The Planning of Reykjavik, Iceland Three ideological waves. A historical overview: "Planning Perspectives", 1999, 14, 49-67 By Bjarni Reynarsson

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The Planning of Reykjavik, Iceland

Three ideological waves. A historical overview:
"Planning Perspectives", 1999, 14, 49-67


Bjarni Reynarsson*

  • Bjarni Reynarsson was awarded a Ph.D degree at the University of Illinois 1980. He is a director of a research division at the City Hall in Reykjavik and has been a lecturer in Geography, Urban Planning and Urban Studies at the University of Iceland since 1978. Bjarni has been a editor of three comprehensive plans for the City of Reykjavik and written extensively on urban matters in Icelandic journals. He has conducted post graduate studies at Nordplan in Stockholm 1988-1989 and was a visiting scholar at the university of Illinois 1997-1998. Since 1992 he has been member of a steering committee for Nordstat a database for Nordic Cities and member of a steering committee for the Urban study Center in Reykjavík which was established in 2001. Draft of this paper was presented at the Seventh National Conference on American Planning History in Seattle in October 1997.


Iceland has a short history of urban development, as the industrial revolution did not reach Iceland until the late 19th century. This was due to Iceland’s isolation, colonial status and self-supporting economy. No towns were built in Iceland from the time of settlement in the 9th century to the second half of the 19th century. The only exception was an experiment with wool industry in Reykjavik in the 1750’s. In the 1786 Reykjavik was the first settlement in Iceland to receive a royal declaration as an independent merchant township. Today, the population of the Reykjavik region is 160.000, but in 1901 it was only 6.000. This paper outlines three waves of planning ideology that had great impact on the planning of Reykjavik in this century.

The first, the garden city ideology, was introduced in Iceland in the 1910’s. This led to a productive period from 1915 to 1930, publication of the first textbook on urban planning in 1916, the first planning law 1921, and the first town plan for Reykjavik in 1927.

The second wave, the systematic transportation ideology, was brought to Iceland by Danish planning experts in the 1960’s. Under it, the first master plan for Reykjavik was published in 1966, and the planning laws were revised in 1964.The third wave, the environmental-preservation ideology (Agenda 21) in the 1990s, was reflected in Reykjavik’s master plan of 1996, with the main goal to reduce traffic and pollution from cars. Furthermore a proposal for the first regional- preservation plan for the interior of Iceland has been introduced, (Europe’s largest unspoiled natural area}, and new planning laws t came in force in 1998.

Introduction : History and settlement
People of Nordic and Celtic origin settled Iceland in the 9th century. They were looking for new lands in the northwest Atlantic Ocean and found Iceland, Greenland and North America, where they met native Americans (The Vinland Sagas, 1965). In the year 930 the settlers in Iceland established their central parliament at Þingvellir, called Alþingi, which is still active today (the world’s oldest parliament). One of the major decisions made at the old Alþingi in the year 1000 was to adopt Christianity. This is the same year that Leif Eiríkson reached America.[1] In the year 2000 Icelanders will therefore celebrate both 1000 years of Christianity and that 1000 years have passed since the American Continent was discovered by an Icelandic explorer.

The settlement of Iceland is described in Landnámabók (Book of Settlements) written in the 12th century. It lists the names of about 400 settlers, their origin, and their land claims. According to old Nordic rules a man could claim as large area of land as he could walk around and put fire to in one day. Women on the other hand claimed land by walking a circle with a cow [2]. Farms were spread across the countryside, not built in hamlets like in central Europe. Houses were built of non-durable local building materials, turf, stones and timber. No houses from the the settlement period or medievel times remain, but archeological investigations show clearly that they owe their origin to the Atlantic fringes of Norway and North Britain. They depecit forms of the ancient long house, skáli. Big buildings of timber often 30m long and 6m wide. Gradually they became smaller and were made mainly of turf and stones because of lack of timber in Iceland [3].

In 1262 Icelanders lost their independence to the Norwegian king and in 1381 Iceland fell under the control of the Danish king. In 1550 Icelanders were forced to abandon Catholicism and adopt Lutheranism, which being a state religion gave the Danish Monarchs greater power. In the late 19th century Icelanders began step by step to gain independence from Denmark. Icelanders recived their own constitution from the Danish king in 1874, a minister of internal affairs residing in Iceland in 1903 and a home rule in 1918. However it was not until 1944 that Iceland gained its full independence and established the Republic of Iceland [4].
The physical environment has played an important part in shaping the life and fate of the Icelandic people. Large part of the country is uninhabitable (mountains, deserts and glaciers) and only 25% has continuos plant cover, compared with an estimate of 60% at the time of settlement. Only 1.5% of Iceland is now covered with birch woods compared to an estimate of 20% in the 9th century. Soil erosion is the largest environmental problem in Iceland. Due to a colder climate in the 17th to 19th centuries, epidemics, trade monopoly (1662 to 1786), the Laki volcanic eruption 1783 (killing 1/3 of the population), the total population in Iceland was only 38,000 in 1800, half of what it had been in 1100. According to the Icelandic geographer Þórarinsson only about 50,000 people could survive this harsh environment in Iceland during this time given the low technological standard of the nation[5]).

Icelanders lived for ten centuries in an isolated peasant society, living mainly from livestock farming. Similar materials were produced at each farm; hence little base existed for exchange of goods. Danish merchants sailed to Iceland during the summer season, and stopped there for few weeks at natural harbors, selling timber, salt, iron and corn and buying wool, skins and dried fish. Those merchants built no durable warehouses or other buildings until the late 18th century. With the central government in Copenhagen no urban place was formed in Iceland for approximately ten centuries. Few govermental officials lived in Iceland and as their activities were both small in scale and dispersed no base for town formation existed. The Governor and his staff lived at Bessastadir some 5km south of Reykjavik and county sheriffs in different parts of the country. The Icelandic parliament assembled only for a week each summer at Thingvellir some 50 km east of Reykjavik. No permanent buildings were errected at Thingvellir. The only places where small clusters of buildings or hamlets were formed during the 11th to 17th centuries were thethe episcopal seates, Skálholt in southern part of Iceland and Hólar in the northern part. The Cathederals at these places wereby far the largest wooden Churches to be found in medievel Scandinavia, extending about 50m long, 11m wide and 12m high. The episcopal seates where cultural and educational centers of Icelandduring this time [6]

The industrial revolution came late to Iceland, beginning with the freedom of trade in the 1780’s. The use of bigger fishing vessels in the 1860’s, the selling of sheep to Britain in the 1870’s, and most importantly the introduction of motorboats and trawlers at the turn of the century reinforced commercial activity. Better health services led to an increasing population in the later half of the 19th century. The proces of urbanisation was very slow until the second part of the 19th century, partly because of laws which put restrictionon on the freedom for people to move from farms to the new fishing villages [7]

In the second half of the 19th century young people had three choices: 1) Stay at a parent’s farm or build a new farm further inland where climate was less favorable due to higher elevation. 2) Emigrate to America as approximately 15 thousand Icelanders did between 1850 and 1915. The first emigrants went to Utah (especially Spanish Fork), after taking up the Mormon religion in Iceland, but the main movement was to Manitoba and Minnesota in the 1880’s and 1890’s. The largest Icelandic Colony was at the western shore of Lake Winnipeg around Gimli [8]. 3) Move to Reykjavik or the new fishing villages, which most people did. About 40 fishing villages were formed around the coast between 1890 and 1920. Whaling stations built by Norwegian fishermen at end of the19th century and later herring stations stimulated the growth of new fishing towns.Following the example of these Norwegian fishermen Icelanders started to import ready made timber houses. From 1880 to 1920 timber became the dominant building material in Icelandic towns [9]

At the turn of the century Reykjavik had 6,000 inhabitants or 8% of total population of Iceland. At this time 80% of Icelanders still lived in rural ares. To day less than 10% live in rural areas. In 1998 Reykjavik had 106,000 inhabitants and 165,000 lived in the Reykjavik area, or 60% of the total population of Iceland. Last 20 years almost no population growth has been outside the Reykjavik area, which has been one of the fastest growing urban area in the Nordic countries in recent years [10]

The origin of urban settlement in Reykjavik

From around 9th to late 18th century Reykjavik was simply a farmstead, which was originally built by Iceland’s first settler Ingolfur Arnarsson, in 874 according to Landnámabok. His farmhouse was most likely located close to the present day City Hall in downtown Reykjavik.The farmhouse is believed to have developed in a fashion similar to other Icelandic farmhouses from simple hall or long house of timber to a more complex structure of turf and stone. Over the centuries many churches were built in Reykjavik. The last parish church was demolished when the Cathedral was built in 1796 [11]

Three factors played a crucial role in the development of Reykjavik from farm into an urban settlement. 1) The industrial enterprises launched primarily by Chancellor Skúli Magnússon in 1752. (Later called the father of Reykjavik). They mainly involved woolen manufacturing. Eight new buildings were constructed forming the first street in Reykjavik, Aðalstræti (Main Street). The Danish king gave the old farmstead of Reykjavik to the enterprise. Although the industrial experiment failed by 1800, it had changed Reykjavik into Iceland’s first village with some 200 inhabitants. 2) The abolition of the trade monopoly and granting a town charter to Reykjavik in 1786 stimulated the local development enormously. In 1780 the regional trading center at Örfirsey island north of Reykjavik was moved to Reykjavik. Merchants and craftsmen were encouraged to become citizens, which gave the benefit of a 20 year tax exemption. The merchants received large plots along the seashore where they built shops and warehouses. Outside the town proper landless men received plots which were not as accurately surveyed as in town [12]. 3) The movement of public institutions to Reykjavik. The transfer of the bishopric from Skálholt in Southern Iceland in 1785 with the only school in the country at that time. (Later it became the Reykjavík Gymnasium). In 1836 a town council was established in Reykjavik and in 1846 the Icelandic parliament, Alþingi, was reinstated in Reykjavik. By the mid-19th century, Reykjavik was the center of administration, commerce and education in Iceland, a true capital of the country [13].
Origin of planning.

As early as 1839 a town planning and building mandate was established. A Building Commission was established with the power to plan streets as well as approve new buildings.

At this time Reykjavik had fewer than one thousand inhabitants and was not at all in a state of rapid development. In the beginning, the Building Commission found itself dealing mainly with small planning matters.

In the latter half of the 19th century the number of timber houses increased. The oldest timber houses had low walls and high sloping roofs usually clad with tar. Later timber houses were built upon a basement usually of stone, making them higher and more imposing. From 1880 they were covered by corrugated iron imported from England for weather protection. Construction of turf houses was prohibited by 1903 and few stone houses were built in the 1880s as the Parliament House. Many poor people lived in half stone houses, similar to the old turf houses. At the turn of the century leading citizens (merchants and officials) lived in the downtown area (Kvosin) and around the lake Tjornin, but poor people lived at the outskirts of town [14].

A great mixture of architectural styles existed at the beginning of this century: jugend, new classic, sweitser and romantic (dragon) styles. In the 1930s functionalism took over and later the newest fashions of western architecture [15]. A fire in 1915 damaged a large area of the center of Reykjavik, and led to dramatic changes in approved building materials from timber to concrete. The 1920’s timber house line is still clearly visible in Reykjavik.

In the 19th- and early 20th centuries many Icelandic scholars and foreign visitors wrote about the need to improve the environment in Reykjavik in a systematic manner, and some came up with proposals on how to improve the environment, but none of these proposals were implemented [16]. With the first minister of state located in Reykjavik 1904 called for new govermental buildings.. In 1906 a proposal was made for a group of govermental buildings on Arnarhóll hill just east of the city center, the first known local plan in Reykjavik. Only the National library was built according to this plan 1908. The last major building in Iceland to be built under Danish supervision [17]. In 1909 the Danish-American Architect Raavad presented a draft for the first regional plan based on a railway connection between Reykjavik and Hafnarfjörður, a fishing town some 8 km south of Reykjavík [18].

The fact that the industrial transition happened so late in Iceland had century in terms of urban precedents. Reykjavik went directly from being a small village with detached wooden houses into being a modern town planed according to the principles of the English garden city movement [19].

The first wave: The Garden City Ideology.
In the 1910´s two important essays on town planning theory were published in Iceland that were to have major impact on town planning in Iceland next two decades. In 1912 a student of arcitecture Guðjón Samúelsson puulished the first pofessional article in Icelandic on town planning theory. In the article he emphasised that physical form of towns could have profound effect on health and spiritual well being of the inhabitants. He referred to the planning principles of of the Austrian theorist Camillo Sitte, as well as the English garden city planner Raymond Unwin [20]. In 1916 the University of Iceland, published a very influential book “Um skipulag bæja” (On town planning) by Gudmundur Hannesson professor of medicine (Hannesson, 1916).

Professor Hannesson’s chief concerns were the conditions that lead to the big fire in 1915, the lack of sophisticated physical planning and the lack of knowledge concerning sanitation engineering. He was educated in Copenhagen where the medical profession had been instrumental in in bringing about reforms in urban planning and public housing. After a fatal epedemic in Copenhagen in the 1850´s a statistician discovered a direct correlation between population density and the diffusion rate of the disese. In 1854 the Danish Medical Association built a group of inexpensive public houses “Lægeforeningens boliger”. Each dwelling was provided with sufficient sunlight ,ventilation, clean water and proper sewage [21]. Hannesson book was basically a primer on how to plan settlements, layout roads, prepare building sites, locate public buildings and squares and how to design healthy residential houses.. He emphasized curved residential roads and the importance of low building heights to be better able to catch sunlight at high latitudes as in Reykjavik. Hannesson build a strong case for continous rows of low rise houses, in stead of the traditional small detached houses which characterised Reykjavik at that time,with regard to shelter, sunlight and lower construction- and infrastructure cost. He emphasised the importance of seperation of residental quarters from other town functions, such as connerce and industry [22]. He referred mainly British and German new town examples. The main texts Hannesson relied on were Ebeneser Howard’s “The Garden City”, R.Unwin’s “Town Planning in Practice” and Camillo Sitte’s “Die Statbau”.

The specific towns he cited most were Hellerau, Mannheim, and Huttenau in Germany, and Port Sunlight and Bournville in England. Professor Hannesson was very knowledgeable about the Garden City- new town ideology generally as developed in Western Europe at this time. The most noticable aspect of Hannesson book is the equal emphasis he placed on rationalistic and hygenic considerations ,on one hand, and aesthetic formation of streets and public spaces, on the other hand. In 1921 the architect Gudjón Samúelsson designed a prototype rowhouses at Framnesvegur in Reykjavik based on Hannesson ideas, with new solution in domestic planning derived from model towns in England [23]

In 1917 Hannesson put forward a proposal for town planning legislation which came before the Icelandic parliament (Althingi) the same year. In 1921, a Town planning Act was passed, based on the whole on Hannesson’s preparatory work. (Lindal, 1982).

The state Planning Committee established under the 1921 Act had oversights for planning throughout Iceland, but Reykjavik, itself, obtained a considerable say in its own planning.

In the First State Planning Committee, four very talented individuals, worked together for two decades. They were professor Guðmundur Hannesson, discussed above; Guðjón Samúelsson , State Architect; Geir Zoega, Engineer; and Jon Víðis, Surveyor. Mr. Samuelsson designed many of Reykjavik’s most prominent public buildings including the National Theater. He was also the author of a planning proposal calling for an Acropolis for public buildings on a hill east of the downtown area in the 1920s similar to the Senate Square in Helsinki. That great plan was never implemented (Samúelsson,1916). Geir Zoega was the director of the State Department of Transportation for almost half a century. He was responsible for creating the road network across Iceland during this time. There were very few good roads in Iceland in the beginnings of this century. Jon Víðis, the land surveyor, made the first maps of almost all towns in Iceland between 1920 and 1940.

In 1924 a joint municipal working committee (State and the City) was charged with making a comprehensive plan for the capital city. A proposal for this plan was presented in 1927. Owners of properties were given the opportunity to submit objections. The first comprehensive plan for Reykjavik was completed in 1927, but never confirmed by the planning authorities.

This process had nonetheless great significance for the development of Reykjavik in decades to come. It defined the street network and carriers, identified open space, and determined the location of public buildings. Of importance, the plan defined height limits for buildings in downtown and surrounding areas. The planning horizon of 50 years however underestimated how fast Reykjavik would grow. The 1927 plan included a railway station at the East End of the town, but the rail stage never reached Iceland. The only railway in the history of Iceland was used to transport rocks for the old harbor between 1910 and 1915.

It was particularly important to have a comprehensive and publicly accepted plan for the older parts of the city, given that practically all properties were in private ownership. At the same time, a foresighted policy was laid down under which the municipality of Reykjavik bought land outside the built-up area well ahead of development. Almost all development in Reykjavík since 1930 has been on land in municipal ownership. The explosive growth of Reykjavík in the subsequent decades resulted in day-to-day ad hoc planning solutions rather than real, long-term planing for the city. In 1934 Reykjavik got its first architect who was responsible for designing City buildings and making local plans (Líndal, 1982).

World war two had great impact in Iceland and put an end to the isolation of the country. Iceland was occupied by British- and later American armed forces. They brought in new construction technology and equipment like bulldozers, which proved to be very important for the construction of roads and harbors. After the war, the American army moved out of Reykjavik to the base in Keflavik some 50 km away. The military forces didn’t have significant influence on the physical planning in Reykjavik as they didn’t build any durable houses, but they left behind an airport located just south of the city center, which is still used as a domestic airport and made a good street map of the city (City Plan, 1941). The Marshall Plan aid also had most stimulating affects on the Icelandic economy after the war.

The second wave: The systematic transportation approach

After the Second World War, comprehensive plans were made for most metropolitan areas of Western Europe, especially those damaged by bombing during the war. The Nordic or Scandinavian capitals all made plans in the 1950’s based on the comprehensive analysis of both public and private needs.

In 1960 the city council of Reykjavík decided that a comprehensive plan should be developed for the city. Part of the 1960 proposal involved permission to hire foreign planning consultants to guide city officials in preparing the plan. Two of Denmark’s best known experts in physical planning were hired: Professor Bredsdorf, head of the Urban Planning Department at the University of Copenhagen and Anders Nyvig, civil engineer and specialist in transportation planning. These men introduced to Icelandic professionals the newest planning ideology, the systematic planning approach, and used Reykjavík as a kind of an experimental case. They were given, as it were, a free hand by the city authorities. This work, the 1962-1983 master plan, took more than five years. The 300 page planning report written in Icelandic and English with maps of the city was accepted by the city council in 1966 and approved by the State Planning Commission and the Ministry of Social Affairs in 1967. In addition the city authorities used their influence to have new planning legislation developed, giving municipalities more independence for planning. The bill was accepted by the parliament in 1964 and the first Planning committee in Reykjavík was elected that year. The Reykjavík master plan 1962-1983 was based on a region wide land use survey, followed by a traffic survey, and a traffic forecast based on an origin-destination gravity model. These methods were new to Icelandic planners and architects.

One of the main assumptions of the 1962 plan was that every household should have its own automobile. This became the case. The proposed street network was based on three highways running east west connecting the proposed new suburbs east of the built-up area to the city center, which is located on the western part of the Reykjavik peninsula. The plan included a proposal for regional development and annexation of neighboring municipalities, which was not accepted. To implement this plan several houses in the inner part of Reykjavik had to be torn down. One of the main effects of the 1962 plan was to create an influential preservation movement in Reykjavik. Consequently some of the proposed new roads and the widening of existing streets in the inner city neighborhoods never materialized.

Most of the proposed development was executed in accordance with the 1962-1983 master plan for Reykjavik. Reykjavik grew as a rather low-density city (compared to European cities) with a transportation system dominated by private car use. The Danish planning experts brought in many new ideas. Two of the most important were Scandinavian (Danish-Swedish) apartment house suburbs and an American -based traffic modeling (CATS) scheme.

Other municipalities in Iceland used the new master plan for Reykjavik as a model.

Built into the 1964 planning legislation was the idea that master plans would be reviewed every five years. This didn’t work out in Reykjavík, as it is not an easy task to review a 300 page-planning document so frequently. The next comprehensive master plan for Reykjavík was not accepted until 1987, even though a new long term planning office was established in 1973 (The Masteplan for Reykjavík 1984-2004, 1987). In the 1980’s planners in Reykjavik realized that the days of long descriptive planning documents were over. These plans often proved outdated even before they were finally accepted. The new model was revision of the comprehensive plan every four years after municipal elections. Physical planning is a continues process.

The third wave: Sustainable environment

International ideology of global environmental concern reached Iceland in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. It had become obvious that the 1960 policy of uncontrolled private car usage, with little support for other means of transportation such as busses or bicycles, had negative side effects. The rate of traffic accidents continued to rise and more and more complaints about pollution from cars, especially noise and air pollution, were received by the city authorities. Roads and parking spaces were taking up more and more land in Reykjavík.

As Iceland has very few industries that pollute the environment, the image of the country, as well as the capital, is one of clean air and unspoiled environment. City authorities had to do something about this problem. A new political majority after municipal elections in 1994 made the 1992 Rio de Janeiro local agenda 21 on sustainable environment the main objective in the city comprehensive plan. The Ministry of Environment ratified the 1996-2016 master plan for Reykjavik in August 1997. One of its main goals is to reduce the rate of increase of private car traffic and give other means of transportation more emphasis. More efficient and environmentally friendly transportation system is desired.

To follow up on these goals three action plans are to be worked out.

They are 1) Traffic and environment, 2) Open area (paths and recreation) and 3) Houses and neighborhood preservation. These action plans will hopefully guide Reykjavik towards its future vision to be known as the sustainable capital of the north. Other municipalities in Iceland will probably follow Reykjavik in this new master planing ideology. The new planning legislation, which was passed by the Icelandic parliament last spring, gives local authorities complete freedom to work out their own plans and execute their planning policies, to think globally but to act locally. The municipality Kjalarnes north of Reykjavik, merged with Reykjavík after public election in June 1997. This offers the city access to good building land along the northern seashore. To connect Kjalarnes with the city, a new highway with four bridges or tunnels, has to be built.

This summer a proposal for the first regional environmental plan for the interior of Iceland, Europe largest unspoiled natural area, was advertised for public comment. It will be a struggle between those who want greater use of natural resources (e.g. for producing energy from waterfalls and geothermal areas and tourist use of land) and those who want to preserve the land, as it is (Loftsson & Gislason, 1997).

Although Iceland was for centuries isolated from the rest of the world, new ideas and methods in urban planning reached Iceland relatively early. Planning and building mandate was established for Reykjavik 1839, but not until 1854 for Copenhagen the capital of Iceland at that time, and Planning law in 1921 compared to 1938 in Denmark. The time lag for international ideologies to be introduced in Iceland was 10 to 15 years in the beginning of this century (the Garden City ideology), 5 to 10 years at the middle of this century (The Systematic Transportation ideology) and no time lag at the end of this century (The Sustainable Environment ideology). In connection with all three ideologies, planning laws were revised in Iceland and with each revision the responsibility and planning powers were gradually moved from the State to local municipalities. In the 1998 Planning Act, the State Planning Committee established under the 1921 Planning Act is abdicated.

The first Icelandic architects began their practice in Reykjavik around 1910.The number of architects increased slowly until late 1950s. In 1997 there were about 230 architects in Iceland and 20 people with planning degrees. There is no formal Planning or Architectural schools in Iceland only few planning courses in the Geography and Engineering departments at the University of Iceland. International influences, especially European, have been brought to Iceland by these professionals. These impacts are reflected in modern Icelandic architecture or the lack of traditional Icelandic architecture last few decades. Icelandic planning legislation on the other hand resembles the legislation of other Nordic countries.

The three planning ideologies presented in this paper were not at all in opposition with

The Icelandic society. The Garden City ideology was in many ways in harmony with the life style of the people in Reykjavik. Many had recently moved to town, and kept large potato or vegetable gardens at the edge of the built up area, and kept sheep and cows for domestic use (Magnusson, 1993).

At the turn of the century a new sanitary infrastructure was introduced in Reykjavik with pipelines for drinking water, electricity, a sewage system and later the use of geothermal hot water to heat houses all of which make the city environment clean.

The new materialism of the 1950’s and 1960’s was quickly adopted by Icelanders, and can be seen in comparatively high standard of living compared with European countries (Olafsson, 1996). This ideology had its side effects as many old houses in Reykjavik were torn down during this time to make more space for the automobile. The Nordic model of suburban apartment houses as social unit has never fit the individualistic Icelanders. The American dream of a single family home is much closer to the hearts of the residents of Reykjavik. The new ideology of sustainability should not be unfamiliar to Icelanders who lived off sustainable farming from limited resources for centuries. It is though most likely that the materialistic lifestyle adopted in the 1950’s and 1960’s will make it difficult for the generations of Icelanders born in the second half of this century to live by old phrases such as “make good use of all things” and “small is beautiful”(Gíslason, 1990).

Recently both the City of Reykjavík and the State Planning Institute have made some efforts to define the future vision of people in Iceland. In 1996 the Sate Planning Institute held an open competition, “Iceland in 2018”, as 75 years have passed since the first planning law came in force 1921. The main ideas expressed in the competition were related to preservation of Iceland’s unspoiled nature and the Icelandic culture. It also stressed that Icelanders should take active part in the global information revolution which has recently started, and take advantage of the location of Iceland between the two hemisphere (The State Planning Institute, 1996). The City of Reykjavik launched last winter nine working groups (“the 9 life’s of the City”). City Officials and experts outside the City system took part in this discussion to come up with goals for the future development of the City. This work is still in progress. (The City of Reykjavik, 1997).

The value of Iceland for the world is maybe not only in its unspoiled nature and well-preserved cultural heritage, but also in the fact that the Icelandic nation has lived in isolation from other nations for more than 11 centuries and family origins can be traced back many centuries because of reliable historical documents. In 1995 an international genetic medical research was launched in Reykjavik which has begun tracing the genetic routes of major diseases which afflict the world population.
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