Hveragerði Sunnumӧrk Shopping Center – Hveragerði, Iceland - Atlas Obscura

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Hveragerði Sunnumӧrk Shopping Center

The Hveragerði fissure runs through this unassuming shopping center.  


A shopping center built across two continents.

When town developers were looking for a suitable location to design a new shopping center and office block in southwest Iceland, the town of Hveragerði located on Iceland’s main ring-road seemed like a good location. However, in 2003 while preparing the foundations for the newly planned four-story building, a deep crack in the ground was discovered that ran right through the center of the planned development.

The crevice was in fact a rift that belonged to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the continents of America and Europe meet. The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart, usually under the ocean. However, across Iceland, this event can be seen on land.

Instead of looking for a new location for their shopping mall, developers decided to adapt their plans and turn the fissure into a feature. Sections of the exposed fracture are covered with reinforced glass and have been incorporated into the flooring of the shopping center. The crevice in the ground is illuminated so its depths can be viewed more clearly. 

Other adaptations to the building’s design included removing the planned four-story office tower, limiting the construction height to one level, and reinforcing the foundations to withstand earthquakes. Also added were an informative tourist information center, library, and geological exhibition.

The geological exhibition showcases the aftermath of a powerful 6.3 Richter scale earthquake that shook southern Iceland in 2008. The earthquake’s epicenter was little over a mile southeast of the town of Hveragerði.

Know Before You Go

Open all year round, when the shopping center is open, access to the exhibition is free. There is a charge for the earthquake simulator.

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March 17, 2022

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