How establishing cultural facilities has strengthened the ties between harbour and city life by the old Reykjavík harbour?

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The year 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of harbour construction in Reykjavík. Harbour construction began in March 1913 after lengthy preparations, considerable debate and disputes among the members of the Reykjavík city council and the national authorities. The harbour construction was the largest single project embarked on in Iceland and was a milestone in the history of the city, which had suffered from the lack of adequate port facilities since its establishment.
The port quickly grew and developed in tune with the times and formed the basis for the city’s growth in transport, retail sales, services and vessel operation. The port and the city were always highly integrated, and one could say that the growth of the city and that of the port have gone hand in hand from the very beginning.
The area within the port was intended for port-related operations only, i.e. companies whose livelihood depended on vessel operation, fish processing, importation and exportation.
It could be said that, for a while, the connection between the port and the city was broken with an excessively narrow interpretation of what could be considered port-related operations and strict restrictions on citizens’ access to the port environs. After 1990, the debate on the relationship between the port and the city grew ever louder, and there were greater demands for improved access and more open areas. When the idea for locating the new concert and conference centre at the east part of the harbour came up in the years between 1997 and 1999, there were wildly opposing opinions on the issue.
There were many who thought that the location of a concert hall, museums and other culture-related organisations did not belong in the harbour area. Despite strong objections, the concert and conference hall HARPA was built in the east part of the old harbour in central Reykjavík. Moreover, the Reykjavík Art Museum, the Maritime Museum and the Reykjavík City Library are now based in and near the area. With the addition of these entities in the neighbourhood, one could say that a new era has begun in the history of the Old Port of Reykjavík, with positive developments where there is a blend of culture, vessel operation, fish processing, various services to the ships and marine-related tourist services.

Vignir Albertsson holds a Degree of Civil Engineer from the Byggeteknisk Höjskole in Copenhagen (1976). After one year as Deputy Managing Director of Steiniðjan ehf. in Ísafjörður (1977-1978), he has been General Manager of Real Property for the Port of Reykjavík and assistant to the Port Director in planning issues from 1978 to 1993. Since 1993 he is Director of Planning for the Port of Reykjavík and subsequently for Faxaflóahafnir sf. (Associated Icelandic Ports). He is also responsible for the management of building site issues and plot registration together with design management of significant alterations to buildings. Vignir Albertsson is the contact person for Faxaflóahafnir sf. with respect to the planning and construction departments of the municipalities that own Faxaflóahafnir. He is married to Sigríður Jónsdóttir, physiotherapist; they have 3 children and 4 grandchildren.

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