Construction of Hús íslenskunnar (The Icelandic House) will soon begin at the University of Iceland. The new building is intended to house the Árni Magnússon collection of medieval Icelandic manuscripts, and will feature specially-designed rooms for conservation, research, and exhibition of the artefacts.
“It’s a cause for celebration that the construction of the Icelandic House is beginning,” stated Minister of Culture and Education Lilja Alfreðsdóttir. “It is long overdue that a worthy building be constructed to preserve our manuscripts. They are one of the nation’s most remarkable treasures which are not only valuable to us but a part of the world’s literary history.” The Minister added that the cooling economy means it is a good time for the government to invest in public construction.
Government pays 70%
The Icelandic House will be built between Arngrímsgata and Suðurgata streets in Reykjavík by construction company ÍSTAK. ÍSTAK’s bid was the lowest of three proposals submitted to the Government Construction Contracting Agency, all of which were deemed feasible. The building is expected to cost ISK 6.2 billion ($50.7m/€45.2m), 70% of which will be financed by the federal government and 30% by the university.
The Icelandic House will not only feature specially-designed rooms for the conservation of the valuable manuscripts. The three-story construction, with an additional basement, will also include a library, café, lecture halls, and classrooms, covering an area of nearly 6,500m² (70,000ft²). The manuscripts are in the possession of the Árni Magnússon Institutue, which will have facilities in the new building, alongside the Icelandic and Cultural Departments of the University.
Fourteen years in the making
While the Icelandic Parliament originally decided to finance the project in 2005 – 14 years ago – the construction has since faced several delays. The results of a design contest for the building were presented in 2008. In 2013, then-Minister of Education and Culture Katrín Jakobsdóttir, now Prime Minister, officially inaugurated the project, and digging began on the lot. Between 2016-2018, however, the design was reviewed with the goal of making it more cost-effective. Construction is now expected to take three years.