Grjótagjá Cave Tower

Written in


competition entry with:

Bogdan Shevchenko, Fabian Egle for architecturecompetitions


There aren‘t many regions on the Earth where the Power of Nature is as visible and experiential then Iceland. Located on a rift that divides the Eurasian plate from the North American plate and surrounded by subarctic climate, Iceland is founded on fire and ice.
The tension between division and unity is the key to the Design of the Grjótagjá Cave Path. The whole complex itself is divided in several components rather than one compact building, since the wide and horizontal landscape offers more than enough space.
All elements are arranged along the main path that stretches from one tectonical plate to the other. A metaphorical and physical connection between continents that offer an interesting narrative of discovery
and excitement.
With a welcoming entrance at the beginning and a landmark tower as a highlight at its end, the distinctive layout offers a perfect frame for the different functions and uses of the caves. A simple wooden path connects them and offers views along the rift. As it stretches from east to west on the Icelandic landscape, it surpasses the rift with a bridge that offers spectacular views into the canyon so that visitors can sense the movement of the plates. A tall red tower concludes the path at its west end, offering a final view on the rift and, more importantly, to the whole impressive Icelandic Landscape.
On the southern side is located the more private Kvennagjá cave, with a small building that houses all the necessary functions for bathing. The more open Karlagjá caves instead are set on the northern side.


At first the visitors are confronted with the view of the red glowing tower from afar. Then while the come closer to the main entrance, the tower seems to distance itself again. Already before arriving at the entrance building, the visitors can already experience the immense
scale of the setting and savour the view that awaits them from the top of the tower. The tower itself is a simple staircase that winds up to an observation deck. The outside facade is enveloped in red corrugated metal sheet, while the inside is covered in a metal grid, which lets light and air in without opening the view. When the visitor finally reaches the platform, he find Iceland lying at his feet. This breath-taking view is the great finale of the Grjótagjá
Cave Path and the climax of a great narrative.


The Path is the main spine of all components, buildings and elements of the Grjótagjá Cave Site. It is made of pre-weathered grey wood to match the landscape. It is slightly raised from the ground to protect it from the many waling feet. Being the main walkway, it is quite big in size. This will allow many people to use it at the same time and help prevent them from having to walk on the protected landscape. On the south-side, the path will have a simple wooden railing. At specific locations, simple grey stairs in concrete will offer exit
to laid-out footpaths to the caves.