Icelandic National Theatre

When Magnus Geir Thordarson became the new artistic director of the National Theatre of Iceland, he wanted to enhance the theatre experience by creating a relaxed and atmospheric environment while preserving the beloved original design of the building. 

This building is iconic in Iceland, built after the great recession and designed by the renowned Icelandic architect Gudjon Samuelsson. Construction work started in the 1930s and was completed in 1950. The building is guarded under Icelandic heritage and as such all changes had to be reviewed and agreed upon by The Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland. The décor of the interior is art deco style and all new elements had to conform to that period.

Substantial changes were made to the layout, e.g. moving the cloakroom to the lobby area where the box office was located and re-establishing the box office in the center of the lobby, where the architect originally planned for it to be. The area that the cloakroom occupied was changed into two identical bars (the foyer area is mirrored around the main auditorium).

The interior was lit mainly with halogen light sources and the control system consisted of around twenty buttons that no one knew exactly how to operate. Maintenance of tungsten lamps in hard-to-reach locations was costly and the luminaires were obsolete. The front exterior of the building was unlit which did the building no favors as its main functions and events take place in the evening during the dark, Icelandic winter months.

Casambi lamps from Ropag Gmbh were chosen for their superb warmness and all hanging chandeliers were upgraded with warm color LED tape. Old chandeliers were purchased from a theatre in Holland and installed as the centerpiece in the foyer, but their style fitted perfectly within the period of the building. Two new bars were designed in art deco style with built-in illuminating elements to give sparkle to the interior. Existing lighting tracks were used but spotlights with Casambi drivers built-in replaced the old halogen-based luminaires. 

Casambi control was a key part of the lighting design process for the front of house and exterior façade of the building. The cost and time it would have taken to re-wire the whole installation would have blown the project off the table. 

‘There were a few nerve-racking moments to do with whether the Bluetooth signal would successfully connect between all nodes because some of the interior walls are up to 300mm thick. The installation works smoothly given the number of nodes used and only in one location did we resort to using a booster node’ explains Orri Petursson, Lighting Designer at Arora. 

The staff was given four scene settings in the form of push buttons located in the box office: ‘Day’, ‘Show time’, ‘Party’ and ‘Off’. In addition, they can access manual control via their phones as the foyer is often used for photoshoots, promotional purposes, and media interviews. The luminaires are grouped into eighteen groups based on location and function so it is easy to manually change the lighting state of a particular area, both in terms of intensity as well as color temperature. 

‘The best compliment the refurbishment has received was when guests thought the additional elements had always been in place. The plan was always to update the facility while staying true to the original architecture and its style, so to hear that the impact of the changes is that people feel it´s always been like this is exactly the response we were hoping for’ says Orri.

Interested in learning more about Casambi? Drop us a note, and we’ll reach out to you:

Icelandic National Theatre
Reykjavik, Iceland
Icelandic National theatre
Government property agency
Interior design
Halfdan Pedersen – Baulhus ehf
Lighting Designer
Orri Petursson – Arora Lighting Design 
Electrical installer
Segull ehf. 
Luminaire refurbishment and custom manufacturer
Lampar ehf
Casambi nodes

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