From Iceland — LAST CHANCE: You Can Paint Harpa From Your Computer

LAST CHANCE: You Can Paint Harpa From Your Computer

Published February 10, 2016

York Underwood
Photo by
Halldór Eldjárn

I don’t know if you noticed, but Harpa has had some strange light displays on it lately. Halldór Eldjárn and his team have been controlling an interactive light display, controlled through the website This ends tomorrow, so make sure you give it a go. You’ll feel like a God–whose only power is to make lights glow on the outside of Harpa.

Here’s what Halldór had to say:

Why did you do this? What lead to this project being started?

“Harpa and The Winter Lights Festival (Vetrarhátíð) held a competition for an interactive visual to display on the Harpa light façade. We submitted our proposal and won! So we started implementing it and it took around two weeks for us. It was a bit hectic but lots and lots of fun. We got help from Atli Bollason and Owen Hindley who have made installations before on the light façade and it was very fun working with them.”

What are you hoping to achieve?

“The most surprising part of this is that people tend to stay for extended periods on the website just splattering paint everywhere! Some people try to cover the whole area in one colour. Others try to do multi-colour stripes. Some people are just plain vandals, trying to paint over other’s splats. It’s been a lot of fun watching this and inspiring as well. We’ve had around 15000 visits since the launch and that’s been far beyond our expectations. Visits are mostly coming from Iceland as it’s pretty fun to just stand outside Harpa and splatter paint all over it, as the effect is immediate and you get a very good feeling doing it. It’s like you own a part of it. You have made your mark and become part of the installation.”

How many people have participated?

“Around 15000! Total number of splats is probably over 1.500.000. An average splatter was splatting around 100 splats.”

Did you have any issues with this? Did someone hack in or try to mess around with the program?

“As this installation is vandalism and anarchy by definition there is no way to ‘hack’. But one user managed to create a program that systematically splatted paint to create letters etc, which is not normally possible due to light rate-limiting we impose on users to avoid too much chaos. It was pretty cool, he managed to put his name up there! But he was decent. Could have written swear words or drawn some indecent pictures (or as indecent as you can get with 700 pixels of coloured lightbulbs).”


What has the feedback been like?

“Feedback has been amazingly positive. We had a live video feed online over the weekend, and saw people park their cars outside only to stand in the cold and see the immediate effect of the splatters. Families show up to show their kids this magical experience. Harpa only planned on having it on display for the weekend of Winter Lights Festival but decided to prolong it until this Thursday, so tomorrow is the last day.”

Check it out at


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