Sunday, September 12, 2010


As I begin to pin-point what it is exactly I am trying to do, I find myself between projects in the works- critiquing existing and aspiring the theoretical.

The purpose of doing a thesis on energy landscapes is to find a synergistic relationship between the source in the landscape and the ecologies embedded in a particular environment, coupled with land use and efficiency issues. Ultimately, I'd like to recalibrate the whole life cycle of an energy, a renewable energy- specifically geothermal because that has been my focus and I have built such a body of research and understanding. I know what is working and I understand how it is flawed. I think the thesis is an opportunity to express my criticism of the way in which geothermal's life cycle currently exists to then be able to come up with strategies for re-working and re-organizing that system.
Our post-oil future gives rise to renewable energy as a contender. The advantage to this is realizing and understanding how its installations can overlap and hybridize with other structures to generate synergies. The field of landscape architecture has an advantage of being able to understand the different systems in place. One can then begin to develop these relationships and cross-breed their functions and use- transforming these things from separate entities to an entire body that is self-conscious. By working with the other uses, it can form into a single, cohesive thing made up of multiple functions. They can be overlapped with other uses and implemented in ecologically and aesthetically intelligent and coherent ways.
As a recent article in Topos this year describes (in the Sustainability Issue), landscapes of renewable energy need to become landscapes of reconciliation. There is an ambivalence about renewable energies in landscape development because of the fall back on conventional methods:
"...renewable energies are to enable not only basic electricity and water supply but also additional forms of employment in the local processing of agricultural products and the formation of regional production clusters in trades and crafts. The most important contribution of landscape architecture in the domain of renewable energies is probably especially in helping to develop and facilitate these specific 'synergies'".
I think this statement lies at the heart of my thesis.
I would like for the thesis to express how energy landscapes have spatial impacts and can be ecologically driven. One landscape strategy can be a re-organization of the system from nodal to cascading in order to improve the efficiency of energy use while allowing each process to be conscious of the other. Uses will derive from current ones while also finding other niches for different temperature pockets. If the study entails the life cycle, then a strategy for disposal needs to occur. William McDonough's and Michael Braungart's theory of Cradle-to-Cradle, although conceived as a material process, can be translated into energy practice. Energy is a material; a transcendent material that allows other physical materials to manifest themselves in its process of utilization. The idea behind Cradle-to-Cradle is allowing waste to become food again, closing the loop on the cycle of material process.
Geothermal would be an interesting case study because it is a renewable energy that physically manifests itself as a material that is extracted from the earth. I see it buried with issues of land use and efficiency because of its physicality. Other renewable energies such as solar and wind aren't actual material substances, but are ethereal forces that are being harnessed through technological strategies. The beauty of landscape is in its physical manifestations and material processes over time. Geothermal energy is a physical manifestation of the earth's energy, which is why I find it so interesting to study, use, understand, exploit, and re-calibrate its current system of harnessing, dispersal, and effluent.
The images shown are what I see to be precedents for my thesis. Although they maybe subject to change, they currently express the kind of synergistic energy landscape condition I hope to achieve. They are extremely useful in understanding methodologies, processes, content of exploration, and the graphic representation of the project I hope to achieve.

1, 2- Zeekracht, Netherlands, 2008 by OMA: A masterplan for a renewable energy infrastructure in the North Sea. The project is an illustration of the synergistic relationship between energy, ecology, and culture. It explores the energy supply, its production manifestation (industrial and economic component), its ecology as integrating with existing while providing simulations within the design (environmental), and a research center (educational). It is conceived as a reciprocal system with top-down components for development, and bottom-up for decision making. It is a perfect example of what I hope to achieve.

3- National Energy Park, by PORT Architecture + Urbanism: This urban research project proposes the comstruction of 23 new nuclear power plants with 2,000 acres of ecological preserve for each plant. This creates vast wildlife and isolates these areas away from urban areas, creating a buffer that prevents the risk of any contamination in those areas. The purpose of the project is to explore a 21st century version of a National Park, transforming from the picturesque experience into one of ecological consciousness and environmental protection. It would provide an alternate economic driver and create jobs. Not only a good example of branding a project but also adds a heavy ecologic component. It also gives an identity to the project because it is so widespread.

4- WPA 2.0: Carbon T.A.P. (Tunnel Algae Park) by PORT Architecture + Urbanism: As a deployable urban infrastructure of CO2 capture, the project is concentrated within highly urbanized areas of great CO2 sources. An algal agriculture would sequester the carbon and CO2, producing oxygen, biofuels, bioplasticsm feeds, etc. The project also engages the public realm by providing a new form of interaction between people and infrastructure. This is an amazing example of how an energy landscape can be synergistic. It is an energy infrastructure, through the domain of agriculture, that is environmental, economic, and public.

5- Conduit Urbanism: Regional Ecologies of Energy and Mobility: Renewable energy and transit become bundled with freshwater and communications. It works as a regional strategy to form more synergistic networks. Also a great example of energy infrastructure developing a closer relationship to other infrastructures, like transit.

Monday, September 6, 2010

...and Thesis Begins- Landscapes of Embedded Energy

Classes have just started, which means thesis has as well. It is structured in such a way, at least my reading of the syllabus, as a broad beginning and moving closer and closer to a concise topic rich with ideas, sources, and origins.
Our first task is to start a blog. Lucky for me, my geothermal exploration in Iceland is to be the springboard for the investigation I seek to undertake with my thesis, allowing me to continue with this blog.

LANDSCAPES OF ENERGY or as I had phrased it in my proposal, LANDSCAPES OF EMBEDDED ENERGY.

Energy landscapes is a newly emerging topic, or genre, in the field of landscape architecture. There are spatial and environmental implications, positive and negative impacts. They are large magnificent devices the modern human race can no longer do without. They provide our platform for living. Population is to explode, as is our consumption of energy. Can landscape architecture bring in a vision of consciousness to provide efficiency and awareness in our energy landscapes? Would this minimize the impacts? How can it become more economical and create a system of surplus, not deficit?

Harvard GSD has a fairly new publication call "New Geographies". Their last issue (the second one published I believe) is from 2009 and is called "Landscapes of Energy". It covers a wide range of topics associated with this genre. A lot of the essays deal with oil landscapes. Geothermal is somewhat derivative of oil exploration and consumption, as the same technology is used, with much less pollution and contamination involved. Some touch on social and economic issues, urbanism and technology, with a dash of renewable energy. Little to nothing is said about geothermal energy. This could make my argument more valid because of the need for this, but also more difficult. It is only the beginning.

One of the essays titled "Energy as a Spatial Project" written by Rania Ghosn provides a fantastic overview of the issues at hand and how we need to begin seeing energy landscapes as spatial condition- not just productive lands, but lands that are part of where we live. The beginning of this article says it quite well:
"Energy needs space. It exploits space as a resource, a site of production, a transportation channel, an environment for consumption, and a place for capital accumulation. Whether oil pipelines, dams, solar panels, nuclear plants, or wind parks, all industrial energy systems deploy space, capital, and technology to construct their geographies of power and inscribe their technological order as a mode of organization of social, economic, and political relations. Popular taxonomies of energy have tended, however, to blur the distinctions between different modes and instead emphasize a renewable/nonrenewable binary that dismisses continuities between the conventional and its alternatives in an anticipation of a future beyond oil. Although essential to the production of energy, space has played a role in the myth of ecologically benign economic growth, because the creation of value in energy regimes has long internalized benefits and accrued them to the urban center while 'externalizing' costs-sliding them to the periphery, out of sight".

If we reconfigure the source, the distribution pattern, the efficiency, do our cities become reconfigured? I think that energy landscapes are the source of current human civilization. If they become reconsidered as a piece of land that is just as important as the land in which our cities sit upon, how would attitudes change?

It will be exciting to embark on this exploration of what geothermal is and what its potential can be, with Iceland as the one who holds itself high as the leader in its technology and use.

Image 1: "New Geographies: Landscapes of Energy" cover
Image 2: "What is American Power?" by Mitch Epstein from website:
Image 3: Light Pollution in USA:
Image 4: A wind farm at Barão de São João, south of Lisbon:
Image 5: Nesjavellir Pipe and Power Lines: Power and hot water travel approximately 30 kilometers to the Reykjavik area

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Post Iceland- The Reflections and After-thoughts

I have been back for a few days. I feel more culture shock coming back to the states than I did when I arrived to Iceland. Part of that must have been the excitement of being there, with the lack of it coming back. Seeing darkness again felt strange. The hot water no longer smells of sulfur- I can not register the scent of the water from which it comes. The food tastes different- more artificial with a lack of the flavor of its origins. America seems to like hiding where things come from- homogeneity is widespread. In Iceland, a country the size of Kentucky, has an incredible amount of diversity and heterogeneity that can be seen, smelled, registered throughout. I kind of miss that place and its amazing unworldly encapsulations.

So, Mr. Dan, to answer your question about the therapeutic benefits and effects from geothermal bathing..Yes, it is quite beneficial! I had always felt a difference in my body- sore muscles became loose and I felt rejuvenated each time I went. A natural boost of energy in your body happens because of the increased blood circulation. I also think the ion exchange in those waters is quite different from anywhere else, and this has its beneficial effects also. One of the lectures I attended with the school was specifically about this, and is very interesting. I recorded it and can share it with you if you'd like. However, you can get an infection also!! I find it kind of funny that this rarity has happened to me. Now, I have been able to experience and feel the living evidence of both sides of bathing in these waters- the beneficial and the 'dangers'.

I also wrote some thoughts after my last meeting with HS Orka while waiting for some pizza:

Iceland has been smart in their utilization of geothermal water and the technologies have progressed a lot since its origins as district space heating within the last century, especially in the last 50-30 years. However, all functions are still distinctively separated, with the exception of space/home heating into snow melting. Can these operations become coalesced and hybridized?
Can the water move as a step by step process rather than all having a direct relationship to its source? As it behaves now, there is more depletion of the water table, shedding light on the inefficiencies of the whole system. One may be able to create more binary, or rather, systems that have more multiplicities in them. This could even create an entire human ecosystem based on a closed cycle and re-utilization of the already used water.
The major point I have noticed is that each operation sees itself as entirely separate from the others (mostly). However, I see everything as linked within the larger system- all connected to the utilization of geothermal water. They all use it, but at different temperatures.
The used water, with a few exceptions, is dumped out into the sea, usually at temperatures warmer than the actual ocean. Sure, the water is warmer around Iceland to begin with because of the Gulf Stream, but I am sure that the excessive release of warmer water into the ocean can add up and have its effects. It maybe be helping in reducing climate change and CO2 emissions, but it may also be contributing to sea level rise and the warming of oceanic waters simultaneously. Pumping groundwater and releasing it into the ocean- this has to create an imbalance somewhere, right?
And the case with abandoned wells- I have learned that they really do not know what to do with it after, as neither do I, yet. Sure, it can become an instrument for measuring the water table, but you can't use a multiplicity of abandoned wells to do the same job. They become abandoned because production was not sufficient or, as re-injection, the bedrock's porosity becomes clogged by the minerals. What else can they be used for?

I hope to synthesize all of my findings in the next month so I can be prepared to take off with it by the beginning of the semester- we will see how things progress, and I will continue to use this as a tool of expression and as a way of keeping track of my thought process, since it has proved to be so successful in me being able to capture details I would not remember. Any advice or thoughts any of you may have is always welcome :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 22- Reykjavik Exploration- Final Day

Having the 24 hour tourist card gave me the incentive to go crazy and visit as many places as possible. With it being Sunday, though, there were limitations I had to overcome and cater my schedule accordingly, such as the bus not running until noon.
I began my day by visiting Laugardalslaug, the largest swimming pool of 14 in Reykjavik, since it opened at 8. I spent about an hour there, trying to build up to the hotter tubs (there are a series of 5, each increasing by several degrees centigrade). I ended up making it to about 42, sadly, the second tub. The steam room was sulfuric, and one of the most intense I had been in. The slide was pretty outstanding also. The tube's top would change every few seconds to keep the eyes entertained- transparencies, colors, cuts, etc.
I then decided to go to the zoo since it was close by and I was able to go for free with the card. It was maybe 10 minutes walking from the hostel and is right across from the Botanical Gardens. It was pretty sad. Its size, as well as the size of the 'captivities' I felt were not adequate for the animals. They had seals, many in a small tank which was unpleasant to see, cows, sheep, horses, and birds such as chickens, turkeys, etc. It was kind of a sad little place. To lift my spirits, I spent the rest of my time walking through the Botanic Gardens, looking for, photographing, and trying to capture the essence of the native flora they had in their collection.
After about an hour, I ran on over to the harbor to catch the ferry to Videy Island. If it was running according to schedule, I would have missed it and had to wait an hour. However, luckily to my surprise, there was a children festival happening on Videy, so they had the ferry running constantly, as there was always a line to get to and fro on each end. It became so severe, they had to call on back up forces, and one of the bigger whale watching boats, came to help dissipate the numbers on either side. This was much better for my tight schedule.
I arrived to the other side and had a light lunch. Next, I decided to explore the wonders this little place had to offer, such as the bird life and earthworks/sculptures by Richard Sierra and Yoko Ono. Can't forget to mention the stunning landscape that was there with amazing views of Reykjavik across the Atlantic.
Once I completed my little hike around, I took the ferry back to Reykjavik, to find out I had just made the city bus (which runs once every hour). That was pretty lucky also. I went back to the National Museum to experience more of its wonders and spend some time finding interesting descriptions and artifacts related to my topic. For example, they had an encased geological section taken from one of the central valleys of the country which illustrates and has registered all of the major volcanic events through ash build up. It was absolutely fascinating.
I then decided to go and check out the geothermal beach. It was kind of disappointing, actually. The sand was golden yellow, as it was imported from Morocco. The whole thing just seemed strange to me. Most of the bathers were in the rectilinear geothermal pool with very few swimming in the ocean, kind of defeating the purpose for it to be a 'beach'. It was hard to tell if that portion of ocean was being fed with geothermal water, but yes- disappointing and out of place. One of the beauties of Iceland is how they use and deal with their geological conditions. I don't understand why they couldn't have used black sand found in many areas along the shoreline, especially around the fjords where the mountains were carved out and eroded away, leaving different grades of sand to rocks to boulders. Iceland is most successful when they acknowledge who and where they are, and disregard other examples, like the 'American Way'. I see Iceland running into trouble when they use American techniques which should not be applicable to them. It can sometimes be disappointing to see and become aware of this disconnect.
I topped off the evening at the restaurant Prikith. It was recommended to me by a friend who had just recently visited Reykjavik. It was quite delicious, great vibes, and excellent location. With its position on the corner of the busiest, most 'happenin' intersection in Downtown Reykjavik, I perched myself up on the second floor and sat by the corner window as I people watched. The distinction between the tourist and the native was quite clear. Icelanders are so very stylish, and this temperature is their utmost heat. So, they dress with as little as they can. The tourists, most likely from a warmer land, were dressed up in layers and jackets, with backpacks. I know I am guilty of this as well. Although, I did see one tourist completely lost, who stopped in the middle of the intersection to see his map- I don't think I've done this haha.
I went back to the hostel to, sadly, begin to pack my things. I chatted it up with these two German sisters who were my roommates the whole weekend. Prior to this we exchanged some conversation here and there. We ended up talking for hours and swapping stories. We exchanged emails and I finally let them go to sleep since they were going to the airport at 4 AM. They were some of the nicest tourists I had met on my trip. My worst experiences were with the French and the Dutch- they were snooty and obnoxious, respectfully.
So sad to leave this unearthly land. Seeing darkness again will feel strange...

Image 1: An Alley of Birch Trees- Walking between the Botanic Gardens/Zoo back to the hostel, they were so beautiful
Image 2: Videy Island- after climbing up a large hillside, overlooking the Serra installation
Image 3: National Museum- geological section, I just found this fascinating
Image 4: Geothermal Beach, Reykjavik- strange, strange place I thought
Image 5: Reykjavik graffiti- they have some of the most amazing street art that I've seen

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 20/21- Exploring Reykjavik

It has been a very fun past 2 days I have spent in Reykjavik, with one more exciting day to come!
Yesterday, I just walked around the city center, exploring and seeing what it has to offer. As small as it is, it is also pretty dense with a variety of things to do. I walked through the main pedestrian street, whose sidewalks are bigger than the street! I then went to the city hall, where they have a free exhibit of photography from Iceland, as well as a to scale 3-D map (topographic) that took 4 years for 4 people to make. Made out of chip board (like the models we make!) it was pretty incredible to see.
After, I went bird watching at the lake right out in front. People feed the birds with bread, and it is amazing to get photos of all the different birds in different positions. They supposedly have up to 50 different species that make this little place their temporary home throughout the year. Some people realized that if they throw the bread in the air, the birds (seagulls I think they are) will fly around waiting to catch it in the air. I took some fantastic photos of this in action.
I then met up with some of the students from the UNESCO school who I met on the day field trip I took with them. We grabbed a bite to eat, walked around the water's edge taking lots of fun photos, and then went to the night clubs. The night life in Reykjavik is pretty nuts. The cafes and restaurants transform into bars beginning around midnight. Since the sun doesn't leave the sky, the main strip was flooded with people all night long. I was pretty impressed, but most of the music is similar (at least the ones we went to)- some old school hip hop, 80s, and 90s songs with a very small selection of music coming out today- all from the US. Kind of funny, but it was great to see all the Icelanders rock out to it. The crowd is very mixed in age. You have to be 20 to drink, so that is the youngest you will see, but even many old timers were rocking it- sometimes they were the ones dancing the most! It was great and a ton of fun.
Today, I woke up late, of course, and decided to buy a 24hr 'tourist card' for 1500 ISK (or about 12 US dollars). This gives you free admission to museums, swimming pools, buses, and discounts in select stores and restaurants. I have already made my money back, and more, and I'm only half way finished :)
I went to two museums, one that just opened due to a recent archaeological excavation that is now the oldest dated home they have found from the Viking period. After, I quickly went to the National Museum, which I need to return to because I only had about 20 minutes there (everything closes at 5PM!) Next, I went souvenir shopping for the fam, where I got a discount and will have a tax refund at the airport which will be nice. I then went to a restaurant where I was entitled to a free dessert. The best part about this, though, was that the dessert costs more than what I paid for the card, ha! That was pretty great, and it was a delicious dessert, although not worth the amount they were asking for..
I capped my night off with a showing of "The Volcano Show". This guy and his father have been following and filming volcanic eruptions in Iceland since about WWII. I watched the 2 hour show, which had a fantastic in depth explanation about each eruption that has occurred . He even showed us footage of the Eyjafjallajokull eruption (yes, I have learned to pronounce this), but is in the works of being cut. He was explaining how all of the active volcanoes are due to erupt at any moment! Too bad I didn't get to see any..When I went to pay for my ticket, he didn't let me. When I insisted because I wanted to support his cause, he said I need help too, was very very nice of him.
Tomorrow I have created a very jam-packed itinerary for myself since I can pretty much do everything for free until 5 PM tomorrow, and it is my last day. So, I am going to go to the swimming pool, zoo, Videy Island (free ferry with this card), and then whatever museums I can with the left over time. I kind of wish I had an extra day to see more museums- I had no idea there were so many in this little city!

Image 1: Bird Watching near City Hall- a girl having a blast throwing bread in the air and watching the Lesser Black-backed Gull catching it air borne
Image 2: At Reykjavik Bay- Me and some of the UNESCO students
Image 3: The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik- the archaeological uncovering of the oldest found artifact, a Viking home, which this exhibition was built around
Image 4: Reykjavik Urbanism- about 10 PM in the evening looking up the street to the church
Image 5: Reykjavik sunset- at the harbor at about 11 PM waiting for the bus- first time I was actually able to see this because I had only experience clouds every evening

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 19- Reykjanes Peninsula- HS Orka Grand Tour

Today was my final official research day with a professional. It has been amazing to have these private tours of every facility I have visited and have had the luxury of asking any question that crossed my mine. This was truly amazing.

Thorgrimur, who is the health, safety, and environmental manager, picked me up at about 1 PM from my hostel and took me over to the first power plant, Svartsengi, the one by the Blue Lagoon. On the way there we talked a bit about the special geology of the Reykjanes peninsula and the unique waters they have to deal with. Due to these conditions and the increasing advancement in understanding how the water behaves underground here, they have been evolving their practices in order to make their operations more efficient, creating less impact below ground as far as the water table goes. They mostly harness the steam to heat up fresh water, while the steam provides electricity. It operates for the district of the Reykjanes peninsula, and its technologies have evolved for the last 30 years.

I learned that they have a total of 6 different power plants within that complex, each of them with their own function contributing to the larger system. Each power plant was built due to the advancement of the efficiency of their operations. Here, they almost have a closed loop system as they re-inject most of the water used. It is distributed from one area to the towns and is collected again from another area to be put back. This was very interesting to see and learn about because I haven't heard of such an operation as efficient as this one is trying to be. They have made a lot of progress which is amazing to see how it has evolved.

After, we went to the Reykjanes power plant, which opened in 2006 and is located right next to the Atlantic Ocean. This one only produces electricity from the steam- 100 MWh to be exact. It is always running full capacity, and most of it is used for energy intensive industries, such as aluminum. We spoke a bit about the physical designs of both power plants and how they are making efforts for make them 'blend' and become inspired by the surround landscape and environment, including the bore hole houses, which take a different form from what I have seen. The breadth in diversity among bore hole houses is pretty astounding. I had no idea they were all going to be so different. It is as if each company claims their bore hole through the house design. Pretty interesting I think.

They have also just finish installing a kind of science exhibit about space and energy and the evolution of man's progress with energy use. It was really neat to be one of the 1st to see it in its totality. They had an earthquake simulator, which was fun to experience as I have never felt the ground move below me. He also showed me what 'scaling' is. All of this time, everyone I have spoken with has discussed this issue with me. In my mind, I had imagine scaling as the scaling of the pipe as in contracts and expands due to heat and pressure differentiation between inside and outside. However, they had a sample of a pipe from a bore hole that experienced scaling. It is, in fact, the build up of a residue from the intense hot water and steam. The higher the temperatures, the more scaling there is. This particular pipe had a few inches of scaling in just 14 months. It was astonishing to see, and it is a big problem in the industry.

He also brought me over to the 'beach', or really, the edge where the lava field meets the Atlantic. From the power plant, they have a 50 degree Celsius man-made river that travels 800 M to the ocean. It is very hot water to be releasing out to the water at 4000 l/s. But, he argues, it is within 'environmental standards' so it is okay. I wonder if the waters around Iceland have been generally warming because of this attribute, as well as many others that I have learned about.

All in all, it was a really great trip! We did a lot in a few hours. Tomorrow I go back to Reykjavik for a few days before coming back to the US. Tomorrow, I plan to visit the largest swimming pool in Iceland, which is right down the street from my hostel. I would also like to stop by NEA and ISOR to say hello and goodbye to my contacts who were so wonderful. I don't know how I would have been able to do this without them, especially with the guidance and contacts of Thorgils. I will also spend some time reflecting on the last 2.5 weeks- what I have learned and what I hope to do with it.

Image 1: On our way to Svartsengi Powerplant- The body of water you see is the actual water table, at this point, we are in the very center of the ridge, it is also the lowest point (it dips down as you get to the center)
Image 2: Svartsengi Power plant- 4 boreholes
Image 3: Reykjanes Power plant- the 'dumping' area; threshold between culvert and ocean; notice the steam and registration on the rocks
Image 4: Reykjanes Powerplant- same spot, but looking back at the power plant and culvert; notice the steam bellowing out of the ground
Image 5: Reykjanes Powerplant- exhibition- an example of scaling in the pipe with Thorgrimur peaking his head through. The dark grey/black is the scaling or the build up of matter in a borehole pipe after 14 months.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 18- The Blue Lagoon

Today was really nice, relaxing, and informative. I decided to spend my day at the Blue Lagoon. The bus fare + entry fee was a fantastic deal and made things much cheaper for me- cheap is good!! When I arrived, it was to my surprise the isolation of the place. It is right in the middle of a lava field with nothing around it except for the geothermal power plant. I was pleasantly surprised by the architecture. It blends right in and actually becomes part of the landscape. It is beautifully done and received an award in 2007.

When I got to the reception to hand them my ticket and receive a bracelet (everything is computerized using a white chip on the bracelet- entry, locker, you can even charge food and drink on it and pay later!), I had asked if there was someone I could speak with regarding the spa and how it all emerged and operates now. They were happy to get in touch with their director of public relations, Magnea Gudmundsdottir. She was busy at the time, but agreed to meet at 1 PM. This meant I had about 2 hours of play time and exploration in the lagoon, which of course was very fun and nice. It is not at all as bad as I was expecting. In a way, I had anticipated a public swimming pool crossed with Disney World or something highly commercial and tourist oriented. This actually was not the case. It is a giant spa, of course heavily reliant on tourism (3/4 of their revenue is from tourism), but is absolutely an experience worth having. The power plant is right in the distance and they have special ties with it, but I learned in my meeting that this has changed. I will get to that later.

The locker room is EXTREMELY nice. Large lockers, stone heated floors, areas to dry your hair, frosted glass for each stall of shower, etc. The public swimming pools have these amenities as well, but not to this extreme and not so clearly defined as separate programmatic areas. Very luxurious. Leaving the locker room, you walk through an indoor pool area as the threshold to the outside lagoon. I am always so cold after the shower and before going into the pool that I just run right outside and get into the nice warm water as soon as possible. I did this, but it was actually kind of difficult to find my way in. The water has a beautiful baby blue color (I learned that this is a result of the special algae that lives in it and then dies when the water temperature cools), but you can not see through it at all. There was a railing to bring yourself into the pool, but there were 'invisible' stairs to go with it. It took me a while to orient my footing- figure out how wide the steps were, how many, etc. Once inside, though, it was very nice. I walked around, thinking up of my questions to ask Magnea. The bottom of the lagoon is as it was when it formed- rocky and with black sand. It was really cool to experience the touch of lava rock and sand under my feet. However, I did experience major temperature fluctuations in the water. I was somewhat expecting this, but in a way, it was extreme and there was no real gradual gradient. Hot and cold spots scattered throughout. There were arched bridges that are clustered close to the edge of the building connecting across areas of the lagoon. After further observation, I found that the bridges were also being used to span the pipelines to various areas through the complex, tucked away underneath. They also had a waterfall, which looked softly beautiful, but if you sit underneath, it is surprisingly one intense massage. There were 2 (I think) steam rooms to choose from. My favorite is the one that is like a cave-igloo. It is an arched piling of volcanic stones. Inside the cave is a continuous bench making almost the full circle. Behind the bench is soft steam coming from the rocks while every now and then, intense steam would rise from the ground. After the steam event, you could hear the pitter-patter of water moving around and trying to recover back to stillness. I had a problem with the height of the door. It was very dark inside that cave, and so going in, I was aware of the height and would duck below the header. Every time I left, I hit my head! This must have happened at least 3 times haha.

A little after noon, I had my shower and enjoyed a little sandwich. I was expecting prices to be outrageous, but it was just as much as any other place I had visited, so this was a nice surprise. I walked around taking photos and wrote down my questions for the meeting. A bit after 1, Magnea came down to meet me.

We walked over to the restaurant, "LAVA" (haha), where she invited me to have a cappuccino and eat some traditional Icelandic desserts. She seemed very eager and interested in my project, and so I explained to her the premise of my being there. She then explained to me the evolution of the Lagoon, its history, and how it has become a spa today. I learned a lot in a little bit of time. As Gudni from NEA had explained to be upon my arrival, this was first considered to be an environmental disaster. This was my first question for her. She explained to me how in the late 70s, when the power plant began operating, they were dumping their effluent back out into the landscape. The mineral and salinity content of this water is extremely high, and so after a while, the minerals clogged all the porosity of the bedrock, forming the lagoon. People began bathing in it, and one man with psoriasis noticed it was healing after a few weeks. Thus began this medicinal spa. He started experiments in the late 80s and by late 90s, the spa opened up. Today, though, they do not use the effluent from the power plant- they have their own boreholes! About 10 of them, and they renew the water every 40 hours. There are many bacteria thriving in this special environment, some of which scientists have never seen before. They are not harmful to us, but they eliminate the need to use chlorine since they kill off any bacteria we may have. She also explained to me how it is a closed loop system, as they recharge the ground water with every cycle. It just occurred to me that I forgot to ask if they have had any problems with the clogging of the bedrock in order to recharge the ground water. She gave me her card for me to ask any other questions, so that is a great option I will exercise. After we spoke about the operations of the Lagoon, its origins and evolution, she began asking me questions about my project. The more I told her, the more interested she became, which was really nice to see. After not speaking with a 'professional' the last few days, you kind of forget what you are doing/have done, and the importance and interest it carries, especially with everyone that I have met related to geothermal energy and use. So, she wants me to email her updates about the project, etc., which was great to hear and see such interest! I also told her things she wasn't even aware of within the geothermal life cycle, such as the conditions of the abandoned wells. It was a really amazing experience to be able to pass some of my new-found knowledge on.

After, she brought me to the roof terrace to see the whole lagoon from a bird's eye angle. It was great because I was able to get a real sense and understanding of the overall architectural scheme and to see the top of the building align with the top of a lava field 'mountains', as well as the operations and how people are using the facility all at once. There we discussed the emergence of the beauty products line. Their clinical research and development building is close by, as she was able to point it out from up there. She explained to me that they have a kind of heat exchange process that extracts the minerals, silica, and algae. Then, they are able to use various quantities of each ingredient to create various products- like cooking. This was really interesting to learn about.

What my troubling thoughts are now about the operation, though, is how it has evolved away from using the effluent and is now its own, separate entity utilizing its own boreholes creating its own effluent in addition to the plant's. This will be one of my biggest questions for Thorgrimur from HS Orka tomorrow. Has the effluent quantity grown? Probably, but I am more interested in how it sits on the surface, and if this surface area has grown. Also wondering if there have been problems with clogging and the need to 'dump' else where.

Overall, a surprisingly excellent day. The Blue Lagoon was not as bad as I had thought it was going to be. Excited for tomorrow to see my final two geothermal power plants.

Image 1: Blue Lagoon- Arrival, Svartsengi Power Plant
Image 2: Blue Lagoon- Lunchtime, walking around
Image 3: Blue Lagoon- From roof top terrace
Image 4: Blue Lagoon- Inside
Image 5: Blue Lagoon- Hike around, perhaps effluent?