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New Skerjafjördur, Reykjavik, Iceland




8,5 ha (study area: 27 ha)


Design Guidelines Study & Document




Municipality of Reykjavik


Martin Arfalk, Patrick Verhoeven, Cyril Pavlu, Kinga Zemła, Lisa Kullander

Leading with landscape to guide development in Iceland’s capital.

New Skerjafjördur Design Guidelines

New Skerjafjörður is a new residential development planned in the southern tip of Reykjavík Airport. The airport is located adjacent to downtown Reykjavik and is gradually being phased out. The discussion continues on its grounds being integrated back into the city through a redevelopment process. At the forefront of this process, New Skerjafjörður aims to be a model district for vibrant, sustainable, resilient and car-reduced living environments in Iceland's capital.


Mandaworks was commissioned with the task to investigate and communicate a clear and inspiring collection of design guidelines that would help the municipality steer the quality and character of the development. The design guideline document complements and strengthens the area's existing masterplan, detailing a selection of pioneering solutions to ensure biodiversity, resiliency and high-quality urban spaces within the previously studied and proposed urban structure.


'Gradient Landscape' is a vision that celebrates the return of the local coastal landscape into the streets, parks, squares and courtyards of the new neighbourhood. The removal of the airport is a unique opportunity to reintroduce the original landscape qualities that dominated the area before its construction: marshlands, coastal wetlands and bushy inland forests. The landscape strategy suggests layers of vegetation and ecosystems that gradually evolve from densely planted areas with trees and shrubbery in the north, to water collecting wetland towards low grasses by the coast, forming a unifying identity for New Skerjafjörður.


The guidelines rely on a collection plan specific axonometric street sections and vision images to showcase the intent of the guidelines, resulting in a highly graphical and accessible document to help guide the stakeholders through the development process. Comprehensive design guidelines are proposed for the two principal public spaces – the park and the square – and also several street typologies that accommodate a range of mobility options, public space configurations, and street scales.

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The future character of New Skerjafjördur public spaces

New Skerjafjördur will be constructed on the southern part of the soon to be obsolete airport. The new development site is a tabula rasa with barely a trace of its pre-airport history. The detail plan for the area draws its spatial organisation from Old Skerjafjördur, a residential area with no distinguishing public spaces.

Rediscovering the original landscape

Before the construction of the airport, the area was home to marshlands and coastal wetlands. The new development has a unique opportunity to bring back the site's natural qualities, introducing inland forests, marshlands and coastline landscape as a unifying character of its public spaces and streets.


Unifying landscape, individual programming

The 'Gradient Landscape' includes three typologies of landscape - Forest, Marshland and Coastline - introducing varied vegetation types and species. The unifying landscape meets the individually programmed streets resulting in public spaces that offer unity and diversity.

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ACROSS profile: residential third space

This street is designed to encourage vibrant neighbourhood life - breaking away from traditional linear streets and creating a pattern of spaces "across" that connect buildings' facades and entrances.

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NATURE profile: maximised area for biodiversity and stormwater collection

One large continuous planting bed dominates this street profile and its sunken basin provides generous space for diverse planting and rainwater collection. Pedestrian connections and small social areas are placed on steel bridges across the planting bed to create an uninterrupted “nature” corrirdor with high biodiversity value.

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LINE profile: exciting and active inner street

The asymmetrical profile of this street minimizes the drivable surface area and frees up space for a continuous strip of public space that can be programmed with activities and functions.

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SUN GAPS profile: Rearranged traffic connection to maximise the pedestrian experience

Fáfnisnes street is the area's important east-west connection, facilitating the neighbourhood's car, bus and bicycle traffic. An asymmetrical street profile here enables the widening of its most sun-exposed side and the placement of "sun gaps" - pockets with seating and urban furnishing dedicated to pedestrians. Large planting beds support the biodiversity and charm of the pockets.

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