Grjótagjá, Iceland Tower


Midgardr Turn, Iceland


Summited 2020



Grjotagja marks the western boundary of a fault zone where fissures have extended and faulted after the lava from Jarðbaðshólar formed some 2700 years ago. It marks the subaerial portion of the Mid‐Atlantic Ridge, separating the North American from the Eurasian plates at a rate of ~2 cm a year.  Upon setting foot at Grjotagja, even after millennia, its rawness is visceral.  Tangible proof of the earth’s persistent and unyielding movement upends our senses, on a time and scale beyond us but perceivable by evidence left in the topography of the creeping fissure and the fractured basaltic landscape.  There is a jarring realization that ground under our feet is not “grounded” but a inexorable interplay of forces preceding and succeeding us by millennia redefining the landscape.  

Its no wonder that this surreal landscape is deeply embedded in Iceland’s Old Norse mythology.  Midgard or the Middle World of its original Norse settlers, is precariously located in an otherwise hostile wilderness known as Jotunheim, subsumed by unworldly forces and threats. Born of their seafaring roots and perhaps the greatest threat was Jormungandr, or Midgardr Serpent, dwelling in the seas encircling the entirety of Midgard and the consciousness of the Norse mindset. It was Jormungand that the ceaseless earthquakes and terrestrial tectonics were attributed. Though slain by Thor at Ragnarok, his imprint lives on in the Iceland national coat arms, as in the landscape of Grjotagja, and the soul of Iceland.

1          Iceland marks the subaerial portion of the Mid‐Atlantic Ridge, separating the North American from the Eurasian plates. This riff zone is characterized by two primary vectors of movement, the outward movement of continental divergence, and the upward pressure and resulting movement of the Asthenosphere located beneath the surface.


2          These tectonic forces are unleashed in the tower’s soaring verticality and outspread base following the movement of the diverging continental plates. Jormundgardr has been freed from the underworld of Jotunheim


3          Spiraling, the tower assumes the shape of Jormundgardr’s underworld.  The tail-swallowing, world-coiling dragon has traversed thousands of years, manifesting the fears and hopes of the Icelander’s inner as well as physical world. 


4          The eccentric unresolved tectonic forces in the fissure lying above the caves of Grjotagja leave their mark on the landscape in the dramatic offset of the hanging wall and footwall. In acknowledgement of these eccentric forces, the tower thrusts laterally as if Jormungandr has sprung forth from his circular path encircling Midgard and lunged forth in attack.