Selfoss Centre: Delivering a Vision and Master Planning

25 April 2023

Selfoss Midtown Iceland – the new Selfoss Centre hosts shops, restaurants, hotels and cultural activities of different kinds.

M Worldwide delivered strategic analysis of the proposed scheme, adding further insights, to shape the initial concept principles into an overarching vision for users, tenants and content providers.

Selfoss is a town in southern Iceland on the banks of the Ölfusá river.

The town is a centre of commerce and small industries with a population of 9000 (2021), making it the largest residential area in South Iceland. Selfoss is located about 11km inland from the southwestern coast of Iceland, and 50 km from Reykjavík; it’s a perfect gateway to the natural wonders of the south.

M Worldwide were commissioned to develop the high level principles that would shape the development. This included a research programme gathering best-in-class examples of Smart precincts, global and parallel city trends. The strength of the development is the existing community and it was important to consider how to invest in the infrastructure to build commercial growth and attract new families.

To help improve the environment for the local population a bypass is being built with the objective of massively reducing through traffic and improving the quality of the immediate area. This was the catalyst for local developers Sigtun to develop a concept to establish a new ‘old’ town centre.

M Worldwide defined the ideal mix – giving focus to Retail, Hospitality, Leisure, Workspace, Hotel and Residential. We identified key user types, key missions, key tenant sectors and targets. This was overlaid on the masterplan in terms of a zoning strategy and experience.

“Some towns are old, and some are new. But in Selfoss, the past connects with the present in a truly unique way. We look forward by looking back”.

Cutting-edge architecture is set against the panorama of Icelandic history. Within a one-hour drive of all Iceland’s major nature attractions in the south.

The development area was acquired in its entirety by the Sigtún – making master-planning and singular vision much easier to realise.

Human Scale
The most significant aspect of the development was to recreate, rebuild and in some cases, literally move and repurpose a range of buildings based on Iceland’s traditional venular style.

These reconstructions showcase what came to be seen as the classic Icelandic style, including characteristic corrugated iron facades and chalet-style architecture. In fact, this ‘Icelandic’ style combines influences from Scandinavia with an addition from the United Kingdom. British ships would bring corrugated iron to Iceland to trade for sheep and it turned out to be the perfect building material for the climate. The chalet style was a Norwegian influence, which was itself inspired by country chalets in Switzerland, and known as ​​Sveitserstil.

There are the 13 buildings that form the first part of the town centre development.

These create a development of an intimate and human scale, interwoven with largely car free walkways and lanes.

Many buildings are based on actual original buildings that have a strong history and provenance. The buildings, materials and colours create a variety and texture that is both simple and familiar.

Outdoor spaces
Public realm and planting – including a community amphitheatre – are designed to encourage use of outdoor space – and is carefully detailed to protect users from the unpredictable and often harsh Icelandic weather.

The new scheme also encourages use of nearby natural leisure resources and nearby countryside for walking, running and cycling as well as the awesome Ölfusá river – which has been somewhat ignored close to the most intensely urbanised area which historically was made up of rather functional buildings.

There are future phases of the town centre in progress and these will compliment the main town thorough fare and street scape due to be rethought to encourage dwell time and enhance the experience for residents and visitors.

Curation and Reuse
Careful curation was central to developing the strategy for the ideal mix of residential, hotel, hospitality, and retail.

Other aspects include the repurposing of other iconic buildings iconic – for example, the state bank – Landsbanki – has a signature architectural style conceived in the 1920’s – which shaped regional offices across the country.

The Selfoss Landsbanki building has been repurposed on 2 of 3 floors into co-working space Reykjavik City Municipality as an arrangement ensuring their employees can work from this location rather than commuting to the centre of Reykjavík.