Design: in collaboration with Future Plans Hungary. Project team: Balázs Fürtön, Márton Mondvai, Zoltán Nádasdi, Eszter Rieszné Horváth, Márta Molnár, Máté Sóti, Fanni Fucskó.
Type: Open design competition
Organizer: Bee Breeders
The Grjótagjá caves are part of the natural wonders around lake Mývatn: whether it is bathing or hiking onto dormant volcanoes, the region is a fascinating place to visit. The Icelandic landscape is a delicate natural construct: the view is defined by the openness of the harsh environment, but the horizon is framed with mountain ranges. Building something visually protruding doesn’t feel right: it is intrusive. This place is in the need of a more subtle landmark – after all, that is what a tower is apart from providing a better view. The fractured, mossy base is contrasted with a simple, monolithic form, which is put in the position to reach over the continental division – this has symbolic meaning in this time. To offer a better perspective than its surrounding area, the shape of the building is created to “climb” onto the top shelf and it is elevated. This results in a visually non-intrusive way to offer a new perspective on the landscape while being distinct.
From the distance in the fog the cave tower looks ancient and inviting, and getting closer reveals the more subtle details: the modular hiking paths have their way to enter the inside and get onto the top. Hikers can just walk onto the roof and admire the view, or they can wander into the cafe and warm up a little while having a snack or a coffee. The cave tower can be the start of a trip around lake Mývatn, it has a parking lot to arrive to and depart from. You can expect to see people around it wrapped in bath robes that are laughing in the cold to get to the neighbouring cave bath, and people taking pictures everywhere. The views are changing, the landscape is framed differently depending on the point you stand.
The building is a first as a cave tower, which is a rich mixture of different uses. It is a cafe, a viewpoint, a shelter and a service centre for the surrounding caves. The overall shape is composed to fit into the Icelandic landscape as a monolith – you have the feeling as if an ancient civilisation has left its mark here. The circular shape is not perceivable as a whole from any angle from eye level, but it blends its edges into the environment. The exterior facades can be closed during the nighttime if the owners wish to moderate visitor activity outside opening hours.
The structure’s interior layout is based on symmetry. Although not perfectly symmetrical, the plan view is circular and the cafe is split along a central axis. People arrive from the right, from the current parking lot’s direction. The entrance gives an overview of the spatial sequence at first glance. The space is organised in a pulsating manner: narrower parts are followed by the cosy “nests” toward the courtyard, where people can sit to warm up, have a drink and some snack before they continue their journey. In the middle stands the counter that interacts with the visitors: you can buy food there.
Perforated, corrugated metal panels provide visual interaction with the surroundings even in the harshest of weather conditions. It looks warm and cosy from the outside. An extensive green roof can host the same small plants as the surrounding landscape – from an aerial view it is an organised patch in the noise of the surroundings. The interior finishes and the furniture is made from recycled ocean-waste plastic. The bottom of the interior is made dark, to prevent disturbing reflections, charcoal coloured wood goes well with the darker hard plastics.
HVAC systems, electricity
Due to the proximity of water and the generally high ground temperatures, the heating demand is met with geothermal energy. The air is conditioned with a VAV system with heat recovery to minimise heat loss through ventilation (the warmth of the shower and kitchen is especially useful). The necessary electricity is coming from small mountable wind turbines along the roof edges and walkable solar panels. Drinking water is stored in tanks, as is the waste water under the building. Rainwater and grey-water is collected and used for flushing toilets. Please refer to the diagrams in the left column for further information.
Plastic waste is now found almost everywhere all around the world – also int the Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. We would like to decrease the amount of this plastic. There is available technology which makes usable, beautiful objects from ocean’s plastic: we imagine the furnishing and wall cover to be made from recycled plastic, also prefabricated off-site.
Modular, prefabricated construction
It would make sense to build as much as possible off-site. The harsh Icelandic weather is not the place for convenient construction, especially in a far away region as Mývatn. We propose to use prefab units that are the same: they are easy to fabricate and make a rhythmic interior. The irregular shapes of the building can be assembled on site with adjustable legs as an addition to the rational, repeating underlying elements.
Our proposal is to create an object that has different purpose along its surfaces and interior: you can walk on it, get inside it, find shelter from the wind or the rain or snow.
The building looks complicated to build at first: really, it isn’t. The cafe is well insulated little bent box. The thermal envelope is rather efficient, we propose to use triple glazed windows, whose proportions can be adjusted with the size of the prefab units. This could reduce the operational cost of the building and smaller HVAC sizing is possible. The boxes are skeleton frame aluminium construction, the frame is covered with reused plastic panels. The sealant between the panels is also the vapour barrier, providing a continuous cover for the insulating layer which could be wool. The exterior is covered with additional external thermal insulation, hydrophobic at ground level. The top part of the building is a straightforward column-beam construction built from extruded aluminium. The foundations are metal screws fit to the stones. The rest can also be prefabricated and assembled on site. The proposed corrugated metal sheet cladding is put on the site, it is weather resistant and durable.