written by:
April 8, 2013
What do creatives see in abandoned docks and old fishing sheds? Opportunity. Now the City of Reykjavik is working with local designers to makeover its old fishing harbor into Iceland’s first design district.
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center
Folks from the Iceland Design Centre tend to identify the “Design District” as starting at least several blocks west of the magnificent Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center.
1 / 17
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center
The Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center was designed by Ólafur Elíasson together with Henning Larsen Architects and Batteríið Architects. It opened in 2011. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
2 / 17
Harbour Path in Iceland
The Harbour Path, or Hafnarstígur in Icelandic, was developed by architect Massimo Santanicchia together with Mattia Gambardella and Ragnar Már Nikulásson in 2012. It’s a playful painted path that starts at Harpa and continues for about 1 kilometer, connecting Harpa and the downtown area to the Fishpacking district of the Old Harbour. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
3 / 17
MAR Restaurant in Iceland
The décor at the newly opened MAR Restaurant (December 2012) reflects the historic harbor of Reykjavik. Black treated wood panels conjure up the old harbor houses and pendant lights hang from fishing nets. Local designers Hafsteinn Júlíusson and Karitas Sveinsdóttir of design studio HAF did the interiors, while ceramic designer Guðný Hafsteins created the tableware and graphic designer Siggi Odds contributed with some elements of the décor. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
4 / 17
Wall map in MAR Restaurant
A map on the wall shows where MAR pulls its culinary inspiration from. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
5 / 17
Not Knot pillows by Ragnheiður Ösp Sigurðardóttir
Design shop Mýrin next door to MAR shares the same aesthetic and specializes in modern Icelandic design, like these Not Knot pillows by Ragnheiður Ösp Sigurðardóttir. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
6 / 17
Old Harbour shops and galleries
Huts in the Old Harbour used to be where fishermen did their baiting work and tended to their daily catch. Today they house shops, galleries, restaurants, and whale watching excursions among other things. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
7 / 17
Saegreifinn restaurant in Old Harbour
Keeping it real: Saegreifinn (Sea Baron), a popular restaurant in the Old Harbour, is owned by retired fisherman Kjartan Halldorsson. It’s famous for its lobster soup (called humarsupa), but it also serves hakarl (cubes of putrefied shark) and minke whale meat (a species that is not endangered) among its Icelandic specialties. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
8 / 17
Hamborgarbúllan restaurant in Iceland
Hamborgarbúllan is another popular and distinctive restaurant on the Path. It was a coffeeshop until Tommi Tómasson opened his burger shop here in 2004. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
9 / 17
Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina Hotel
Next stop is the brand new Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina Hotel that opened in 2012. A fully functioning dry-dock complete with a towering ship stands literally at its doorstep. Inside lies a quirky combination of whimsical and hipster cool. Many of the design elements and antiques in the rooms are locally sourced. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
10 / 17
Multi-use complex in Iceland
Across the street, a multi-use complex-cum-culture house brings together a batch of Icelandic artists from different genres. From great food and music, to designers working with textiles, ceramics, upholstery, and more. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
11 / 17
Netagerðin workshop and aterlier
Netagerðin is a combined workshop and atelier for three design firms: BBOLLA, STÁSS, VOLKI and one independent music label, KONGÓ. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
12 / 17
Forettabarrinn restaurant in Iceland
Next door is the restaurant Forettabarrinn. The name means “starters bar” which corresponds with the small tapas-style dishes they serve. Like Netagerðin, the restaurant is also set up as a space to both enjoy what’s on offer or to get work done, or perhaps a bit of both. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
13 / 17
Kría Cycles in Iceland
At the end of the harbor is a small peninsula called Grandi. Here you find Kría Cycles, a truly do-it-all bike shop. They’ll fix your flat tire or build you a custom bike from scratch. They’ll even serve up an Espresso in their café while you ponder the benefits of fixed gear vs freewheeling. Kria was started by Iceland-based English architect turned workshop owner David Robertson in 2009. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
14 / 17
STEiNUNN storefront
A long stretch of connected fishing sheds run the length of Grandi, and this is really the heart of the design district. Designers of every kind have taken spaces here for their studios, including product designer Sigga Heimis and fashion designer STEiNUNN. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
15 / 17
Steinunn studio space in Iceland
Steinunn is the fashion brand of Steinunn Sigurðardóttir. Always memorable, Sigurðardóttir has a flair for the dramatic. As does her studio space. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
16 / 17
Farmers Market studio in Iceland
And don’t miss the inviting headquarters and shop of reigning royalty when it comes to fashionable Icelandic wool sweaters. They’re called Farmers Market, and their studio at the very end of the peninsula is worth the trek. Photo by: Tiffany Orvet
17 / 17
Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center
Folks from the Iceland Design Centre tend to identify the “Design District” as starting at least several blocks west of the magnificent Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center.

Reykjavik creates this kind of frozen-in-time picture with its colorful corrugated-clad houses and ice capped mountains. But that picture is changing—across the world, Iceland’s first generation of homegrown designers are making waves in fashion, architecture, product design and more. Back home, they’re filling up the capital city’s deserted industrial spaces with their workshops and galleries, and spawning a renaissance in a city that has never been so alive. Nowhere is this more evident than in Reykjavik’s old harbor district. A couple of years ago designers started moving in, turning former fishing sheds and factories into buzzing studio space. Shops and cafes have followed suit. And now the city has plans underway to further develop the area into a vibrant live/work area close to the city center. Here are some of the cornerstones of Reykjavik’s budding new design district.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Rare green AD65 radio from Ecko.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016
When a garage damaged by termites had to go, a studio emerges.
June 19, 2016
the blue lagoon iceland geothermal spa hotel water visitors
The famed geothermal spa outside Reykjavík, Iceland, is entering a major new phase—paving the way for the area’s first five-star hotel.
June 19, 2016
heaven on earth maya lin topography what is missing california academy sciences wood video
A new monograph by Rizzoli explores the memorial project by the renowned artist.
June 19, 2016
gable game austin texas cantilevered home facade windows upper level car port
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to indoor/outdoor living. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
June 18, 2016
Modern prefab lakeside home in Bloomingdale, New Jersey
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
June 18, 2016
Rectangular bento glass table with compartments.
These top-notch projects by design students earned a spot on our honor roll.
June 18, 2016
bozley all
Jory Brigham picks up his family’s trade and takes it in unexpected directions.
June 17, 2016
The outlandish Belgian fashion designer, a member of the iconic Antwerp Six, creates a quirky pattern-filled capsule collection for the Swedish mega-retailer—with a high-tech twist.
June 17, 2016