The Red Mountain Resort, a hotel, spa and lagoon situated on the Western peninsula of Snæfellsness, Iceland, has revealed elements of its Johannes Torpe Studios-designed architecture.
Comprising a 150-key hotel alongside 20 bungalows and a centre for creative industries – including housing for artists in residence and an installation space – the resort is set facing Snæfellsjökull, a glacier covered stratovolcano. The mountain is home to the Icelandic saga of Bárður Snæfellsás, who is said to have left the chaotic world of men behind to live in solitude, and his journey has acted as inspiration for the overall concept.
Designed to invite guests on a journey of self-discovery, the resort features an architectural concept that explores the interplay between nature and structure, and their combined capacity to provide triggers for an inward journey. The architecture has been envisioned in a way that exposes the guest to nature in various ways, whilst maintaining a sense of protection.
Kit Sand Ottsen, Head of Architecture at Johannes Torpe Studios, comments: “As seasons change the harsh weather conditions will alter the landscape and along with that, the building. In that sense, the landscape, the building and the visitor are all transformed. We wanted to create a building that has the potential to encapsulate a sense of timelessness through the utilisation of historical construction techniques and the incorporation of elements from the landscape of which it is built.”
For the resort the studio explored the tradition of Icelandic turf houses, built by the first Norwegian settlers, here creating a modern interpretation. The studio inverted this structure by creating a heavy concrete building enclosed by a light base of glass. Elsewhere the relationship between positive and negative space has been explored, and throughout the building there is a contrast between lightweight and more heavy building volumes.
The building itself is an industrial interpretation of the surrounding rocky landscape, with heavy geometric shapes emerging from the ground like sculptural formations and tall steam-chimneys that are an architectural take on geysers.
Concrete has been chosen as the primary material and is treated with a red pigment that mimics the hue of the surrounding landscape. The concrete is applied to create layers of contrasting rough and smooth textures, and form patterns inspired by those found in the layers of the turf houses. Further, selected parts of the rooftops are covered with grass, intensifying the notion of a building closely related to the history of the site, and adding to the sense that the resort rises from the landscape.
Drawing from the rich heritage of Icelandic folktales, the use of reflective glass on the building’s exterior creates a mirror effect, whilst portals and tunnels are additionally dispersed throughout the complex. The spa, meanwhile, is at the heart of the resort, where the key motif of steam is channelled through natural wind tunnels, fire baths and ice pools that represent the extreme Icelandic weather.
“Our ambition was to create a spa experience that brings you closer to nature in a slightly exaggerated way,” concludes Johannes Torpe, the studio’s founder. “It was to be an experience that simultaneously grounds you and liberates you.”