From Iceland — This Nordic Life

This Nordic Life

Published September 4, 2008

A Closer look at the Nordic House in Reykjavik

This Nordic Life
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A Closer look at the Nordic House in Reykjavik

The Nordic House, located just south of Lake Tjörnin, is an icon of lovely modern architecture and Nordic culture in Reykjavik. The natural warmth of the soft wood and clean designs that define so much of the Nordic aesthetic, reflects the inviting mood of the house.

Constructed with the intent that it should be a place where people can come and share ideas, the house has an overall feeling that encourages its guest to linger. Once inside feel free to grab a cup of coffee and sit down to a game of chess or just spend a couple hours reading a Nordic newspaper.

Nordic countries commonly include the countries and territories of Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, The Faroe Islands, Greenland and the Åland Islands. The main thing that ties all of these regions together is a shared Norse history and culture. The vision of the Nordic House, according to Ellen Marie Fodstad, the House’s Project Coordinator, is to highlight the similarities and celebrate the differences of these rich cultures.

The Nordic Council of Ministers started the Nordic House in 1968 with the hopes that it would act as international-community glue for the Nordic countries. They commissioned the acclaimed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, often called the father of modernism, to design the building. The simple Icelandic landscape where the building rests serves as an ideal canvas for Aalto’s work. By using organic forms mixed with minimalist and pure designs, the building fits nicely into its environment and stands as a must-see for Icelandic architecture.

The centre houses a spacious library, café, exhibition hall, art and history museum, and conference space where it hosts lectures, concerts and film screenings.

“For me,” Ellen says, “the library is the heart of the house.” The two-story library is located in the middle of the building. The light wood floors and ceilings are lit naturally by the large skylights, and create a welcoming and relaxed environment. Like many places in Reykjavík, the internet is free but access to the wide variety of Nordic newspapers is a feature that is unique to the house.  The extensive book collection is remarkable, stocked with an impressive array of books from several Nordic countries including children’s books. In fact, the majority of the bottom floor of the library is devoted to children’s literature with flags from each Nordic country designating the book’s origin and language.

In addition to books, the library also offers a large range of multimedia including CDs and DVDs but the most impressive thing is Artotek, a program where works of Nordic art can be rented out for up to three months at a time. When this program is used to its full potential, it showcases each piece at several different homes a year, creating the effect of a veritable moving museum.

Throughout the year, the house schedules several events as a way of bringing the community together. This year, acting director Max Dager, is putting on events with the theme of sustainability and the environment. Starting the September 3 and running until the September 17, guest lectures and exhibits will be featured at the house. “We want to focus on what can be done by us as individuals in Iceland,” Max says.

Other events at the Nordic House include The Reykjavík arts festival, by-annual literature festival, and the Sequences art festival. The house is also a main venue for the Reykjavík International Film Festival. On October 7, they will host Amnesty International’s human rights seminar focusing on freedom of the press. They will also be a main location for the Airwaves music festival.

  • WHERE: Nordic House, Sturlugata 5, 101 Reykjavik
  • OPEN: 12:00-1700, Tuesday- Sunday
  • Web: click here
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