In 2011, Iceland will make it onto the map of U.S. meeting planners with the opening—planned for May 4, 2011—of Harpa, Reykjavik’s stunning new waterfront concert hall and conference center.

A press conference held earlier this week at the construction site introduced the facility to an international group of journalists.

With a 1,800-seat auditorium, numerous conference rooms, an exhibition hall that can accommodate up to 2,000 people, and function spaces with spectacular views on three sides of Reykjavik’s harbor, Harpa will be Iceland’s largest meeting and performance facility, and promises to be one of the most beautiful in the world. The well-known Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson is designing the building’s glass façade, working closely with architects from the Denmark firm of Henning Larsen. Eliasson has incorporated cubes of glass, which change color with the light of day, into the actual structure of the building. He spent months studying Iceland’s unique light at various times of year to create the effect he was looking for.

The development of Harpa has taken much longer than expected. The project started in 2006 and was expected to be completed in December 2009 until it was put on hold when the development company, Portus, went under because of the economic crisis. The City of Reykjavik and the Country of Icelandic stepped in to revive Portus and complete the project, which is expected to cost $125 million.

Petur Eiriksson, the new executive chairman of Portus, envisions Harpa as the much-needed link between Iceland and the U.S meetings market. “It’s like we’ve been a blank spot for U.S. corporate and association meetings. Not any more,” he said.

Few U.S. planners are aware that Iceland is just a four-hour direct flight from the East Coast cities, shorter than the flight to California, Eiriksson said. “It is well positioned for multinational companies with locations in Europe and the U.S., the perfect mid-Atlantic meeting place.”

There are also plans, which will be confirmed in August, for a five-star 262-room hotel to be located directly next to the center. Also within a short walk are several boutique properties and old-style European hotels.

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