Cultural Heritage Agency Blocks Hotel Construction Again


The Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland has temporarily protected the eastern section of the historic Víkurkirkjugarður cemetery, putting a halt to the construction of a much-debated hotel in the heart of downtown Reykjavík. The action prohibits all construction on the site, which overlaps the eastern part of the cemetery, for a period of six weeks. The agency hopes the Minister of Culture will agree to protect the area permanently. Vísir reported first.

In a press release published yesterday, the agency stated they had decided to temporarily protect the eastern part of the former cemetery, located inside the building lot. The reason cited for the decision was that the cemetery is a relic connected to Icelandic tradition and customs.

Víkurkirkjugarður, established in the 11th century, was one of Iceland’s first Christian cemeteries. Though it was officially demolished in 1838, burials continued on the site until 1883. The building lot, which is expected to be the future site of the Iceland Parliament Hotel, overlaps the eastern part of the cemetery. Originally set to open in 2018, the hotel’s construction has previously been delayed by the Cultural Heritage Agency after remains of a coffin were found on the site.

Disagree over hotel entry

According to their press release, the Cultural Heritage Agency asserts they had proposed changes to the design of the hotel entrance, which is to face the cemetery, and believed their proposal had been accepted by Lindarvatn, the property owner. The agency expresses dismay that the hotel’s design includes two entrances from the former cemetery, which they consider unacceptable. Lindarvatn CEO Jóhannes Stefánsson says the agency’s decision comes as a complete surprise. He points out that the area in question is currently open to pedestrians and houses bars, restaurants, and apartments, and the hotel would not change the area’s use.

Propose permanent protection

Minister of Education and Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir decided yesterday to accept the Cultural Agency’s proposal to protect the part of Víkurkirkjugarður that lies outside the hotel building lot. The Cultural Heritage Agency hopes to convince the minister to expand the protected area to include the section of the cemetery within the building lot, which they have now temporarily protected.

Weather Warning for all of Iceland

Siglufjörður, North Iceland.

Wind speeds are expected to reach 40-50m/s today in North Iceland, the Icelandic Met Office reports. The office has issued a yellow alert for the Westfjords, as well as North and East Iceland. Stormy weather is expected to begin at noon today and last until noon tomorrow.

In the Westfjords, southwest gales are expected near Ísafjörður, Bolungarvík, and Hnífsdalur, as well as on most mountain roads. Wind speeds will be between 15-23 metres per second with gusts reaching 35-40m/s. Similar conditions are expected in Northwest Iceland, with gusts reaching up to 45m/s near mountains. Travellers are advised to show caution.

In the Northeast and East of the country, wind gusts are expected to reach 40-50m/s, particularly near Langanes peninsula, in Jökuldalur, and in Vopnafjörður. The storm will reach its peak in the afternoon or evening today. Travellers are encouraged to check road and weather conditions before setting out.

Temperatures warmer than seasonal

The storm front is not expected to bring snow, and in fact could bring with it unusually high temperatures for January. According to the Met Office’s weather outlook, temperatures in the east could reach 10-15°C (50-59°F) today, and even approach 20°C (68°F) tomorrow.