þriðjudagur, desember 09, 2008

glass ghetto

I had a meeting today in Smáratorg 3, also known as Turninn (the Tower). This place has got to be the biggest physical manifestation of all that was in excess during the Icelandic banking/borrowing/lending/real estate/fjallajeppi bubble. "The Tower" is 20 storeys of wannabe I.M. Pei mirror-glass thrown up in the suburb of Kópavogur. It casts a long shadow over the equally hideous Smáralind mall that sits to one side. There is absolutely nothing architecturally special about this building, a 3D rectangle of glass stamped out of a cheaper-by-the-dozen cookie cutter. In size and scale it dwarfs everything else in the entire country, save for maybe the LORAN-C antenna on the north side of Snæfellsnes. And at least the LORAN station has a little Cold War panache.

I had a dinner event in the restaurant at the top this past summer when the building had just opened. Everywhere there was the feeling of things having been slapped together: the entrance doors didn't work and someone had laid plywood and cardboard down over some of the floors, lending them a Children's Museum tactile-exhibit feeling. Upstairs, the restaurant was a warren of little rooms, all with the industrial-white vibe of an imminent videoconference. A crack ran through the pane of one of the main glass doors. Enjoyment of the fantastic view was tempered by the overabounding weirdness of the space around us and of the dysfunction of the building as a whole.

Even today it's still a bit like the partially completed Death Star, the ceilings over the covered walkways exposed to show lighting and wiring, mismatched steps where the concrete doesn't quite line up. Entire levels of the building are awaiting tenants, the windows of locked doors revealing just vast unfinished concrete floors with maybe a broom leaning in the corner. In a land that prides itself on things being neat and tidy, this is a monstrosity that will haunt for generations.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Earlier this year (pre-kreppa), when my office was planning one of our biggest functions of the year the Tower came up as a possibility. We decided against it because we weren't sure it'd be done in time. And then they had that whole thing with the fire and having to evacuate the restaurant, and our collective visions of "The Towering Inferno" really just put the kibosh on the whole idea...

--b

9.12.08  
Blogger JB said...

Oh yes, I had forgotten about the fire. And in my post, I didn't even go for the low-hanging fruit of Toys-R-Us. Wonder how long that will stay in business.

9.12.08  
Blogger Lissy said...

Umm, what is wrong with tactile Children's Museums? That seems like a better use of the building than its current manifestation...

9.12.08  
Blogger JB said...

Nothing at all... maybe, seeing as Iceland doesn't have a Children's Museum but plenty of kids, that would be a good use for floors 4 through 7.

But it sucks to be trying to impress foreign guests in what is billed as a fancy restaurant while everyone's walking over taped-down cardboard.

9.12.08  
Blogger Jóhanna said...

A group of us tried to go there for drinks one Saturday night recently, and made it as far as the lobby... where the elevators refused to take us to the 19th (or 20th?) floor. It was surreal. The top floor was all lit up as usual, but no one was able to get up there. We haven't been back since. And don't forget The Pier!

9.12.08  

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