The Harpa building stems from a rich background and lengthy history, coloured by the unwavering faith of idealists and benefactors of Icelandic culture and art. After more than a century of waiting, the dream of an Icelandic concert hall finally came true with the advent of this magnificent building.

It is believed that the challenge to build a concert hall was first raised in the Icelandic press in 1881, but the formal Association for Music Halls was founded in 1983.

  • In the years after 1990, the project got underway with the involvement of the Icelandic state and the City of Reykjavík and, in 1999, the mayor of Reykjavík and the government announced a plan to build a concert and conference centre in the heart of the city.
  • On 9 March 2006, an agreement was signed between the Icelandic state, the City of Reykjavík and the Portus holding company for the construction of a concert and conference centre in Austurhöfn by the harbour in Reykjavík and, on 12 January 2007, construction began on the building.
  • In October 2008, construction was halted, but in March 2009 it resumed again, following a decision by the Minister of Education, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, and Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, who was the mayor at the time.
  • In May 2011, the house was opened and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra’s first concert was held in the Eldborg concert hall on 4 May. The building was formally opened on 13 May 2011 and, on 20 August, Harpa was inaugurated and Ólafur Elíasson’s glass façade was first enjoyed with a light show on Reykjavík’s Culture Night – Menningarnótt.

The name Harpa

The name of the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre was made public on 11 December 2009. “Harpa” was the winning name out of 4,156 proposals entered by 1,200 citizens. The challenge was to find a name that was Icelandic, but also one that could easily be articulated in most languages. The word Harpa has more than one meaning. It is an old Icelandic word that refers to a time of year in early spring and is, in fact, a month in the old Nordic calendar. Harpa is also the Icelandic name of the beautiful stringed instrument, the harp, a reference to the musical activities within our stunning concert house.