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Location : Myvatn, Iceland
Program : Visitors' Center + Cafeteria + Bridge + Observation Decks
Area : 800m2

Scope : Architecture Design, Landscape Design, Structure Design

Year : 2020
Status : Concept Design
Consultant : BSI

1. Cave and Tower
Our proposal starts with a tower, but we place it flat on the ground, in order for it to bridge the European and American tectonic plates, but also giving access along a ramp into the submerged cave below.

2.Plato’s cave
Plato argued that humanity views reality like prisoners inside a cave that have been chained to face a wall, these prisoners believe that the shadows they see on the wall of this cave, shadows of people passing behind them, represent reality. However, Plato’s allegory suggests that the play of shadows shows us only an outline of what reality really is. Will the tower help us in leaving behind the cave and get us a better understanding of the reality of the context our proposal is set in?

3. Arrival
The visitor driving along the road will see a series of changing vantage points of our structure. Is it building or just a collection of rocks held together with metal mesh? At one point the volume look very geometric, while on the other end it looks like the rocks have been punctuated by the Iceland air revealing another structure made of rocks inside.

From a distance one might think that there is some symbolism at play; the triangular shape as a diagrammatic representation of the American and European plates hitting into each other. Our engineers calculated that this form is a practical way to distribute the weight of the semi-open enclosure of the space.

4. A series of openings
Visitors leave their vehicles behind a low gabion wall and walk on a raised platform towards the building. Getting closer one notices that the stacked rocks form a large stone gabion wall which is slightly turned to create an opening. It feels almost like entering a labyrinth. Georges Bataille has pointed out that a labyrinth is an ambiguous spatial structure that consists of a series of openings that either encloses or opens space, which is basically what our structure does: enclosing and opening spaces.

The visitor turns and enters a six meter high entrance hall. It has a cave-like feeling, it is dark inside. This dark space is made of rocks. Rocks found in the vicinity. The darkness of the space stops the visitors, but also guides them, prepares them for what is to come.

5. Ramps and rocks
As the visitor turns the corner more encaged rocks form walls and a cantilevered platform can be seen above. From here a series of triangular openings reveal themselves. Looking down onto the floor, part of the rocky landscape that they have seen outside are on the floor of the building.

Then there are the ramps, made of steel and wood; one going down another going up. The ramp going down leads into the underground cave. Like the ramp outside, this ramp is on stilts, these stilts touch the landscape lightly. While the visitor walks towards the partly submerged cave they can see the rock formations below their feet, illuminated through the wood slats.

Returning back up another ramp twists around a volume that holds the more mundane programmatic needs such as the toilets, a small kitchen, storage spaces and the energy room. Walking further up after a series of ramps, the ramp widens and becomes a viewing platform facing towards Hverfjall volcano. The last ramp cantilevers into a raised view of 12 meters from which the American plate can be seen. Below there is another a ramp that bridges the two tectonic plates providing a view of the fissure below.

6. The bridge
Once across to the American plate a series of ramps provide walks along the site. We suggest to extend these ramped walkways into existing paths to allow visitors to explore the larger context of the site. These extended walkways can be constructed in a similar way as simple raised wooden decks, placed on a steel frame which are piled on steel columns. We believe raising the walkways will keep visitors on these paths to protect the fragile flora of the site.

7. Magnificent play of volumes under light
We suggest that our structure to be a variant of that subtle and magnificent play of volumes under light. Standing inside visitors will observe the Nordic light filtered through the stacked rocks, forming on clear days changing projections of shadows. Outside the metal enclosure will glisten under different seasonal conditions. When the light outside fades, the abstracted shape of the structure will look like a rock as seen in the paintings of Juliana Sveinsdottir.