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Borgarfjördur College by Kurtogpi Architects, Borgarnes, Iceland

Kurtogpi Architects’ restrained brass clad college and cultural house reflects the tone of the local geology. Photography by Håkan Ludwigson

Erecting a building in a spectacular setting can lead to the forced replication of naturalistic architectural forms, contrived to resonate with mountainous horizons and expansive low-lying plateaux. In this instance, however, Kurtogpi Architects has exercised extreme restraint, responding to the Icelandic landscape in a forthright manner with simple, rectilinear forms that combine to create a series of exposed and protected spaces.

Situated in Borgarnes, a small village 75km north of Reykjavik, Borgarfjördur College was established four years ago. The new 3,411m² building not only serves its student population, providing teaching and recreational spaces, but also a broader community, functioning as a cultural house for the local municipality, with its 240-seat auditorium and generous foyers that occupy the irregular spaces between the orthogonal rooms.

With one wing projecting out to create an entrance court to the north-west and another addressing the broader landscape to the south, the building’s distorted footprint addresses both the existing (predominantly white) buildings and more distant mountains. Clad in brass, the consistency of the external facade provides the ideal surface on which to reflect the passing seasons, shimmering as it does as the region’s low-lying solar path sweeps by. Weathering over time to a golden brown, this skin also reflects the tone of the local rocky geology.

Interior spaces rely on a more decorative mode of articulation with circulation spaces animated by brightly coloured, striped walls. Large windows complete the ensemble, framing spectacular, distant views and connecting the inside with the out.

Architects Kurtogpi Architects, Reykjavik, Iceland
Project team Ásmundur Hrafn Sturluson, Steinþór Kári Kárason, Þor Vigfússon, Asgeir Sigurjonsson, Bergur Finnbogason, Bergur Thorsteinsson, Hildur Ýr Ottósdóttir
Structural engineer Mannvit Engineers

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