A symbol of the city’s rebirth.
That Iceland’s capital is back on its feet borders on the miraculous. Artists and the creative set led the way in the city’s astounding recovery. An encounter with some of the world’s most original crisis managersHigh above the harbour, Víkingur Ólafsson crouches atop the gleaming façade of the Harpa concert hall, savouring the ocean air. Down below is a three-masted sailing ship, a coast guard vessel and several fishing boats. The 31-year-old pianist surveys his hometown with satisfaction. Last night, the Midsummer Festival – of which he has been artistic director for the last three years – ended with a sold-out chamber concert. Not only was it a further milestone in the musician’s triumphant career, but it also exemplifies the path that the world’s northernmost capital city has struck: away from misery and back towards normality. In the fall of 2008, the country’s banking system collapsed, prompting the government’s intervention and subsequent bankruptcy. The decision nevertheless to finish the half-built concert hall was fraught with controversy.
Its ultimate completion says a lot about Icelanders: few things are as precious to them as art and culture. “The Harpa concert hall has since come to symbolize the city’s rebirth,” says Ólafsson, who also happened to be on the keyboard at the inaugural concert in 2011.