Unfinished Reykjavík Concert Center: “Crisis Monument” Skip to content

Unfinished Reykjavík Concert Center: “Crisis Monument”

Icelandic artist Ólafur Elíasson, who designed the glass facade for the Icelandic National Concert and Conference Centre in Reykjavík—which is under construction—fears for the fate of the building, calling its unfinished state a “crisis monument.”

The concert center under construction. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.

Elíasson told Morgunbladid that negotiations on the building are in a difficult stage and that many things are unclear. “For the first time there is a real danger of negotiations of the continued construction of the building going astray. I fear that it will lead to us being stuck with a wreck in the city center.”

The artist described such a wreck as a “horrible testimony” to the reduced standard for the nation and a “monument of the misfortunes” that have hit the country. “Extensive funds have already been allocated to the construction and that will all be lost if the construction process comes to a halt now,” Elíasson stated.

Elíasson believes that one of the reasons for the difficult position, in which Iceland now finds itself, is, “How Iceland’s conduct in financial matters has been exceptionally aggressive. People went far in maximizing their profits.”

“In regards to the concert center there is a paradox involved,” Elíasson said, explaining that because of such behavior, the people dealing with the concert center managed to reach agreements on “an unbelievably low price for quality production, for example in China where the glass facade is being made.”

The current negotiations involve the Icelandic state and Reykjavík City taking over the project from Portus, a private company. The concert center’s construction will then become the responsibility of Austurhöfn, which is owned by the state and city.

The plan is for the project to be funded with a loan taken with collateral in payments that the Icelandic state and Reykjavík City have promised to allocate to the project and the center’s operations for the next 35 years.

The agreements are complicated and extensive funds are at stake, which is why negotiations have taken so long. Managing director of Austurhöfn Stefán Hermannsson is, however, optimistic that agreements will be signed soon and that the construction of the concert center can be completed without additional contributions from the state and city.

The Icelandic state and Reykjavík City have already agreed to contribute ISK 800 million (USD 6.47 million, EUR 4.76 million) per year to the building and its operations.

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