Gamla Steypustöðin (The Old Concrete Factory)

Eva Dögg Jóhannsdóttir
Iceland Academy of the Arts

Project idea

This project, called Gamla Steypustöðin (e. The Old Concrete Factory), is a plea to save an abandoned structure and reimagine its possibilities. I aim to allow what has been used to create the built environment Reykjavík to become a hub which builds up the communities in Höfði (industrial area in Reykjavík scheduled to become a commercial and residential area). This project is less about preservation and more about evolution.

Let us prevent tearing down the old structure and throwing it away. Prevent having to manufacture excessive new building materials for what will most likely be a generic replacement. The environmental impact is not compensated for by the “improved” usability. In keeping the old structure all materials will be reused or repurposed to the furthest extent possible. Concrete that is dug up or torn down will be reused to build smaller structures.

Its location in relation to Borgarlína (a new planned mega bus route) is in many ways ideal. It is within walking distance of both the main station and the smaller stop to the west. On either side, rammaskipulag (the planning framework of Reykjavik) has planned green areas which have little-to-no overlap. This project connects the two areas to each other as well as creating an entrance from the main street. It enhances walking and cycling pathways to create a more dynamic and interactive environment. Playgrounds for younger and older children, open spaces that allow for markets, smaller buildings with shops that have a view of the playgrounds, a skateboarding area carved out of the concrete ground, public access to the outside area of the old building, benches to rest weary feet.

Almost all design decisions involving the original structure were influenced by the way those spaces were used historically. The chemical additive stockroom becomes a soup restaurant where the customers create their own recipes. The pumping room becomes a dishwashing station and the mixing becomes the kitchen. The old sand conveyor belt that leads to the top of the tower is converted to a human conveyer belt which ends on a viewing platform. On the other tower, the top floor becomes a coffee shop, as there was a mixer and grinder there before. The insulated areas where humans worked in the past will once again become working areas. The unconventional setting as well as relatively small rooms, in comparison to the warehouses which are common in Höfði, are perfect for people of creativity. All areas that have become nesting spots for birds will continue to be so. In this way the birds decide which areas become truly preserved. The only addition being made to the old structure is a stair and lift tower to aid in circulation, with ramps that connect the two towers together.

Gamla Steypustöðin is an ode to the industrial heritage of the area. Its bare functionalism creates fantasy-like spaces not found in commercial architecture. It has stood for decades, withstanding the wear and tear of concrete production. It stands ready to keep evolving and to take on a new challenge.

Project description

In able to make the decision of keeping Gamla Steypustöðin (GS) feel organic within the new context which rammaskipulag proposes, some adjustments to the proposed masses (building) in the surrounding area had to be made. These tweaks were done with the emphasis of the original plan in mind. Masses above GS, which sit above the hill, where moved further from the edge of the hill, to allow for more breathing space. All masses on the plot which The structure currently stands where erased as well as the masses between GS and the new main street through the area. The area below GS was completely reworked. This allows a good opening from the main street, both physically and visually. It also allows for a contextual buffer zone, creating a gradient in mass scale from the main street and the new development.

Currently, the area is characterized by concrete walls which fence off different areas. The same type of wall is used to create smaller, more intimate areas between GS and the main rode. The walls create a visual connection up the hill to GS. Numerous openings are made in the walls to keep movement flowing freely. Two main plazas are created. In the lower plaza buildings soften the corners of the walls. Between the building an organic pathway network is created with the spots in between paths used as playgrounds and for greenery. The playgrounds are for younger children, utilizing the fact that all the buildings bordering the plaza have a clear view over it, creating a safe space for parents to shop or stop in the buildings without losing sight of their children.

Gamla Steypustöðin stands on the upper plaza. The plaza is solid concrete of an unknown depth, an accumulation of decades of extra concrete. This plaza connects to the lower plaza as well as a road off to the side. This allows vehicle access to the parking lot in front of the Quonset, used as a banquet hall, and makes deliveries to the restaurant easy.

Between the two towers is my main addition to the actual structure. A glass and steel circulation tower. It connects the two towers together internally; opening up the possibility to rent out a larger floor space on the same floor. It creates the only stairway which would hold up the current regulations. By keeping current stairs intact, multiple exit and entries are available in case of emergencies (or pandemics). It makes the structure as a whole accessible. The decision of a steel and glass structure was to try and cast the least amount of shadow on the plaza below.

Technical information

The original GS stays structurally as original as possible. New cladding added where needed. The new cladding is to be in the same material and color as the removed cladding. Currently, all cladding is corrugated iron and sheet metal in the colors grey, white, red, yellow and pale blue. The steel beams which have started to rust are to be sand blown ( if a more environmentally friendly method is available, it should be used instead) and kept. All material which is removed is to be reused or repurposed whenever possible.

The walls and/or buildings around the lower plaza should utilize wasted materials from surrounding projects e.g. the concrete removed for the skateboarding park.

The circulation tower is made of a steal beam frame and glass, with thin steel rods on the inside of the glass for structure and load bearing. The staircase connects to the steel rods.

A glass lift scales the front of the circulation tower, giving unobstructed views over Höfði, to the ocean and over to the mountains nearby. A hoist lift utilizes the steel beam frame while also making the gamble of a machine room under the lift unnecessary (unknown depth of concrete slab underneath). It also does a way with the machine and pulley system at the top of the tower.


Course : 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 is designed and led by Massimo Santanicchia, with the contribution of Aðalheiður Atladóttir & Falk Krüger


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