Icelandic Design Awards 2018

On November 2, Iceland’s most creative designers converged on the Reykjavík Art Museum at Kjarvalsstaðir for the fifth Icelandic Design Awards (Hönnunarverðlaun Íslands 2018). The Kjarvalsstaðir building, surrounded by the beautiful Klambratún park is one of three buildings in the capital that make up the Reykjavík Art Museum. It is, in itself, a perfect example of Nordic Modernism and one that’s only fitting as the venue of choice for this prestigious event.


Icelandic Design Awards 2018 - Designed by Bjorn Loka and Elsu Jónsdóttir in collaboration with Kristín María Sigþórsdóttir.


With the lighting just so and to the mellifluous chime of a grand piano, the hopeful nominees filter in from the cold and begin to congregate inside. Now illuminated by the infamous Hönnunarverðlaun Íslands neon sign, the stage is also populated by the rather elegant awards for the evening, both gracefully designed by Bjorn Loka and Elsu Jónsdóttir, in collaboration with Kristín María Sigþórsdóttir.

Hosted by Icelandic presenter Guðrún Sóley Gestsdóttir, the evening begins with a speech from Egill Sveinbjörn Egilsson. Now product manager at high-tech company Völku, he also established the Design Centre of Iceland in 2007, and was the chairman between 2014-2016. Sigurdur Hannesson, Managing Director of the Federation of Industries (SI), is then tasked with handing out the first award of the evening.


Best Investment in Design Winner: The Lava Centre


Icelandic Design Awards 2018 - Lava CentrePhoto: Magnus Elvar Jonsson


The Lava Centre is an interactive, high-tech educational exhibition in Hvolsvöllur, South Iceland. Creatively depicting Iceland’s volcanic activity, earthquakes and creation, the centre explores the Katla Geopark and the elaborate monitoring system for surveying Iceland’s volcanoes and earthquake zones.


“The Lava Centre is an example of an ambitious project in the tourist industry. It uses the tools of design to explain in a captivating way the scientific knowledge behind the epic forces of nature that shape our planet and created Iceland millions of years ago. The interactive specialists at Gagarín, in close collaboration with Basalt Architects, are responsible for the exhibition design and Basalt Architects with designing the building. The result is a clear example of added value by good design.”


The announcement of Lava Centre’s victory is met with substantial reception throughout the room, and one that sets the tone for the rest of the night, as both winners & shortlisters alike appear to celebrate their individual achievements together. Before the winner of the Icelandic Design Award is announced, Sigríður Sigurjónsdóttir, director of the Design Museum of Iceland announces the designers who made the jury’s shortlist.


Icelandic Design Award Shortlist

Icelandic Design Awards - Norðurbakki PKdMPhoto: Åke E:son Lindman


Norðurbakki, by the old harbour in Hafnarfjörður, consists of two apartment buildings and a connecting courtyard. Norðurbakki was designed by PKdM Architects in collaboration with Teiknistofan Storð. “The two apartment blocks on Norðurbakki in Hafnarfjörður are reminiscent of the ships that lay by the dock at the end of last century, in both the choice of material and form. The houses are examples of bold architecture and landscape architecture in an urban area. The courtyard between the houses is particularly well-suited to the buildings and is an excellent asset for the townscape.”


Icelandic Design Awards 2018 - Catch of the DayPhoto by: Bjorn Steinar


Catch of the Day, created by Björn Steinar Blumenstein turns discarded fruit collected from supermarket dumpsters into vodka and offers an open source distilling machine. “Using design as a tool, this project will have us talking about the global problem of food waste. Blumenstein has found a way of preserving these provisions without having to think about a best before date. This eye-opener makes us understand the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of both the problem and the solution – but if that wasn’t enough, by making an open source distilling machine to turn waste into vodka, he invites us all to take part.”


Icelandic Design Awards 2018 - Angústúra Publishing’s Book Club


Graphic designers Snæfríð Þorsteins and Hildigunnur Gunnarsdóttir designed the visual identity for Angústúra Publishing’s Book Club. “Although the book is an ancient object it remains a challenge to design one that makes you want to pick it up and read it – more so now than ever. Snæfríð and Hildigunnur’s design for the book club can easily be applied to different works of literature. The design is both minimal and nostalgic and the designers succeed in creating an atmosphere and space for breathing within the book form. It seems that there is no need to worry about the future of the book.”

Icelandic Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, then takes to the stage with great applause and after giving a short speech, announces the winners of the Icelandic Design Award for 2018.


Icelandic Design Awards 2018 - Katrín Jakobsdóttir giving her speech at the Iceland Design Awards


Icelandic Design Award Winner: Basalt Architects

Praised for their contribution to the development of bathing culture in Iceland including, most recently, The Retreat at The Blue Lagoon (co-designed with Design Group Italia) and the GeoSea sea-baths in Húsavík, Basalt Architects receive the Icelandic Design Award for 2018 to rapturous cheer & applause.


Icelandic Design Awards - Basalt Architects Blue Lagoon Retreat


After much cheer and celebration, the evening then returns to one of shared appreciation and anticipation for the newest chapters in Icelandic design and the bright futures of all of it’s designers. Honoured to have witnessed this somewhat family-like event, we too then ventured back out into the cold, warmed by the evenings display of the very best in Icelandic design. Until next year…


Event photos by Sunday & White

On the topic of Basalt Architects, immerse yourself in their beautiful retreat at the Blue Lagoon >>>