Jónskirkja - Church of nature

Helena Óskarsdóttir
Iceland Academy of the Arts

Project idea

My idea is to design a church and culture center at Sævarhöfði 12, 110 Reykjavík, Iceland.
I decided to restore an existing building which today is a Truck Service Center, and before it was an industrial pipe factory.
Höfði is an industrial area in Reykjavík, Iceland.
In the Master Plan for 2030, Höfðar will be deeply transformed: 6,200 new residential units will be built and ultimately support a population of over 15.000 inhabitants.
This massive transformation gave us the opportunity to design Höfðar and reflect upon a contemporary urban living, to rethink the relationship between us and nature.

Project description

The location is unique due to the building being split between the upper and lower part of Höfði. The building is located at the edge of the original shoreline, where the ocean once broke upon.

The building has two wings. The main wing stretches north, like a pier that faces the ocean, ready to welcome everyone. The building is made from a steel structure, but the top section attached to the cliff is made of concrete. I decided to keep the structure and the concrete part and build upon what was before.

I am looking to blur the line between inside and outside, between nature and structure. My goal is not to invade the nature around, but to highlight it, and create a harmony between nature and man-made structure. The inspiration comes from a story written by Halldór Laxness an Icelandic writer called "Christianity Under the Glacier". Where a pastor from the West of Iceland called Jón Prímus said that Snæfells-glacier was his church, and nature his gospel. My design reflects the philosophy of Jón Prímus, where the cliff shall become the alter and the sunlight its decor.

In front, there will be a courtyard delimited by plain white walls which go through the building's north wall, towards the cliff. This will create a space on the east side of the building dedicated to birdlife in the surrounding cliff; a sanctuary where birds can be undisturbed, protected by the cliff, and the architecture below.

According to the Arkís plan, the architectural firm that won the competition for the planning of the entire area of Höfði, there will be a green area below the cliff and I intend to increase that and create a pond as a reference to the sea that brushed the shoreline before. The pond will be a barrier between humans and birds where those two worlds can meet without one disturbing the other.

The water will continue into the courtyard, creating an equal flow between the cliff, the water, and the building. The cliff becomes the building, and the building becomes the cliff.

The building's exterior will be made of iron, which is maintenance-free. Concrete will make up the upper part of the building as well as the courtyard walls.

The surrounding flora will be a combination of wild plants and flowers for the bees to pollinate. The steel structure will stand bare in the courtyard, over time allowing the plants to climb up and become one with the steel. The church will operate as both a religious and spiritual sanctuary for anyone who seeks it. On the south side of the building is the culture center, which will facilitate a myriad of different services and projects, e.g., art exhibitions and public speaking events.

By building a church upon an existing structure I am taking advantage of what is already in place and changing it into something self-sustaining and environment-friendly which will service and welcome both new inhabitants as well as old in Höfðinn. The Church will care for all earthlings, religious and secular people, and most importantly animals. The church site offers a place to connect to nature, to be in silence, to admire the seasons, and above all, it will have a respect for nature.

Technical information

The building is made from a steel structure and the top section attached to the cliff is made of concrete. I decided to keep the structure and the concrete part and build upon what was before. Steel will make up both the internal and external structure where I intend to build into it, therefore celebrating what previously had been built.


Urban Lab - Design Agency
What are the politics of your design & What is the design of your politics?

School of Architecture - Iceland University of the Arts
The course designed and led by Massimo Santanicchia, with the contribution of Aðalheiður Atladóttir & Falk Krüger


Show PDF 1Show PDF 2Show PDF 3Show PDF 4Show PDF 5Show PDF 6Show PDF 7Show PDF 8Show PDF 9Show PDF 10Show PDF 11Show PDF 12Show PDF 13Show PDF 14Show PDF 15Show PDF 16Show PDF 17Show PDF 18Show PDF 19Show PDF 20

Copyright © 2024 INSPIRELI | All rights reserved. Use of this website signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and use of cookies.