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Fire & Ice

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Images courtesy of Torfi Agnarrson, Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson, and Art Gray 

Elves and trolls generally aren’t a concern for architects embarking on a new project. But Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir and her husband and partner Tryggvi Thorsteinsson, of Santa Monica’s Minarc architecture, were careful to keep the creatures in mind when they transformed a former corporate housing facility into Iceland’s ION Hotel.

“The history that lives in the nature, elves, and trolls and the superstition that Icelanders have learned to live with are very important to us and we would never take nature for granted,” Erla says. “You never know what the elves would do...”

Folklore wasn’t the only inspiration the duo tapped from the hotel’s epic natural surroundings. Perched on the edge of a UNESCO World Heritage-listed national park, the structure is sandwiched between the remote lava field beneath it and, when conditions are right, the shimmering aurora borealis above, features Erla and Tryggvi showcased in their design. Large picture windows in each room offer striking views of Lake Thingvallavatn and the surrounding mountains. Images of Icelandic wildlife adorn the walls. Black corrugated sheet metal wraps the hotel’s exterior to emulate flowing lava.

“We wanted to make sure that wherever you are you feel that you are outside in nature,” Erla says. “It fits with nature in color and texture rather than imposing on it.”

Originally, the building on the site housed workers for a nearby power plant. Minarc renovated the existing structure and expanded it into a luxury hotel, adding 22 rooms. Inside, Erla and Tryggvi utilized reclaimed tables, and chairs and couches made from recycled wood. The hotel’s bold exterior details (a cantilevered glass box, concrete finishes, and history-inspired supporting pillars among them) are all the more daring against the scenic and storied landscape—elves, trolls, and all.

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