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Hlemmur Square, Reykjavik, Iceland




1.9 ha


Invited competition


Shared first prize


Reykjavik Municipality


Martin Arfalk, Patrick Verhoeven,

Andrei Deacu, Pia Kante, Cyril Pavlu, Katerina Vondrova, Kinga Zemla

Hlemmur Square

Reinventing the urban square


Hlemmur square is located in the centre of Rekjavik, at the eastern end of the city’s main commercial street. While loaded with historical significance as a gateway into the city centre, the area goes now through a complete transformation with the opening of Hlemmur Food Hall, and the restructuring  of the local traffic system.


Lively Hlemmur looks for ways in which the new square can build on and strengthen the qualities of the existing public space. Taking inspiration from the Food Hall, we propose a collection of sheltered, programmed rooms in combination with open shared spaces that form a complementary indoor and outdoor public meeting point.


Lively Hlemmur introduces energy, playfulness and identity to an important public space, and invites Reykjavikers to come together, enjoy each others company and maximise public life in all conditions!

The traditional square 

A traditional square is defined by its relationship to its edges and program.

Hlemmur’s condition

Today, Hlemmur square lacks structure, identity and reasons to use the space. 

Lively Hlemmur

New program can bring energy and life to the square, while creating new and exciting edges to activate the in between spaces.

Modern urban square

Year-round program activates the square through a variety of functions and activities, creating an inclusive public space for all.

The Food Hall

Hlemmur’s biggest asset is the Food Hall. A vibrant local and citywide landmark. What can we learn from this successful urban generator?

Two is better than one

Due to the upcoming roadway reconfiguration, Hlemmur square will soon become bigger. We start by doubling the Food Hall’s program surface to take use of the newly acquired space.

Adapting to context

Without the limitations of a building envelope, our square program can be placed freely. We position the new program carefully to consider view lines, future traffic changes, and with respect for the existing edges.

The soul of Hlemmur

 The new program diversifies the experience of the square, bringing novel activities such as sports, bike repair and food gardens.

Sheltered spaces

To maximise the enjoyment and usability of the space, the new program is wrapped in protective skins that create pleasant microclimates in unpleasant weather. Public life season is extended!

Lively Hlemmur

The result is a square that strengthens the existing qualities of Hlemmur, introduces fun, shared activities and attracts people in all seasons and weather!

Permeable yet activated public space

New program can bring energy and life into the square, while creating exciting edges and active in-between spaces.

Accessible destination within the city

The proposal gives people a reason to stay in the area while enhancing existing qualities and becoming a vibrant destination point.

History -2m

The forgotten river - currently flowing underground - is brought back to the surface as steam or mist.

Time and climate - 0.1m

Below the pavement a floor heating network warms up the surface and creates patterns during snowy or rainy days.

Pavement +0m

Together with the floor heating, the 40x40cm pavement tiles in three grey tones respond to changing weather by forming dynamic patterns in wet, snowy or dry conditions.

Activities +0-1m

Activities such as table tennis, boulle, bike repairing and food production give reasons to meet and gather in the space.

Skin  +0-5m

The protective skin made of Corrugated steel, glass, and mirrors, shelter while allowing for visual connection and communication.

Landscape  +0-10m

Local vegetation as sorbus and birch softens the square and gives form to the unprotected summer and spring spaces.

A welcoming entrance

Sheltered, bright, and always connected, the new bus terminal provides a welcoming first contact with the square.

A colourful mix

Inspired by the Food Hall, the mix of existing program, new program and cultural artefacts combine into a colourful spatial cocktail.

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