Firm Basalt Architects Wins Iceland Design Award

Basalt Architects has been awarded the 2018 Iceland Design Award for what the judges have characterised as the firm’s “contribution to bathing culture in Iceland.” The firm is behind the recent Retreat at the Blue Lagoon, which was co-designed with the Italia design group, the Mývatn Earth Baths, the GeoSea Baths in Húsavík, among many other bathing-related projects (see here). The judges celebrated the firm’s “unique ability to intertwine architecture and landscape” and continued by saying that they “had become a role model in designing nature baths in Iceland.”

“I wish that we deserved these beautiful words from the judging committee,” said Basalt architect Sigríður Sigþórsdóttir in a radio interview. “Bathing culture in Iceland is, of course, an ancient phenomenon. Unfortunately, it’s still rather common for people to cut corners on design when it comes to tourism construction. But I think it comes back to bite the people who do that in the end – it’s short-term thinking.”

“A large portion of tourists have come here to enjoy and experience Icelandic nature,” Sigríður continued. “We try in our design to highlight the individuality of each place, we visit them and get to know their histories. We try to incorporate this into our design and architecture, because each place possesses a mystery and secrets that a person can get to know if they try…You can draw a building that’s like a spaceship that has landed in the lava or a new lava perimeter and leave it to come into its own – it’s a question of methodology.”

The Iceland Design prize was awarded for the fifth time last weekend. In addition to Basalt, the lava centre was awarded Best Investment in Design. Read more about the design prize winners and the shortlisted honorees (in English) here and see Basalt’s extensive projects here.

Rural School Buses in High Demand

Almost 1,800 elementary school children in rural Iceland utilised the school bus services offered by their municipalities last year, RÚV reports. There are currently 221 school bus routes in service in the countryside, but how much these routes are utilised by schoolchildren varies considerably.

Four municipalities had 100 students or more taking the school bus on a regular basis. Borgarbyggð, in West Iceland, topped the list, with 119 young school bus riders. One hundred and ten students in the Northern fjord town of Skagafjörður also took the bus, followed by 106 in Rangárþing eystra in South Iceland, and 101 in Flóahreppur, also in South Iceland. A number of other municipalities had less than 100 riders, but more than 50: Þingeyjarsveit (North; 99), Eyjafjarðarsveit (North; 78), Bláskógabyggð (West; 76), Húnaþing vestra (North; 75), and Hvalfjarðarsveit (West; 70).

There are three school bus routes offered in the municipalities around Reykjavík, but these are significantly less utilized. For instance, only 20 took the bus in Kjósarhreppur, only 14 in Kjalarnes, and only 12 in Mosfellsdalur. What percentage this ridership represents of their full student bodies has not been reported.

Þorleifur Örn Arnarsson Named Theater Director of the Year in Germany

Theater director Þorleifur Örn Arnarsson was named Director of the Year in Germany’s annual Der Faust awards, RÚV reports. Þorleifur was thus honored for the play Die Edda, which he co-wrote with novelist and playwright Mikael Torfason.

Die Edda premiered at the city theater in Hannover in March and was very positively received. Upon his nomination, Þorleifur said that it was a great honor to be nominated for an award with such a long and distinguished history and thereby be included among many of the most remarkable artists of the 20th century. He was also particularly pleased to be nominated for a work that has such strong ties to Iceland.

Þorleifur has directed numerous plays in both Germany and Switzerland, where he has met with considerable success. Appropriately enough, his next project with Mikael Torfason is indeed an adaptation of Goethe’s Faust, which will debut at the Norwegian National Theater next year.

You can watch a preview of Die Edda (in German) here.

Debate Over Waitlists at Rehab Centre Continues

Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir is calling for a proactive response to the lengthy patient waitlist at Vogur, Iceland’s government-sponsored detoxification clinic and hospital, RÚV reports. Vogur’s chief physician says this waitlist has never been longer, meaning that individuals who are seeking help with their addiction problems have increasingly long waits for treatment.

Svandís says the rationale for the waitlist must be better explained, as must the steps that a person has to take to get on said waitlists. “I think it’s very important that it’s clear what the waitlists are and what they stand for, such that the requirements for getting on the waitlist are common knowledge. That’s not the case right now and so we also need to look at that.”

The director of the National Center of Addiction Medicine (SÁÁ), which manages Vogur, has stated that it is the Health Minister herself who is responsible for taking action (or not) on long-term budget cuts at their facility.

One notable example revolves around the treatment of minors at Vogur. In April, SÁÁ announced that they would no longer be able to admit patients under 18 because it had become clear, they said, that minors should not be sharing facilities with adults who were in rehab. The decision was made in the wake of allegations that a 60-year-old patient at Vogur sexually assaulted a 16-year-old who was also in treatment there. However, Vogur has continued to treat minors while new age-specific protocols and facilities are established for these patients.

Svandís has said that the Ministry is still working on a solution but says that the working group is expected to deliver a plan no later than December 15th.