Reykjavik | Will the Heart [Park] Beat Go On?

Reykjavik | Will the Heart [Park] Beat Go On?

Heart Park - Jelena Schally photo

There’s a square in the middle of Reykjavik with a beating heart that’s fighting for its life.

The park is called Hjartagarðurinn, literally translated as “Heart Garden,” and fondly known as “Heart Park.”

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland_Jelena Schally photo

These photographs were taken last summer, when the park was in all its glory.  A community of artists brought people together to clean up what was formerly a derelict abandoned lot, in the center of the main shopping district of Reykjavik. 

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland_ Oskar Hallgrimsson photo

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland_Óskar Hallgrímsson photo

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland_Óskar Hallgrímsson photo

A stage was built, benches and tables were brought in, playground equipment was set up, skateboard ramps were constructed…and, as the park came to life, the crowd gathered.

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland_Óskar Hallgrímsson photo

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland_Árni Grétar photo

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland_Óskar Hallgrímsson photo

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland_Cederik Leeuwe photo

When I came across the park in December, it was quiet and empty, with the exception of a couple skateboarding kids, but I was intrigued by the surrounding walls covered in graffiti.

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland

In the center of the park, under a couple of picnic tables, is a brick heart, the symbol for the park.

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland

The next day I met Jelena Schally, a young Icelandic woman whose family had moved to Norway.  She had moved back to Reykjavik last summer, where she was jobless and on her own for the first time.  She was unsure of her direction.

Then she happened upon Heart Park. 

Jelena Schally_Heart Park_Reykjavik_Árni Grétar photo

Here Jelena found friends that became like family, and, more importantly, a new passion for life.  Encouraged by her new friends, Jelena took photographs (the first two above are hers), and began to paint. 

Jelena Schally_Heart Park_Reykjavik_Árni Grétar photo

She’s having a gallery show later this year.

When I met Jelena in December, she was working at the reception desk of Hotel Borg, and her eyes sparkled as she talked about the park.

Then she told me about the park’s fate.

The land is privately owned by a property management company.  Before 2008, there were plans to build a mall on the lot, but the financial crash put an end to the project. 

It sat empty, until the group of artists saw its potential and transformed it, making it a symbol of hope and change, rather than of economic defeat.

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland

Unfortunately, it seems that Heart Park is scheduled to be demolished to make room for a hotel.

The creative community of artists who worked so hard to bring life to this park, have fought just as hard to keep it alive. 

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland_Bowen Staines photo

At the moment, it seems they have lost the battle.

They are looking for an alternate location, but it has been suggested that they relocate to a suburb twenty minutes outside of Reykjavik center.  Not, obviously, a place where visitors would see it.  Not even a place where the community will likely gather. 

In my travels, I search out places like Hjartagarðurinn…it is where the essence of a city’s character is found.

To lose Heart Park is to lose a vital piece of Reykjavik’s culture.

Heartbreaking.

Heart Park_Reykjavik_Iceland

[“Clean up – and love with all your heart”]

PHOTO CREDITS:
Jelena Schally
Oskar Hallgrimsson
Árni Grétar
Cederik Leeuwe
Bowen Staines

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Jelena Schally at 11:03 am

    Thank you for this lovely article about a place we all love and are unfortunately losing to the urban facilities. The park is definitely not gonna be there for much longer so I urge all visitors to Reykjavik to see it while its still there.
    Thank you Pamela, for sharing the love.
    Sharing is caring, Heart park motto for sure!

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