LAVA Centre

Honor Award 2018

The LAVA Centre sits between five of Iceland's greatest volcanoes. The main exhibition, designed by Basalt Architects and Gagarín, reveals the epic forces of nature that shape our planet and created Iceland. Visitors get a crash course in volcanology while experiencing the extreme forces associated with volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.


Iceland has some of the most active volcanic systems in the world with eruptions every two to three years. The land is shaped by these epic forces with ever-changing landscapes wherever you go. The challenge was to give people an in-depth understanding of the geological powers that can be found in the different volcanic systems in Iceland, let visitors feel the underlying activity and teach them how to read the landscape on their travel around the island.

Designed by Basalt Architects and Gagarín, every installation was based on the best scientific knowledge available from both recorded data and live data from leading geological institutions and universities in Iceland. Visitors experience earthquakes created by real seismic data and even hear the movement of magma within Eyjafjallajökull Central Volcano.

The Basalt Architects and Gagarín-designed exhibition is fully interactive, so every exhibit is either triggered or shaped by visitors’ motion or behavior. Visitors get to create Iceland, shape the crust with magma intrusions and eruptions that result in mountains, rift valleys, islands, floods, craters and more.
 Nature has its own platform that one can’t compete with, so the designers also recreated elements with a certain abstraction in mind, allowing the essence of the phenomenon to shine through.

The Volcano Corridor allows guests to walk from the present into the past and learn about every eruption in Iceland over the last 100 years, while triggering the explosive light and soundscape of lava flow.

In the Earthquake Corridor, visitors can experience known earthquakes that shook Iceland over the last 20 years. The earthquake simulator uses the actual seismic data that was recorded when the quakes took place.

The Lava corridor is an audioscape on lava and geothermal areas, both common derivatives of volcanic activity. In the Volcanology room visitors can learn about all the different types of volcanoes and volcanic systems found in Iceland.

The Tephra Corridor gives people the opportunity to experience the visual disruption associated with eruption underwater or under a glacier.

The project includes over 20 interactive installations in four large halls and four corridors. Half of the installations can be considered immersive. Every exhibit was custom made by the Basalt Architects and Gagarín design team.

After being open only six months, the exhibit has received an outstanding reception from the public and great reviews from travelers, scientists and teachers, who are already sending students to get a crash course in geology.

Jury Comments: 

"I am already making travel plans to Iceland to see this exhibit."

"A highly immersive exhibition that engages a wide range of visitors with complex scientific data that may otherwise be difficult to express in an approachable way."

"Perfectly designed interactives in a highly immersive space makes this project so powerful. You can feel the heat of the lava and explore the extreme forces related to eruptions."

Design Firms: 

Basalt Architects, Gagarin

Client: 

LAVA Centre

Project Area: 

7,535 sq ft

Open Date: 

June 2017

Project Budget: 

$3,000,000

Photo Credits: 

Magnús Elvar Jónsson, Ragnar Th. Sigurðsson (photography); Tjarnargatan (videography)

Design Team: 

Ari Trausti Guðmundsson (script); Ari Þorleifsson (exhibition design, scenography); Atli Hilmarsson (graphic design); Ásta Olga Magnúsdóttir (project leader); Dagbjört Ásta Jónsdóttir (exhibition design, scenography); Einar Hlér Einarsson (exhibition design, parametric design); Guðjón Kjartansson (architecture design); Guðjón L. Sigurðsson (lighting design); Gunnar Árnason, Kristian Ross, Sveinn Ólafsson (sound design); Heimir Hlöðversson (storytelling and filming); Hringur Hafsteinsson (exhibition design, creative direction); Jónmundur Gíslason (digital artist); Kristín Eva Ólafsdóttir (exhibition design, graphic design, art direction); Lemke Meijer, Nils Wiberg (interaction design); Marcos Zotes (exhibition design, creative direction, art direction, project leader, lighting design, architecture design); Marel Helgason, Pétur Valgarð Guðbergsson (programmers); Samúel Hörðdal Jónasson (exhibition design, programming, lighting design); Sebastian Wyss (lllustrations), Sigríður Sigþórsdóttir (architecture design), Sveinbjörn J. Tryggvasson (animation)

Consultants: 

Feris (AV equipment),Liska (lighting design), Profilm (film), Kristian S. Ross & Upptekið (sound), Svarmi (engineering consultant)

Fabricators: 

Irma (construction of exhibits), Logoflex (print, signs), Blikksmiðja Grettis & Járnsmiðja Óðins (steelwork)

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