The Icelandic landscape architecture and spatial planning firm Landslag ehf has been nominated for the Rosa Barba Landscape Prize for its innovative staircase, which leads up the Saxhóll volcanic crater in Snæfellsjökull National Park.

Landslag was founded in 1963 by one of Iceland’s first landscape architects, Reynir Vilhjálmsson. Since its modest beginnings, the company now engages in a collaborative practice with architects, engineers, and artists from both Iceland and abroad.

In 2003, it received special mention at the Rosa Barba European Landscape Prize award ceremony for its avalanche protection structures in Siglufjöður. The Saxhóll Staircase was commissioned by Umhverfisstofnun (the Environment Agency of Iceland) and is one of the company’s many sustainable-tourism projects.

The Rosa Barba International Landscape Prize, which comes with a hefty €15,000 award, is funded by Fundació Banc de Sabadell. The award winner will be announced and honoured in Barcelona in September 2018 at the International Biennial of Landscape Architecture.

Other nominees include the Linear Park Cuernacava Railroad restoration in Mexico City, which aims to transform the underutilized infrastructure of the Cuernacava Railroad into a vibrant public space, much like the Highline in New York City, and Greek architectural firm doxiadis+’s Landscapes of Cohabitation project.

The latter project aims to innovate upon the design of modern tourist sites in Antiparos, Greece within these historical landscapes by building around the area’s historic and natural attributes. All of the projects in some way embrace environmentally responsible design and make long-term contributions to the field of landscape architecture. 

The theme of the 2018 Biennale is, understandably, “performative nature.” And Landslag’s construction certainly fits the bill.

The staircase seems to be an extension of the crater itself—in both colours and in its organic sweep around the mountain. Together, landform and stairway become living sculpture that will endure for generations, with the added bonus that it stems harm to the environment.