When Frankfurt’s Franken Architekten won the Icelandic Three Ministries Design competition, the project was commended for its aesthetic appeal and use of sustainable design strategies. Inspiration was drawn from the nation’s largely unspoiled natural landscape – steaming volcanoes and drifting glaciers. Dubbed as concrete ‘canyons,’ the tripartite digitally-simulated structure will house the Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs ministry, the Health and Social Security ministry, and the ministry of Environment. Each canyon represents the three typical natural elements in the Icelandic environment: water, geothermal heat and alpine flora.
In the western canyon, slightly indented ground-heated boulders will be set into the floor for seating, with cantilevering platforms intended for informal cafe gatherings. The central canyon will resemble a water body with relaxation isles, and the eastern canyon will have vegetation planted along its entire height. The ministries’ offices are going to be laid out horizontally on 4 levels, with circulation provided by glass walkways and platforms. Geothermal spring-powered electrical and heating systems, natural ventilation in the offices and the use of locally available materials are some of the eco-friendly features to be implemented. The facade will be clad with alternating protruding and receding tiers of local basalt with fenestration apertures sealed by triple layer insulated glass, set up to resemble a crystalline shower. The project is due for completion in 2008.