of the downtown core.

Immediately to the north was a public park which included Alvar Aalto’s library and study center. TO the east is an expanding research campus for the University, to the south, residential development and a thermal beach and to the west a large sports complex and the campus of the University of Reykjavik.

Our competition entry countered the brief, proposing that the airport be maintained as it provided a vital link for downtown residents into the stunning hinterlands of the country and also provided critical links to services like the city hospitals for residents living far from the city core.

WE proposed a gradual shift of the runways to the south in order to link the bird sanctuaries around the Aalto building to the city park system. In order to counter the use and scale of the airport we proposed a series of large greenhouse structures, roughly forming arc of one quarter of a mile which acted as a buffer to the airport and played into the landscape scale of the airport. Those buildings were sized in order to provide enough climatized space for year round subsistence agriculture to feed the city. Like some experiments happening outside of the city limits these buildings would be heated by geothermal hot water whose viability is indicated by the thermal beaches adjacent to the airfield.

In addition these new structures would provide necessary flex research space for biotech development happening at the university, breakdown to form linear housing near the campuses and residential area , and provide continuous urban pathways connecting the urban core to the thermal beach.