Thingvellir Visitor Information Center

Thingvellir Visitor Information Center in Thingvellir, Iceland by Glama-Kim Architects

Iceland's Thingvellir National Park was declared a national park in 1930 in order to protect the natural and historical site from encroaching development and to conserve the area for future generations to enjoy. Naturally, it is home to the largest lake in the country and a remarkable series of faults and fissures in the earth's crust. Historically the Iceland's Parliament - the first in the world - was established on the site in the year 930, in use until well into the 18th century. For these and other reasons a Visitor Information Center was built to aid what has become one of Iceland's most visited tourist sites.

Designed by Reykjavik's Glama-Kim Architects, the Visitor Center's simple, orthogonal form is influenced by the vernacular architecture of the region, primarily agricultural and religious structures. As well, the construction and materials are based on these influences, according to the architects, with construction suited to the size of each building and materials - primarily copper sheathing - that will weather well over time.

Two structures comprise the Visitor Center: the main, steel-frame building with exhibition spaces and the smaller, concrete structure with toilet facilities. Their placement creates a hardscape plaza, further defined by low, stone walls that relate to the grassland beyond through their rough texture and sod tops. Part of the plaza ramps up to a portico that shelters the entry and creates a covered connection between the two structures.

These two small, low structures amount to a minimal intervention on the landscape of Thingvellir, providing the necessary facilities for visitors and a multimedia exhibition that will help people to understand the natural and historical significance of the area around them. The simplicity of form, construction and materials creates a contrast in the landscape while also quietly respecting the surroundings through an understated expression. Over time the buildings will blend into the green context with the copper sheathing's patina.