For & Against: Development - The Reykjavik Grapevine

For & Against: Development

For & Against: Development

Published May 20, 2016

Main photo by
Art Bicnick

FOR:
Have you ever been woken up in the morning by the sound of heavy construction equipment? That’s the sound of progress, my friend. You don’t think this country built itself fully formed, do you? No. It took decades of tearing things down to be able to spend decades building new things up.

Turn up your nose all you like at giant open pits of gravel, incessant air-hammering and streets closed so enormous cranes can park there. Fact is, none of you latte-sipping, scarf-wearing, self-satisfied bohemian types would have a place to open your Macs if someone didn’t mow down some old houses to build the coffee shop you’re reading this in right now.

Rush Limbaugh once said that the best thing about a tree is what you can make out of it. As is always the case, Rush was right. If Iceland is ever to be the international player it thinks it already is, it needs to start acting like one. And by that I mean it needs to look like one. And part of looking like one is having great big honking stark towers crowding the skyline and blocking the view of the sea.

My fervent hope is that one day, downtown Reykjavík will look less like the set of a Charlie Chaplin flick and more like ‘Blade Runner’. Together, capitalists all over the city can—and, mark my words, will—make that happen.

AGAINST:
Last issue, I complained about puffin shops, but I was ignoring the root of the problem, which is downtown development. Older establishments having to shutter their doors to make way for another corporate franchise or hotel is one thing; living in a city that looks like it’s still half-finished is just embarrassing.

Not only is development ugly to look at; it’s arguably unpatriotic.

Why do the colourful streets of Reykjavík need to look like any other concrete-and-glass city? Why do we have all these foreign influences, ruining the purity of Iceland’s pure culture of pure pureness? I know this may sound a little extreme, but we should really band together and purge the country of all foreign influence.

Imagine how much cuter, how much more adorable, how downright picturesque Reykjavík would look if it was nothing but turf houses, open sewers, and unpaved roads. I mean, let’s be honest here: this is pretty much the Iceland most tourists already expect to see, right? Why not give them what they want?

I realise that tearing up the asphalt, removing indoor plumbing, shutting off the power and making everyone live in structures they fashioned from dirt and whale bones could be considered a tiny step back in time. But if we did that, we would then have a wholly Icelandic town to live in, unsullied by any influence from the outside world. And because I love Iceland so much, that’s exactly what I want.

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