Mag
Articles
Home Is Where The Heart Is

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Words by

Published July 26, 2012

The sun is shining, music is playing, toddlers are playing on the seesaw, teenagers are picnicking and tourists are taking pictures of the colourful graffiti on the walls. Hjartagarðurinn (“The Heart Garden”) is one of the most appealing spots in 101 Reykjavík, especially on a sunny day. In one respect, then, the park’s caretakers have succeeded in making it a free communal space, but there’s still a lot that needs to be addressed and understood about this once abandoned lot.
We met up with Tómas Magnússon, Tanya Pollock and Örn Tönsberg, three of the people instrumental in cleaning up and reviving the park, which rests between Laugavegur and Hverfisgata. Sitting at a table by the heart-pattern of bricks that gives the park its name, they catch me up about the spot’s past, present and future. The land is privately owned by Reginn, a property management firm that owns many plots and buildings in downtown Reykjavík. Before 2008, it had plans to build a mall on the lot—seven storeys tall and four storeys underground—but those plans were scrapped after the financial crash. The empty lot in the middle of downtown area was mostly abandoned, only frequented by local graffiti artists who sprayed their works ranging from playful doodles to poignant social commentaries on the huge, barren walls.
Soon enough though, other people started to notice the abandoned lot. “We saw the potential and we wanted to be here with our kids, but it was totally trashed,” Tanya tells me. And that’s where their project began. Last summer, Tanya, Tómas, Örn and others began their efforts to transform the space into a community park. Because Hjartagarðurinn is on private property, the city is not responsible for its upkeep. So the team organised group clean-ups, removing the trash and broken glass that lay strewn about the area. Slowly, walls were torn down, a stage was built, benches and tables were brought in, a little playground was set up—and their dream of creating a communal park where people of all ages and cultures comes together was slowly realised. “This is a sanctuary from the capitalist environment we live in,” Örn says.
Tanya sees Hjartagarðurinn as a sort of reverse story from that of Austurvöllur, the public square outside Parliament, which has become associated with protests and negative energy. This is a positive space, which really reveals some of the good things that have come out of the financial collapse. It’s a story of hope and change. Indeed, Jakob Frímann, an advocate for downtown Reykjavík, who once led a no-tolerance campaign against graffiti in the city, has now become a big proponent for the art form and the park.
As for the future, it’s a bit unclear. Though Reginn has been supportive of the entire project, it still owns the property. For now, however, the team is more concerned with the immediate future. With little help from the city, they’re still organising volunteer clean-ups to clear the cigarette butts and broken glass that accumulate in the park after every weekend. But they want to remedy the cause, not just fix the symptoms. They hope that the Hjartagarðurinn will instil a sense of community and encourage people to take more responsibility for how they treat it.
It’s a free space, a shared space and (we think) the best place to spend a sunny day in 101. But it’s far more than a pleasant park—it’s a community. For it to survive and thrive, everyone needs to cooperate and take responsibility to keep it up. 



Mag
Articles
Dirty Holidaze

Dirty Holidaze

by

December is by far the darkest and spookiest month. It is also the booziest, by far. The overwhelming joy one often associates with the annual Christmas frenzy increases the longing for a nightcap, the fright that correlates with mass expenditures in gifts and other holiday nonsense calls for some alcohol, and when you intend to bid farewell to the passing year you’ll want a bottle of liquor by your side. It seems there’s no avoiding dipping your toes (or your entire foot) into the tantalizing Jacuzzi of holiday vice. For this reason, behold: Grapevine’s guide to your Icelandic holiday binge

Mag
Articles
So What’s This I Keep Hearing About Everything Being Terrible in Iceland?

So What’s This I Keep Hearing About Everything Being Terrible in Iceland?

by

In Mid-November Unnar Steinn Sigtryggsson, an Icelander who goes by the username “askur,” made a comment on popular internet community Reddit. He recounted the major news events of the last few weeks in Iceland. However, unlike most bullet point lists of Icelandic news stories, this one went viral. Has the news in Iceland been unusually full of kittens licking baby turtles? More like political scandals, strikes, vermin infestations, protests, police behaving badly, and economic mismanagement. To an audience used to hearing stories about how wonderfully Iceland had dealt with the 2008 financial crisis, this was indeed newsworthy. Hold on a

Mag
Articles
Pagan Christmas

Pagan Christmas

by

The idea of throwing a big celebration in honour of the birth of Christ is a relatively recent idea. Nobody knows exactly when he was born; guesses range from 7 to 2 BC and the date is a mystery. His date of birth was once estimated to be January 6, in an attempt to beat a competing holiday (the celebration of the virgin birth of Aion, the Hellenistic deity of eternity). In the process they borrowed the symbolism of the stables. Christianity is in the business of mergers and acquisitions. The date was later changed to December 25, partly because

Mag
Articles
The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

The Encyclopaedia of Icelandic Holidays

by

Aðfangadagur (Ath-founga-dager) December 24, Aðfangadagur, is the day Icelanders celebrate Christmas (as opposed to December 25 in most countries). The first half of the day usually goes towards finishing off all of the last-minute preparations, making food, wrapping presents, bathing and putting on nice clothes. Children are often occupied by the television set, as most stations broadcast a non-stop programme of cartoons throughout the day. Six o’ clock marks the official start of Christmas in Iceland, marked by state radio broadcasting the traditional “ringing of the church bells.” This is when most households sit down to enjoy a pleasant holiday

Mag
Articles
WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

WAR ON CHRISTMAS: Finally, An Icelandic Front

by

Anyone who’s followed American politics, or switched to Fox News over the holidays, knows that a full blown war is raging at this very moment: The War On Christmas. On the battlefield, the godless forces of Politically Correct liberals—who want to take Christ out of Christmas and thus destroy the very fabric of American culture—fight the patriotic and pious people over at Fox. Of course nobody residing the reality-based community has ever encountered this “War on Christmas.” It exists only in the fevered imagination of loudmouths like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, who use it to fill airtime, drum up

Mag
Articles
Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

Wanted: The Icelandic Christmas Mood

by

When they stop stacking the Rjómi (heavy cream) neatly on the supermarket shelves, you know Christmas is just around the corner. The Rjómi hasn’t disappeared though. Entering the walk-in cooler (don’t forget your jacket!) you’ll see a huge container spilling over with cartons and cartons of Rjómi. Frankly, stacking it is a waste of time; soon you’ll notice the mountain getting smaller as every single person takes at least one, maybe two or maybe five. Our consumer needs are this predictable before, during and after Christmas, because almost every single Icelandic household has the exact same family traditions. This uniformity

Show Me More!