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Walking along the Hverfjall Crater, after a steep climb along the slope, you experience a sense of wonder, ambulating around a long dead volcano. Alone in a vast, prehistoric landscape of basalt rocks and black soil, you feel the rocks and uneven ground below your feet. You feel the howling wind, blasting across a barren white sky. You feel the momentum of upward slopes and downward hills, working your feet and legs, until you arrive at a stunning northern vista, staring across Lake Myvatn and then further beyond, the mountains of Tröllaskagi. The vista is anchored by the majestic silhouette of the Vindbelgjarfjall across the lake. Then you make the long trek down…

Much like the ring road which outlines Iceland, the trek along Hverfjall Crater is a microcosm of the experience of traveling to Iceland – viewing and experiencing a breathtaking, panoramic landscape. Inspired by the form and experience of the tuff cone volcano, our coffee shop functions as a respite for weary hikers, both before and after their pilgrimage up to the crater’s edge. The circular form is inspired by the circumambulation of the crater, while the inward-facing pitch roof pays homage to the interior structure of the tuff cone crater.

At the heart of the coffee shop is an open courtyard, with an Icelandic garden that serves as borrowed scenery of the visceral landscape. Much like the experience of walking along Hverfjall, visitors to the coffee shop circulate around this open space that frames the volcano in the distance. The building is divided into four quadrants, each providing a unique function along the visitor journey: coffee shop,restrooms, exhibition space, and a covered observation terrace.

Visitors enter the structure at an open corner of the ring. From the reception area, they can move left to use the provided restrooms and seating. Alternatively, they can move right and enter the coffee house, where they are greeted by an elegant coffee bar and a warm, wood-toned interior. Hikers can relax with hot coffee and light snacks, while gazing out at the tranquil scenery of the garden. Moving through the coffee shop, visitors can then enter the exhibit space, which tells a comprehensive story of the site’s geology while natural light streams in through low gallery windows. Finally, visitors exit the gallery onto the covered terrace, which frames expansive views of Lake Myvatn and its surroundings.

The project employs a simple and efficient modular wood frame structure. Two parallel mass timber beams form a cruciform opening at the center, and inward-facing glulam rafters bridge the square interior frame with the circular exterior wall. Large-format storefronts provide courtyard views from the coffee shop and exhibit. The three program spaces are modular components of similar dimensions, designed to be easily prefabricated before being transported to the site by truck. The building’s exterior features a charred, dark gray cedar facade that relates to the black basalt grounds of the site, while the interior features warm, exposed cedar juxtaposed with rough stone furnishings and copper-toned metal highlights.

Sustainability is also at the heart of the project, which is sited in a remote national park. Located directly above the largest fault line in Iceland, the coffee shop employs underground geothermal heat pumps to power its electric and heating needs, while allowing for radiant heating on the raised concrete floor. Low-E, triple-pane glass reduces unwanted heat loss through windows and storefronts, and the concrete-and-wood exterior presents a high R-value, insulating against Iceland’s unpredictable and harsh climate. The inward-facing pitched roof allows for rainwater capture, and the purified water can be stored and used for drinking, handwashing, and flushing. The provided toilets are dry composted, and excess compost can be used as fertilizer for the garden. Used coffee grounds also provide additional fertilizer and assist with toilet composting.

The coffee shop is designed to be minimally staffed, and can operate off-grid with little maintenance. As part of the coffee experience, we suggest the shop offer a variety of coffee beans grown on volcanic soil in warmer countries, creating a holistic storytelling experience that also complements the Hverfjall hike.


Kaffihús Hringur


Collaborator: Edbert Cheng

Kaffihús Hringur


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