by Jincy IypeJul 03, 2021
Shanghai-based design studio, 00Group, has unveiled a powerful proposal for a new landmark for Iceland, called the Anchor of the Plates, where a pair of scythe-like monumental towers surge upwards from vogagjá – a majestic ground fissure resulting from seismic activity. The two ‘anchors’ celebrate the raw and fey Icelandic landscape, connected by a rope bridge that crosses and overlooks the grand crevice breathing underneath.
The Anchor of the Plates is articulated by the site’s unique topography, home to old bathing places hidden within naturally occurring fissures and caves of Northern Iceland, where the ground cracks open to reveal a mysterious domain composed of stones. The ambitious proposal was imagined for a competition organised last year by Bee Breeders, called Iceland Cave Tower, which called for a viewing tower paired with a small visitor centre, where one could rest before visiting mysterious caves nearby.
Located near Grjótagjá (a collection of three small caves), the site is literally the boundary of Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, with a gaping fissure running between them. “In this special place, we hope that the buildings become ships and anchors, pulling the gradually separated continents, forming a sense of beautiful conflict between the vast land and the tiny humans existing on it,” shares 00Group’s core team formed by architects Jing Xu, Gang Liu and Sizhuo Gao.
The imaginary architecture is both subtle and powerful and seeks to emphasise motion while being stationary, similar to the movement and tension generated by the splitting landscape. The scheme also represents the power (and damage) of human intervention on raw, untouched nature – the giant monoliths and the gentle, daring bridge that literally anchors the shifting of the two immense tectonic plates.
The anchors are dressed in dark stone and light metal, intending to strike a contrast between the hefty nature of the landmark architecture and the fleeting nature of human lives on earth. A murky grey tone, close to the site’s primitive ground was adopted to make the structure grow out of the Icelandic landscape.
On one side of the crack rests the “boat” which forms the visitor centre. The structural anchor sits on the other side, serving as “a spiritual guide to the destination,” the Chinese studio explains. Connecting the two volumes is a skinny ropeway that references the delicate machinery of the modern Industrial age. As the fissure’s size increases, a system of gears linked to the interiors will adjust the distance automatically. The insides of the observation tower are envisioned with “modern materials and technical displays” that reveal data and information about the site and the ever-expanding fissure it is secured upon.
The rocky massing also references the naturally unrestrained landforms of Iceland, while the interior design takes on a tech-savvy, modern-day cave aesthetic. Sunlight and scenery flow between and tread the edges of the cracked openings, as visitors are encouraged to sit upon warm stairs, immersing themselves in tours and talks that bear witness to the significance of the natural fissure. These steps lead up to the observation deck at the back of the boat, where a 360-degree panoramic view of the mountain peak is provided. The swaying ropeway going across the fissure gives an ethereal, thrilling, and sensitive experience of the site, with the two towers looming and emanating energy at a distance.
“Our team is motivated to design everything from the origin – 0 – exploring contemporary design in a digital realm, based on oriental aesthetics. There is nothing, and therefore there is space for growth; a fertile ground zero,” says 00Group, explaining their unique name.