Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran church in the centre of Reykjavík, Iceland. It was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, building commenced in 1945 and was completed in 1986. At 73 metres, it is the largest church in Iceland and the sixth tallest architectural structure in Iceland.
I visited Hallgrímskirkja in early January 2015 whilst staying in Reykjavík; I was stunned by the monolithic structure that towers far above the surrounding buildings in the centre of the city, yet its simple, minimal bare concrete design gives it a gently elegant aura as opposed to an imposing one. Once inside the church, I was struck by the stillness of the calm, open space, very much in keeping with the aesthetic of the building’s exterior. I spent about an hour sitting in the space, which now serves as a tourist attraction as well as a functioning place of worship, as people came and went, taking pictures with cameras and mobile phones, children exploring the space’s reverberant acoustic by stomping around or making vocal sounds. As I left and was able to appreciate the stunning architecture from outside again, the bells at the top of the tower rung out.
During the rest of my time in Reykjavík, I thought of Hallgrímskirkja a lot; how its relationship with the people of the city and those who visit it has evolved over the years, how the building seems to co-exist so harmoniously with the environment and people around it, and also simply how stunning the building itself is. I made this piece in response to these thoughts and my experience of the place, using recordings made inside the building, in the environment immediately surrounding the building and archive material of music performed in the church throughout its history.
Diffused live at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 21st April 2015