In our last bulletin, we sent you to Edinburgh . . . how about a stop on the way to take in a concert in Reykjavik, Iceland? The gorgeous, so-new-it’s-just-opened Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center is well worth the layover.
Serving as the new home base for the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera, Harpa’s upcoming schedule also accommodates everything from a special Björk performance, to a q&a with filmmaker Kevin Smith. Its award-winning design (World Architecture Community) features a multi-faceted glass facade, which is not only stunningly beautiful, but also provides plenty of natural interior lighting by day; at night, a system of LED lights makes the whole thing positively glow. Designed by Henning Larsen Architects (with renowned artist Olafur Eliasson and Artec), the building is drawing so many visitors — above and beyond the performing arts crowd — that reservations at upscale on-site restaurant Kolabrautin are already hard to come by. And keep in mind that this is all just leading up to the gala opening which was unfolding, literally, as we were writing this — on August 20th!
The famed Edinburgh Festival is on, as of this writing (August 5) and runs through the next three weeks, offering some of the best opera, music, theatre, dance and visual arts on the planet. Visit the festival’s website to check it out.
If your travel itinerary is a bit later than August, not to fear — there’s still plenty to see here, including the spectacularly renovated National Museum (47-million pounds worth of work, by the way). The Victorian building, originally designed in the flamboyant style of the Crystal Palace, was given a thorough makeover by Scottish architect Gareth Hoskins, with acclaimed exhibition designer Ralph Appelbaum. The stunning centerpiece is the Grand Gallery, four-stories high, with over 800 animal artifacts — suspended from wires and flying over visitors’ heads! It’s dizzying fun hovering over a grounded, life-size cast of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and it’s Britain’s single largest museum installation, for now.
Three other hot tips for cool Edinburgh: First, catch new sculpture (plus drawings) by Tony Cragg at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, through November 6. Also, as you’re out sight-seeing, be sure to look down — especially if you’re near Waverly Station and climbing the “Scotsman Steps” — they’ve been given an artistic makeover in time for the Festival. Italian artist Martin Creed (commissioned by the Fruitmarket Gallery) has transformed the once dingy stairs with layers of gorgeous marble of varying tints. Work No. 1059, as it’s called, is being singled out as one of the standout “exhibitions” in town. Finally, be sure to visit Inverleith House, at the Royal Botanic Garden. On view now: Robert Rauschenberg: Botanic Vaudeville, and, outdoors, find Thomas Houseago: The Beat of the Show (large scale outdoor sculpture).