Amphibious living in Iceland: A design-led research on geothermal water and urban environment for the town of Hveragerði, Iceland

Massimo Santanicchia

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


In the aftermath of the financial crisis that invested Iceland starting in September 2008 the town of Hveragerði decided to launch at the end of 2008 a national competition to gather ideas on how a more sustainable future could be designed and implemented for the town itself. Amphibious Living is the name of the project that was submitted by the architectural office in response of the competition. Amphibious Living is a design-led research project on geothermal water and urban environment that starts with the question: can we start using energy, form, and entropy to rethink the notion of space? It proposes an answer to the unsustainable neo liberal economic model that was adopted in Iceland until the banking collapse of 2008, favouring the financial sector and large speculative developments as primary vessels of growth. Amphibious Living is an attempt to create a more sustainable future by embracing the beauty of water and the power of design. The results of the competition were never implemented and therefore the ideas set by have never been tested, nevertheless they represented a wake-up call on how local resources could be utilised more effectively to create local prosperity. This paper examines energy, primarily intended as geothermal water, as a tool to create sustainable urban living. It focuses on the small town of Hveragerði (2,300 inhabitants) located in the south west of Iceland. In this context Amphibious Living investigates the power of design to generate new strategy for the community by supporting a politics of small things, incremental amelioration, retrofitting the existing infrastructures, protecting the human scale, and the sense of place, by enhancing the endogenous resources, primarily geothermal water, and developing processes of participation in the city making.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015

Other keywords

  • Energy
  • Geothermal water
  • Design
  • Sustainable cities
  • Hönnun
  • Borgarfræði
  • Jarðhiti
  • Vatn
  • Sjálfbærni


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