Ever since I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty a couple of weeks ago, for some reason I’ve been very interested in Iceland. In the film the main character, Walter Mitty, embarks on an amazing adventure that includes a tour of Iceland. While the script is nothing out of the ordinary, the photography is something else entirely… the stunning views of the Icelandic countryside leave you wondering if a place can really be that beautiful. Ok, Stuart Dryburgh is certainly a very talented cinematographer, no doubt, but surely the natural allure of the place plays an important part as well. Apart from a live volcano with a name that no one non-Icelandic can pronounce, Eyjafjallajökull, and freezing cold weather for most of the year, Iceland is a culturally rich and incredibly beautiful country making it a wonderful place to travel to. As I was looking up hotels, I stumbled upon the new Ion Hotel and, at first, I found it remarkably similar do another hotel I wrote about a while back The Fogo Island Inn. Although I’m still not sure if it’s just the pillars or the stunningly rough surroundings that make these two hotels look alike… But they do look similar, don’t they?
Designed by Icelandic Architects Tryggvi Thorsteinsson and Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir from the California based Studio Minarc, this precious little hideaway is located an hour away from Reykjavik literally in the middle of nowhere. The Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel & Spa, as it’s called, provides luxurious accommodations for the most adventurous travelers who go to that regain for it’s incredible list of outdoors activities, from fly-fishing to touring a glacier. Not to mention the wonderful spectacle of the Northern Lights, well, if you’re lucky enough to be there at the right time of the year.
In addition, the Hotel has a Spa, a Bar and Restaurant providing guests an isle of comfort amidst the harsh, but beautiful, volcanic rocks surroundings. Coherent to its location near Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ion is also eco-friendly and was recently granted the Boutique Hotel Awards in the sustainability category.
And here’s the description from Minarc:
The vision for the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel was truly holistic, requiring a design that reflects the natural beauty of the region with clarity and simplicity, in a manner that is environmentally considerate, while appealing to the desire for luxury that attracts the upscale adventurer—a desire that has been redefined by expressions of luxury that are smaller, more personal and intimate, and eco-responsive. Knowing this, and understanding that a built environment often has a profound impact on the natural environment, our approach was to create a hotel experience as dramatic and otherworldly as the natural Icelandic surroundings, where the built and natural environments can coexist, integrate, even synergize. The hotel property features one of Iceland’s most breathtaking natural settings. Near Thingvellir National Park, it is beautifully situated on the multicolored slopes of Mt. Hengill, with a dramatic view of Lake Thingvallavatn and the mountains surrounding the lake. With respect for nature, the hotel incorporates innovative materials, sustainable practices, and the natural features of Iceland into its design—an understated design that allows the extraordinary landscape to take center stage. The Ion Hotel emerges from the moss covered mountain base like an enormous post pile wrapped in a sheath of hardened lava. The mnmMOD prefabricated, panelized building system used for both the new extension and original structure achieves both aesthetic and environmental objectives. Beneath its stark appearance, which could easily be mistaken for part of the evolving landscape, is a high-performance system that maximizes energy efficiency with a reduced carbon footprint. An abundance of natural hot springs surrounding the hotel provide guest rooms with clean, energy-efficient geothermal heating and hot water. The extensive use of oversized windows throughout the hotel captures the natural daylight, reducing the need for artificial lighting, while providing unobstructed views of the natural wonders beyond. An attention to details and finishing touches, inspired by the environmental surroundings, culture and traditions of Iceland, completes the picture. An extensive use of recycled and repurposed materials—driftwood, lava, recycled rubber—is felt throughout the hotel, reflecting the commitment to environmental simplicity. Adding to the overall ambiance are Icelandic references—glacial waterfalls, an arctic fox, the brown trout—adorning the walls. You can enjoy the undercurrent of contemporary and traditional Icelandic music throughout the property, or while enjoying a selection of Icelandic beer at the Northern Lights lounge. Fair Trade certified products, such as linens, blankets, towels, and bathrobes, are used when local Icelandic items are not available. The project has responded to a new era of luxury with a hotel for the affluent adventurer who has become increasingly less comfortable with conspicuous consumption, and more environmentally aware. A traveler who doesn’t want his creature comforts interrupting the experience of, in this case, Iceland’s otherworldly natural wonders: lava flows, drifting continental shelves, the Northern Lights, glaciers, waterfalls, and hot springs.
Design Team: Tryggvi Thorsteinsson, Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir
Photographs: Art Gray, Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson, Torfi Agnarrson, Kristbjorg Sigurjonsdottir via ArchDaily