A new image every month celebrating architecture, chosen from RIBApix, where you will discover nearly 70,000 images on architecture, landscape and the decorative arts.

Hallgrímskirkja Church, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2012 (© Paul Ashton / RIBA Library Photographs Collection)

Hallgrímskirkja Church, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2012 (© Paul Ashton / RIBA Library Photographs Collection)

Growing upwards from a hilltop site in the centre of Reykjavik is the jagged outline of the Hallgrímskirkja Church, the largest church in Iceland. Despite its appearance this is no natural geological feature, but a concrete structure inspired by the local basalt formations left behind as lava cooled into thick upright columns. Commissioned in 1937, it is a perfect expression of the yearning of Icelandic architects in this period to find a new architecture with “a native character and in harmony with the landscape” (1).

State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson designed the building, but did not live to see its completion. Work only commenced in 1945 and continued after the architect’s death in 1950 by succeeding state architects Hörður Bjarnason and Garðar Halldórsson. The church was finally consecrated in 1986 (2).

Whilst consisting of many images of original material from the RIBA’s historic collections of books, drawings, archives and photographs, RIBApix also shows architecture as it exists now. The church’s 73 metre high tower is October’s RIBApix image of the month and was taken only this year.


  1. Schmal, P. C., 2011. Iceland and architecture? Island und Architektur? Frankfurt am Main: Deutsches Architekturmuseum. p. 23
  2. Abrecht, B., 2000. Architekturfuhrer Island (Architectural guide to Iceland). Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. p.105
About Wilson Yau
I work for the British Architectural Library at the RIBA as part of a team to share news, images and information online about the activities of the Library and the fascinating items we have in our architectural collections – it contains over four million items, so there's plenty to see! If you’re curious about what we do at the Library and with the collections, or want to discover the latest about our education programmes, public events and exhibitions at the RIBA, please visit www.architecture.com

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  1. Sara Abdouli

    October 11, 2012

    This place is really great and well preserved, I liked that there is graduation in height with small projections and recessions that gives a nice effect to the building, and it is good to have a simple facade in the middle to dominate it, and to create different zooning.

  2. Residential architect

    October 20, 2012

    Stunning… A different design language to many other church types and it works in various scales too in terms of visual impact and details. Difficult to take your eyes off it.

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