Wandering around Reykjavik my first morning there, still jet-lagged from an overnight flight, I heard distant singing, and followed it to what I soon realized was the heartbeat of the city itself, Heart Park.
A former abandoned and unattractive lot that all the surrounding buildings had seemingly turned their backs on, it was ablaze with colorful street art, a live band (pictured), and lots of people, small kids with bikes, all enjoying the music and the warm sunshine. The smell of waffles drifted through from a nearby vendor. Artists sold their jewelry and small paintings. Teenagers sat on blankets, blowing bubbles from wands and sewing or playing board games with their friends. Some danced.
But it wasn’t always such a nice place. As the square is privately owned by a subsidiary of the facilities management company Reginn, the city is not responsible for its upkeep. Enter Tómas Magnússon, Tanya Pollock, and Örn Tönsberg—three people who took it upon themselves to revive and renovate the park. “We saw the potential, and we wanted to be here with our kids, but it was totally trashed,” says Tanya. “We had a vision and plan for the garden based on what the community wanted to see and we tried to materialise this.”
“People referred to it as the ‘crack park,’ because of some of the things we’d find during our clean-ups. The only thing that kept the place from looking like a total hellhole was the graffiti. Locals and tourists still came by in droves to enjoy the artwork. Everyone wanted to be there because of the art, the location and the sun, but it was hard to be there with our children due to the filth, and broken glass in every step. Something had to be done.”
In the summer of 2011 (a few months before my visit), they began their clean-up to transform the rundown lot into a community park, and slowly, Hjartagarðurinn was born.
But as tourism continues to grow in the 101 area, so does the need for hotels and space to plant those hotels. And you can guess what happens next...
The following summer (2012), Reykjavík’s City Planning Committee introduced a proposal that would get rid of Hjartagarðurinn and its surrounding buildings to make way for the construction of a new hotel under the direction of the architecture firm, Arkitektur.
“We had a vision and plan for the garden based on what the community wanted to see and we tried to materialise this,” Tanya says. “The owners gave us permission, as did the city. We were also told that any future plans for the area would be discussed with the community—that we could present our visions for the place, and that it would be taken into consideration. But they didn’t do that. Their current plan doesn’t coincide with what the community wants and needs. They should have invited us to those meetings.”
“I fear that someday, Icelanders will grow to hate all those tourists for facilitating the need to destroy their alternative culture sites,” German photographer and Icelandic Airwaves veteran Florian Trykowski says. “As a tourist, I don’t need another huge, modern building built downtown... Reykjavík is on its way to losing some of the rough, scratchy edges I love so much.”
As you can tell from much of my gallery, I too love those rough scratchy edges so much! Part of the reason I take the shots I do of these crazy looking people and these odd places is that they only last a short time, it seems, before developers and people with money come in to take advantage of what they have created, and in the process, completely destroy the vibe and the magic, and the honesty of what came together, usually with no money involved, by a group of artists and musicians, and people with big hearts and the good ideas for their communities. It keeps me on my toes, always trying to find this ephemeral edge that is (at least in my mind) the real heartbeat of any community, before it is destroyed by the money interests seeking to exploit the "cool" and profit from it.
My apologies for this rant. I am very passionate about these special spaces, and am absolutely heartbroken to hear the plans for Heart Park.
As a photographer, all I can do is document its vibrancy before it disappears and share that with you, my TE friends all over the world.
Thank you for listening.
[written with excerpts from an article in the Reyjkavik Grapevine]
Critiques | Translate
ktanska (24914) 2013-08-28 11:14
Quite a special looking stage, and the artist group is not usual either with two singers dressed in all white.
Interesting note, I would have guessed that it would take a little longer to get in hard core business mode. Never heard of this area before but it surely would be sad if Reykjavik would start looking just like any other city.
holmertz (41737) 2013-08-28 12:13
This is quite a spectacular view of all that graffiti and the strange looking duo in white dresses. The note is even more interesting. Isn't it strange that in a struggle between ordinary people and private entrepreneurs the latter always seem to win, regardless of whether the struggle is about an empty lot or precious environment. (Like the fracking issue.)
As for the photo I would have suggested to make it a bit darker to give the colors more punch without saturating them to look unnatural.
jcpix (13688) 2013-08-28 18:19
Sheesh, you're really making me work to take in all of the text associated with this shot! :) It's great though, and even before reading your notes, I already liked so much of what I was seeing. The back story has only added interest and sadly, a bit of disappointment for what apparently is going to happen with this site. Such a pity these types of venues/locations would be removed in the interest of a presumed almighty money grab!?
There's so much of the cities character and emotion to be had, that will inevitably be lost in the newness of modern changes. *sigh* This is the epitome of contrast for me, in the sense of subject matter...the colorful and wild graffiti set against these two women in their white dresses and assumed mild mannered music is a clash, but an elegant one at that. :) Glad you followed your intuition to seek this out, it's made for a great shot! enjoy your evening.
Take it easy,
sdnpicz (195) 2013-08-30 6:52
Classic capture. :) Nice composition. Those graphics are really very attractive and in the middle of those colorful graphics those three musician in white! wow! Good contrast between colors and white.. Ohh if i'll start telling detail of all the elements in the photograph it would take long...this photo have a lot in it.
If you had captured this without human elements in it still it would be great, but those three human elements in the photograph added some special effect to it.
The man's graphic smoking cigar having pulled out pockets above the right most lady, The man with a bit sad face looking at her from behind..and all those graffiti. Just too good!
Thanks for sharing.
trevormoffiet (3112) 2013-10-07 18:49
Great photo and note to document the park and its activities. I visited this park in June this year. It was my most favourite place in Reykjavik. The graffiti art is dynamic and continually evolving. The artists place new art over old art, especially when they think that the old art is not up to scratch. I was not aware that they might close the park.