Monsters On The Streets Downtown

Mural lights up forgotten city square
18.7.2012
Words by Mark O'Brien

Look out, there’s a monster coming! Well, quite a few of them if you happen to be anywhere near Óðinstorg in downtown Reykjavík, where this week a newly-painted mural has been catching eyes in the sleepy streets off Laugarvegur.

Designed by Reykjavík’s one-time official illustrator Rán Flygenring, the mural is set to develop over the coming days, with stencilled drawings to be reproduced onto a range of steps leading from Óðinstorg to Skólavörðustígur. The steps will make a path for passers-by to follow from the surrounding pavement to a colourful new play area decked out with child-sized chairs and tables for the youngsters, as well as a community flowerbed for local people.

All of this is part of the city’s initiative for Biðsvæði or “waiting zones” – areas that have been sidelined in the planning process, and handed over to artists and cultural players to create dynamic temporary works and ignite debate about the future of the cityscape. It is the latest of the many “meanwhile projects” that can be seen across town, commissioned by the City of Reykjavík to stimulate otherwise neglected spaces.

And timely it is. Once upon a time, the Óðinstorg square was a thriving marketplace site; now it is little more than a car park situated at the intersection between Óðinsgata and Freyjugata – left unmarked on most maps. This project aims to breathe fresh life into the square for both residents and visitors, offering a pleasant space to relax and enjoy as well as something to capture the imagination whether you are seven or seventy years old.

Rán’s “monsters” are a wild combination of mesmerising swirling shapes set against a colourful summertime backdrop of pastel blue and green hues. Sari Peltonen, who by day works at the Iceland Design Centre, has been the one tasked with bringing the vision to life along with her colleague Kristrún Heiða.

The team aims to have work on the square completed next week. They’ll be labouring into the evenings over the days ahead to assemble and paint garden furniture, decorate the “monster” steps, and lay the turf for the new play area.

Dropping by Óðinstorg yesterday evening, I suggested the shapes are supposed to be sea monsters. “I don’t know,” she said teasingly. “It’s open to interpretation.” Others have a rather more abstract view. On seeing the mural as it was being painted last week, one passer-by remarked – “cheesy”, Sari admits – “It looks like... happiness.”



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