Gallery: Stunning Icelandic Institute is an Ice-Frosted Eco Citadel

These beautiful ice crystal formations diffuse light as it enters the building, reducing glare as well as heat gain.

The institute’s volume is inspired by the bodies of insects as well as the nearby Mount Keilir, which is mirrored in the prominent form of the front of the building. Two fissures separate the building into three masses, which helps reduce the building’s volume to the human scale of the streetscape. The fissures contain glass-walled walkways highlighted by bright green walls that break up the office environment for employees as they walk from one part of the building to another. These breaks create a closer connection to the surrounding environment by providing strong visuals of the earth and sky.

The upper floors of the building are enveloped in a double-glass facade that assists with the building’s natural ventilation scheme, daylighting and weather shielding. The glass is fritted with a pattern specially designed for the building that resembles the formation of ice crystals. These beautiful ice crystal formations diffuse light as it enters the building, reducing glare as well as heat gain. Iceland is located at a high Northern latitude, so the glass is designed to take advantage of low sun angles. Exposed concrete frames the glass and creates a contrast to the translucent material.

Images ©ARKÍS/Vigfus Birgisson

The institute’s responsibilities include researching and monitoring nature, and its stunning new building makes a strong case for sustainability and ecological stewardship in the area surrounding it. The backside of the building features a green roof with local turf and moss, which works to infiltrate rainwater, and permeable surfaces in the parking lot and swales around the building slow stormwater. The habitat of local insects and birds is minimized with the addition of the green roof and swales.

The double glass facade is part of the building’s natural ventilation scheme, and each office has at least two operable windows to encourage air flow. Natural daylighting and access to views of the surrounding landscape are also important building strategies. The research institute was recently completed in October 2010 as part of the Urridaholt master plan, which has already won awards, including the Award of the Boston Society of Architects and the Nordegrio Award. The institute is currently undergoing BREEAM post construction assessment, which they expect to complete the Spring of 2011.


+ Icelandic Institute of Natural History

Via Dezeen

Images ©ARKÍS/Vigfus Birgisson


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  1. lazyreader January 11, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Building something for lab-less Icelandic scientist’s. I thought Iceland was totally bankrupt.

  2. GeothermalHVAC January 6, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Wow! Yes that is truly incredible! Wish there were places like this closer to home to tour.

  3. homesbykaira January 5, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    You have a really interesting blog, and I love reading your posts! I am a realtor and artist in Portland, Oregon, and I will be sure to mention your site in my blog at Please stop by my site, and I will continue to follow your blog as well. Keep up the great posts!

  4. Holcim Awards January 5, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    This is a really beautiful design. The double facade is fantastic both aesthetically and for increased performance

    Check out the Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction for other inspiring sustainable projects.
    The Holcim Awards are now open for submissions and is free. Enter your project today!

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