Iceland’s Most Famous Church Becomes Canvas For A Trippy Light Show

Way better than a bake sale!


The church is in trouble. According to a recent Pew survey , 68% of American Millennials polled said they had never doubted God’s existence. That might not sound dire, but it represents a 15-point drop, from 83% in 2007. Here at Co.Design, we’ve got a heavenly suggestion for any church looking to recruit the younger set: Take inspiration from Iceland’s Hallgrímskirkja and turn your forbidding, dark façade into a trippy light show.


The project, titled Rafmögnuð Náttúra, was the winning proposal of New York-based, Spanish-born architect Marcos Zotes for last year’s Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival. Inspired by the natural features of Iceland (the volcanic landscape, geysers, glaciers, and northern lights), Zotes and his collaborator, Chris Jordan, used 3-D video-mapping projections to transform the static landmark into a dynamic visual experience. More than anything else, the installation is a direct response to the iconic architecture of Guðjón Samúelsson, who based his 1937 design on the country’s basalt rock formations. (The church wasn’t completed until 1986.)

The goal, Zotes says, was not only to make residents see their church in a new light but to animate the surrounding public space at a time of year when it see little activity. “The intention was to make people confront their everyday urban environments with a critical attitude toward its potential uses,” the architect tells Co.Design. “Even when the project was presented in the middle of a strong storm, with winds and rain reaching hazardous levels, it did not stop city-dwellers from coming in massive numbers, about 10,000 people, to make use of an urban space in such an unprecedented manner.”


Concept and art direction: Marcos Zotes
Project management: Marcos Zotes, Gerður Sveinsdóttir
Technical direction: Chris Jordan
Animation: Marcos Zotes, Thessia Machado, Noa Younse, Andrea Dart, Steven Tsai, Chris Jordan
Choreography and dance performance: Coco Karol
Videography: Azmi Mert Erdem; Special Effects: Raghul Sridharan
Music: For a Minor Reflection

[H/T Arch Daily]

About the author

A former editor at such publications as WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company, Belinda Lanks has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, Interior Design, and ARTnews.