“Vulgar, Galvanised Monstrosity” Vexes Breiðholt Residents Skip to content

“Vulgar, Galvanised Monstrosity” Vexes Breiðholt Residents

By Ragnar Tómas

Photo: Golli.

The residents of Breiðholt are unhappy with a steel staircase that has been erected between the upper and lower area of the neighbourhood. A project manager with the City of Reykjavík maintains that the staircase was among the most popular projects voted for by the residents as part of Reykjavík’s consultation project in 2021.

A lack of consultation

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Steinunn Ásmundsdóttir, a resident of the Breiðholt neighbourhood in Reykjavík, complained of a lack of consultation with regard to the construction of a large steel staircase, erected on a forest path between the upper and lower area of the neighbourhood.

“This is an egregious form of visual pollution,” Steinunn observed, referring to the staircase as a “vulgar, galvanised monstrosity,” which was visible from her balcony at home. Steinunn added that she agreed with a friend, who had remarked that the staircase was reminiscent of something from an American prison. While conceding that she understood that the stairs had been designed to prevent the accumulation of snow, Steinunn – an old ranger and a nature conservationist – was convinced that the design should take its cue from the environment.

“We are always trying to make our environment humane and friendly. And this staircase is a bit grim, in that regard,” Steinunn remarked.

As noted by Vísir, Steinunn was not the only one displeased with the staircase. Another resident, who referred to the staircase as “a big blemish on the forest,” also contacted the outlet to complain that the city had failed to inform residents of the project. Other residents debated the staircase on a neighbourhood Facebook group.

Among the most popular projects

In an interview with Vísir today, Eiríkur Búi Halldórsson, Project Manager for the city of Reykjavík – who is in charge of the consultation project Hverfið mitt (i.e. My Neighbourhood) – stated that the staircase was “among the most popular projects” voted for implementation by Reykjavík residents via a consultation portal in 2021. The staircase was designed to be used all year round, Eiríkur observed, maintaining that it would blend better into the environment over time.

Eiríkur added that it was rare for a consultation project to turn out to be so controversial: “This was one of the most popular project ideas in the neighbourhood. Residents usually only vote on smaller projects but occasionally there are proposals for larger, more expensive projects that are also put to a vote. The staircase falls into the latter category. We put a lot of effort into promoting votes and introducing the subsequent projects chosen for implementation. These projects are then presented to the residential councils of respective neighbourhoods.”

Eiríkur explained that the staircase had been discussed in Breiðholt’s residential council and that a resting area with benches would be installed below the stairs, where running routes around Breiðholt and the Elliðarárdalur valley would be marked. The stairs were designed with the twofold goal of promoting neighbourhood fitness and improving access – which had been severely lacking – to the forest path: “Someone suggested that we construct the staircase out of wood, but I’m not sure such a thing would last beyond the summer. We wanted to ensure that the stairs would last and be usable by residents all year round,” Eiríkur observed.

Eiríkur further noted that the building material had been chosen with a view of minimising the impact on the soil. Furthermore, the construction of the stairs was still ongoing, with the project expected to be completed at the beginning of June. “Over time, the vegetation will grow and then the stairs will blend even better into the forest. I think this will turn out well and be a successful project of which we can be proud.”

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