A September Evening in Reykjavik

The intersection of Laugavegur and Klapparstígur

I took this photo back in September 2011 when I was out for a late evening walk in my neighborhood on Skólavörðurholt.

This intersection doesn't look too much different today. The greenish house there center frame, which is always called the Hljómalind House) has transitioned from the popular but totally grotty coffee house/pub it was in the photo (fire hazard, terrible plumbing) to the much more upscale but still charming Kaffibrennslan bistro (which btw I used to work at when it was down by Hótel Borg where, incidentally, my father worked as a porter when he was only 13:)

The art deco facade of Hótel Borg, from Austurvellir town square
Today the old timber and corrugated iron building in that first photo has been revamped inside, a far cry from when it used to be the Hljómalind record shop downstairs run by Kiddi Kanína in the 90's. He was the first manager of Sigur Rós, and the story goes that their song Hjlómalind, is named after the shop. Later it was a very convenient after-party house for when the hard-core bars Sirkús (the little blue house next door in the photo, now torn down) and Bar 22, (kitty-corner, now Bravó and Kíkí) shut down their thumping music for the night.

After that some acquaintances of mine opened the hippie-organic Kaffi Hljómalind, that was later booted out under grumbly circumstances. They re-opened a few houses up the street and did their best to keep things going, even holding yoga and meditation sessions in their new basement, but they got chucked out there too, to be replaced by a candy store, of all things. Today that location houses the everything Apple Macland store where a friend as well as a former student hold court.

The reason the hippie café was tossed out of the house in the photo is because property developers had swooped in and bought the block, and had intentions of tearing down pretty much everything on it and building something shiny, new and horrible. They were stalled by local protestation against redevelopment at the expense of historic Reykjavík. While waiting for things to move forward, the Heart Park mysteriously appeared, as if overnight, on the open lot behind this house:


The old Heart Park, or Hjartagarðinn
It was much-loved for the few years it existed, but eventually it was ripped up and redevelopment marched on:

Looking north from Laugavegur over towards Smiðjustígur and Hverfisgata 
This photo was taken from a little wooden observation deck set up so that the curious could see what was going on behind the walls of the construction site. I took quite a few photos while it was ongoing, which I'm glad about, because these are scenes of Reykjavik that'll never been seen again now that the new Hilton Canopy hotel, restaurants and shops are getting their finishing touches on this same lot. 

That said, I'm actually impressed with what's been done to preserve the look and feel of the local architectural style while totally renovating what was, in many cases, very degraded and dangerous old structures, underfunded and poorly built in the first place. 

 For a closing photo, here's a shot of the mountain-top mural that you can see at the top of one of the buildings in that first pic. That building still stands, but the mural is gone. Once again, I'm glad I took a photo when I did...


2 comments:

Jono said...

Nothing is a s sure as change. Long ago in a city far away the term "urban renewal" was used by politicians and developers. We referred to it as "urban removal." Sometimes it's a good thing and sometimes not. I guess it's all about perspective, but at least you have a photographic record.

Professor Batty said...

Hjartagarðinn was fantastic, perhaps the greatest spontaneous art I have ever experienced. Sirkús had its charms as well. I miss them both.