Hafnargarður Group

Hafnargarður Community Garden, 2012 — ongoing


Hafnargarður – the Harbour Garden – was established in 2012 by a group of people on a landfill site in Seyðisfjörður, a town of 650 inhabitants in Iceland’s Eastfjords. The group’s aim was to create a community garden for everyone, and to activate and improve a centrally located part of public land, designated for industrial development but still unused. In agreement with the town, the garden may occupy the site until commercial uses become a concrete possibility.

The design and construction of Hafnargarður was, and still is, a community effort, but nevertheless a few people could be mentioned who helped create the vision and the framework of the park in its early years and coordinated its progress: Aðalheiður Borgþórsdóttir, Hanna Christel Sigurkarlsdóttir, Julia Martin, Klæs Poulsen, Litten Nystrøm, Snorri Emilsson, Tinna Guðmundsdóttir and Þórunn Eymundardóttir. There are many more who joined the Hafnargarður group and actively supported the project over the years, and we thank them all for their valuable contributions. Special thanks are extended to the town of Seyðisfjörður for its financial support and its continued commitment to fostering art in public spaces.

Together, the Hafnargarður group builts paths and a paved square, planted over 100 trees, constructed the herb garden for native plants, and maintained the garden for the past 10 years. Several sculptures have been placed into its sculpture garden under the curatorship of Skaftfell Art Center. The site also hosted an annual children’s adventure playground in the summer months, and a number of performances and events. Situated in Iceland, Hafnargarður’s life is hard and its growing season short: From November to February there is no direct sunshine in the valley, winter storms and heavy snowfall batter the trees, an ice sheet forms on the meadow for a couple of weeks every winter, and the growing season extends only from May to September. The garden’s soil was taken up from the seabed of the fjord, forming a flat, meagre and slightly salty base, a challenge for anything to grow in. Those plants that survive these conditions are among the hardiest and most vigorous species of the Icelandic flora: willow and birch trees, clover and grasses, and a number of humble but beautiful herbs. Many of them have traditionally been used for medicinal purposes. Hafnargarður’s herb garden aims to highlight the attractiveness and usefulness of these plants.

In this way, Hafnargarður aims to provide a place for public art and community activities, in tune with efforts to protect and support the fjord’s flora.

Julia Martin, Skaftfell Art Center Seyðisfjörðuru