G a t h e r i n g

Iceland | 2018 | Anna Gassner | Elisa Hartmann

The Northern Lights are a spectacle of nature, that has fascinated mankind since the dawn of time. We have perpetually been drawn towards the Arctic circle, to see the Aurora Borealis with our own eyes. Its mere sight is an enchanting and mystifying experience. It piques our curiosity and instantly raises questions: Starting with “How does such a thing come into being?” our thoughts quickly move towards more fundamental topics which have preoccupied human thought for millennia: What is the cosmos? Which power does it have? How do time and space work? It is as if we sat in the same spot as our ancestors millenia ago, gazing into the very same night sky. Gathered around campfires, they formulated various explanations for the Northern Lights and created myths and stories, which explained this phenomenon with their respective understanding of the world.Just like our ancestors around the campfire, modern-day travellers are supposed to gather in our building to exchange their thoughts and experiences. We are creating a space, which serves as a base for their philosophical musings into the world of the great mysteries of humankind.

The ring creates a visible guidepost from afar. It unites the community of travellers and all their needs under one roof. With its concentric alignment it encourages encounters and exchanges among the guests and envelops them with a sense of security.

Life in the structure is generally organized similar to a monastery. The room decor is reduced to the essential and all service rooms are set up for an efficient communal utilization. As a balance to the common areas, the guest rooms offer undisturbed privacy.

The structure can be subdivided into four sections:

(1) The public area begins with the reception and the publicly accessible room of silence. Next we find the house of the host, strategically placed within reach, yet simultaneously removed from the hustle and bustle of the service area and equipped with a roofed crafting area.
(2) The service area including the dining hall and bathrooms can be accessed via a lakeview veranda and make good use of the maximal room height by the inner courtyard. A sheltered space for internal feasts and campfires connects the dining room with the guest section in the north.
(3) Stepping inside the guestrooms, one enters a “tree house“, which is accessed from the ground floor and opens up entirely towards the sky and aurora borealis .
(4) In the center of the ring we find a lawn and space for horses with an adjacent barn, independent from the proceedings of the other sections.


Since the 19th century, corrugated metal has been used in Iceland as roof and facade cladding in an effort to protect precious wood. Corrugated metal provides perfect protection in Iceland’s harsh climatic conditions. The prefab wooden frames and rafters of the walls and ceilings are insulated with straw. The interiors are made of Siberian larch, which regularly washes up on Iceland’s northern shore. After sufficient drying, the wood is left in an untreated state. The roof is supported by concrete walls standing on the base. In the unwalled segments it is supported by rafters and pillars.

The concrete plinth with added basalt from the region forms the foundation which carries the light weight construction, protects from wetness and serves as a heat reservoir. The corrugated metal used on the roof is also used as form boards for the concrete.


In the past, old icelandic turf houses were often connected to one another. Following this concept of bundling structures enables an efficient use of space and the conservation of heat. The construction method using wooden frames allows for a high degree of prefab-rication and consumes relatively little material. Insulating gaps with straw mini-mizes the primary energy consumption in the production of building materials. Our energy concept is based on low-tech and CO2-neutrality through low consumption in the first place. Heat is generated geothermically and then conditioned by an additional heat pump to comfortable temperatures and distributed in the base via a low-temperature system. Exhaust heat from the kitchen is reused and cycled into the heating system. The necessary electricity is generated by icelandic hydro power.

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