You may have heard friends recently raving about the beauty of Iceland, and the numbers don’t lie: tourism is up by 39 percent from the previous year and is now the country’s largest industry. With this in mind, the architectural office of Johannes Torpe Studios has designed a proposed resort north of Reykjavik on the Snæfellsness peninsula that combines breathtaking Icelandic nature with a focus on wellness of the spirit and body.
The Red Mountain Resort consists of multiple parts: a 150-room hotel, 20 distinct bungalows, a center for creative industries including housing and an installation space for artists-in-residence, and a spa and wellness center. The resort is located near a glacier, emphasizing the project’s connection to nature, and the design itself was inspired by the surrounding landscape and the local mythology of the area, which is filled with caves, craters, and moss-covered lava fields.
Intentionally designed to be camouflaged within the landscape, the building is shielded from views by mountains and volcanoes, until the moment you arrive, when it almost "magically" emerges. As the leader of the design studio, Johannes Torpe says, "We wanted to create the illusion that one is entering another world when they arrive at the resort. It is a world that awakens and stimulates your senses in ways everyday life doesn’t have the capacity to do."
Indeed, the project seeks to capture the mystique, mystery, and harmony of nature and local lore, which follows the saga of Bárður Snæfellsás, who is said to have left the chaotic world of men behind to live in solitude inside a nearby glacier. Guests are encouraged to explore both nature and architectural spaces, with enclosed sky courts with glazed panels, panoramic views, and a flowing lagoon. Together, these elements emphasize a blurring between inside and out, nature and the man-made.
At the heart of the resort is the spa, with traditional elements including fire baths and ice pools, a steam room, shallow passages, and still water pools. These spaces further the connection between nature and design—contemporary and tradition.
As architect Kit Sand Ottsen explains, "We wanted to create a building that has the potential to encapsulate a sense of timelessness through the utilization of historical construction techniques and the incorporation of elements from the landscape of which it is built."
As a result, the studio considered traditional Icelandic turf houses—wooden structures insulated by a thick wall of turf first built by Norwegian settlers—as a starting point for design exploration, and selected concrete pigmented with red to resemble the outlying rocky landscape. Additionally, some roofs are covered with grass, which is a typical building technique found in the area.
The final effect is a proposal that creatively understands its site in terms of both nature and oral history, one that provides multiple activities for guests in the hotel and spa, as well as for locals with the art center and exhibition space.
According to Johannes Torpe Studios, the developer is currently in the process of making geological tests on the grounds. More to come...