Heart of Iceland


Visionis, Origo, Gláma•Kím Architects

Practice Area


Thingvellir National Park

Project Vision

Thingvellir is a natural wonder, situated on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is the place where Iceland became a commonwealth when the parliament was established there in 930 CE, and the park has for centuries had a unique place in the heart of every Icelander. At Þingvellir‘s visitor’s center, Hakið, visitors are invited on a journey through history and through Thingvellir National Park’s nature.

Visitors get a glimpse into the long gone past via immersive, interactive experiences using VR and get the opportunity to explore various topics through 10 interactive installations where every sense is triggered. The unique graphic design pays tribute to the rich history of this area and is displayed on rock-like volumes that stand as a metaphor for the tectonic junctions which are the characteristics of Thingvellir´s landscape. Before heading back out to nature, visitors are presented with some future scenarios and thought-provoking questions.

Þingvellir national park is the “Mecca” of Iceland.  The nation’s history is written in every stone and the park itself is formed due to land subsidence as the tectonic plates continually pull apart. The geology is very visible and the overall nature something to explore including Iceland´s largest lake with its unique lifeforms. The challenge for the design team was to find ways to disseminate these vast and different topics in a single coherent experience within the 400 square meters allocated. How could we give in depth understanding of Iceland’s history spanning 1000 years with its dark and bright times while giving people a geological understanding of the area that today is so full of life? This topic could easily fill three separate exhibitions.

The design team envisioned the exhibition space as an abstraction of large fissure similar to those so common at Thingvellir. The exhibition´s story revolves around this fissure where transverse axes lie from the middle elevating up towards the outer walls. Each axis follows a series of events or phenomena that explain a particular event, its cause and the final result on the walls. 

Each story starts with a natural phenomenon and how that has affected a historical point in time and what consequences it finally led to. The three different narrative threads were in this way intertwined from since the land was formed, then settled by Nordic people and to modern times. Nature and man become one.

To enhance the stories and deepen people’s understanding, over 10 tangible installations with rich content were produced. Installations may look as a silent rock at first glance, but soon as guests interact, those same stones come alive and visitors develop the stories by their actions. Nothing is pushed, but rather retrieved through entertaining actions of visitors. Tangibility is the key and visitors need to “work” to earn an understanding. There were two projections, a soundscape and over 100 printed materials. Every exhibit was custom-made by the design team.

Project Details
The Icelandic aesthetic and cultural sensibilities come through in this project: no clutter, modern, spare, smart, clear and concise messaging.
Juror 1
Wonderful integration of interactive content with the environment that engages the viewer in unexpected and tangible ways, creating a fully immersive experience that is elegant and restrained.
Juror 2
Design Team

Exhibition Design Team: Hringur Hafsteinsson (creative direction), Jóhannes Þórðarson (architecture), Þórunn S. Þorgrímsdóttir (curator), Knútur Rúnarsson (AV design, equipment)Interactive Experience Design Team: Bríet Friðbjörnsdóttir (project management); Heimir Hlöðversson (storytelling and filming), Hringur Hafsteinsson (exhibition design, creative direction); Jónmundur Gíslason (digital artist); Kristín Eva Ólafsdóttir (graphic design, art direction); Lemke Meijer, Nils Wiberg (interaction design); Magnús Elvar Jónsson, Atli Hilmarsson  (graphic design); Pétur Valgarð Guðbergsson, Marel Helgason (programming); Milena Bühler, Sebastian Wyss (illustrations); Samúel Hörðdal Jónasson (exhibition design, programming); Sveinbjörn J. Tryggvasson (animation)Architectural Design Team: Sigbjörn Kjartansson (project architect); Jóhannes Þórðarson (exhibition architecture); Richard Blurton, Rósa Þórunn Hannesardóttir (exhibition and space design)

Design Firm

Visionis, Origo, Gláma•Kím Architects

Project Area

3,767 sq ft

Project Budget



Álfheiður Ingadóttir, Bryndís Sverrisdóttir, Torfi S. Jónsson (manuscript); Páll Ragnarsson (light design), Gunnar Árnason (Sound design), Knútur Rúnarsson (AV design, equipment & consultation), Landslag ehf. (landscape architecture)


Aðalvík ehf (stands built in shop); B.Ó. smiðir ehf (onsite millwork); Irma Studio (CNC routerwork, stands built in shop); Múr og mósaík ehf (plasterwork onsite); Ístindar ehf, Stálgæði ehf, Verkstæðið ehf (steelwork of stands); Kristján Steingrímur og Svanur Jónsson (painters)