New Plan for “Iceland’s Wall Street” Skip to content

New Plan for “Iceland’s Wall Street”

Borgartún in Reykjavík was supposed to develop from a district for truckers and auto mechanics into a modern financial district with office complexes and glass towers. It was dubbed “Iceland’s Wall Street” but now, after the crisis, plans have changed.

From Borgartún. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.

Real estate and construction companies fought for the lots on Borgartún during the economic boom and constantly outdid each other when it came to building grand structures—people were whispering about flat screens that disappeared into the floor when no one was watching and impressive indoor waterfalls, Morgunbladid reports.

The last memorial of the boom—and the biggest one—is the 19-story glass tower on Höfdatorg square by Borgartún 12-14, which is still under construction. For now it is empty, although some companies are expected to move there next fall.

The Borgartún district has been criticized for lacking a comprehensive overview since the detailed civic plan only applied to each individual lot and not the district in its entirety.

The result is a street image characterized by concrete and glass with little flexibility for people and daily life, Morgunbladid reports.

Ólöf Örvarsdóttir, civic planning director for the City of Reykjavík, and architect Margrét Leifsdóttir, who are in charge of the new organization of Borgartún, are conscious of this point of criticism and agree with it to a certain extent.

“Yes, I think most people agree that it is a rather cold environment,” Leifsdóttir told Morgunbladid. “An overall civic plan from 1992 does in fact exist, but when people started wanting changes things happened so quickly that we didn’t see this development coming.”

Örvarsdóttir said that originally more emphasis had been placed on street life, ground floors and the human factor and that they are now working on a new plan where these items will be taken into account.

“However, it doesn’t look as if that can happen during the current circumstances, but hopefully it will happen one day and then it is important to have a vision for the future,” Örvarsdóttir explained.

That vision is based on considerable development in the areas, which today are mostly used for parking lots, which would be relocated to garages underneath the buildings. That also applies to parking lots in front of the buildings, which in the future will develop into paths for pedestrians and cyclists.

“One could [also] place benches, trees, colors and artwork there and play with the space in an interesting way,” Leifsdóttir said. “This planning is original and is inspired by well-known methods that were, for example, used in Barcelona where people contributed towards public space in exchange for increased construction volume.”

However, due to changed circumstances the possibility is not at hand to present a civic land-use plan for the street on development for 30,000 square meters. “It will most likely be accepted in phases instead of a fully-fledged civic land-use plan,” Örvarsdóttir said, adding:

“That way we’ll have better control of when this development will take place while having a complete overview for the street that we can base our plans on.”

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