Beneath the most famous volcano Mt Hekla in Iceland, EON architecture had the honor and privilege of designing and building “a shrine / a tribute” to the most powerful volcano.
A Geological Museum
The Mt Hekla Museum is a privately owned project. The building/project started with a dream in the year 2002 an idea of former land-owners that actually erected the Museum building. The completion took some years with brakes. The design grew from those ideas, inspired by the overpowering existence of the volcano and led by the vision of the lead architect, into the built structure. The Museum is a 6,500-square-foot building specially designed and built for its offerings: the Hekla Exhibition, conference facilities, and a restaurant with all service spaces needed.
The old farm site is incorporated into the building’s architecture and the area’s natural materials are used in its construction. Lava rocks from Mt.Hekla are used in its construction outside and in. The proximity of the volcano underlines this unique relationship between nature and architecture.
Mt.Hekla is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, having been active for thousands of years. The volcano has erupted many times since Iceland was inhabited, more than 1,100 years ago, the largest being in 1104. There have been several contemporary eruptions, in 1947, 1970, 1980, and 1991. Last eruption of Mt.Hekla took place in February 2000.
Numerous stories were spun from folk beliefs on the terrifying power displayed in Mt.Hekla’s eruptions, and old stories tell of how people believed that the souls of the damned passed through the crater of Mt.Hekla on their way to Hell. In the Middle Ages the saying was that Mt.Hekla was the entrance to Hell or even Hell itself.
Mt.Hekla is the most renowned and powerful volcano in Iceland, having produced the most volcanic material. The building, Mt.Hekla Museum, is a part of and emerging into the landscape and the nature of and around the volcano, it is also an inseparable part of the exhibition. In the background as a part of the buildings architecture, looms Mt.Hekla over, in all its power. Unique architecture in magnificent surroundings.
Every design move in the building has a reason and a story to it.
The building is built and constructed with modern technologies , with reference to traditional Icelandic architecture for example in the use of exterior coverings/ materials. The exterior of the building is mostly lava, turf, grass, cortain steel used in detailing and also Jatoba wood, the only non-native building material in the building . The use of lava at the exterior is unique in many ways, both as it has reference to the old traditional Icelandic way of using lava in built structures but also the new methods that were developed for this building in the use of lava as an exterior cladding. This is mostly visible in the main entry of the building, a six meters tall folded lava-façade leading to the opening into the building. Thus the building is built into and between the lava field and surface of the earth, with Icelandic lava used as a covering, so that upon arrival at the Hekla Centre visitors meet the high lava walls with door-windows cut into stone, bringing alive the old folk-saying that guests “walk into cliffs” when they enter a house.
The conference room and the restaurant are also wrapped into lava, the roof being layered/covered with bigger lava-pieces. Inside the space the concrete raftered ceiling is supported by a century old beam of drift-wood.
The shape and the folding of the buildings-envelope leads the visitor of the building through and also through the exhibition, the gateway to the centre of the earth.
The space and the exhibition:
Upon entering the part of the building housing the exhibition, one seemingly goes underground, into a cave beneath the the volcano’s lava fields. Visitors follow the building’s natural form through the exhibition, which tells the story of Mt.Hekla in many different ways through centuries past, explaining the nature of the eruptions. Visitors experience the eruptions in a unique way, and modern computer technology plays a large part in creating both lava flows and magma craters. The centre piece of the entire exhibition is Mt.Hekla itself in all it’s power shown through a lava framed glass, that suddenly appears after a journey through a narrow corridor filled with mysterious text, floating on the exposed, stained concrete that is the interior envelope of the exhibition space.
Both exhibition space, the tower and the restaurant have an incomparable view of Mt.Hekla.
Hlédís Sveinsdóttir, Project Architect and lead designer of the Mt Hekla Museum;
Architect and Senior Principal /Partner at EON architects.
Gunnar B. Stefánsson, Architect; technical focus and related responsibilities in the Mt Hekla Museum;
Architect at EON architects, (untill 2011).
Other / Special consultant; Flosi Olafsson, mason specialist, led the making of the lava-wall and lava-surface on the exterior of the building.
Vilhjalmur Thorlaksson, Lead Engineer./ (in charge of the engineering of the Mt Hekla Museum);
Owner of Taeknithjonustan, engineering company in Iceland.
Photographer: Art Gray