Life in the Vatnsmýri

An exhibition on birds, plants and people in the Vatnsmýri moor, the role of nature in the city and the importance of reclaiming wetlands.


5th September–4th November 2012

The Nordic House Nature School – activities for all the family.

Open-air quiz for all ages.


Opening hours: 12 pm-5 pm. Closed on Mondays.



The Nordic House, the University of Iceland and Reykjavík City Council are working together to restore the Vatnsmýri moorlands on the outskirts of Reykjavík. Birds will get safer nesting places, channels will be dug out, the flow of water will be increased and the area will be connected to surrounding ecosystems.

Due to industrial waste and invasive animal and plant species biodiversity has diminished in the area, which has created an unbalance in the flora and fauna of the moor. But the biggest problem of all is man.

There are few unspoilt waters left in the world. Around 80 % of all wetlands in Iceland have been destroyed. Many of the swamps have been drained and are now used for agriculture or as land to build on. Towards the end of the 20th century an international treaty for the protection of wetlands was signed by many of the world's nations.

Why? Find out by visiting the Vatnsmýri exhibition.


In a 1970 article on the protection of wetlands famous Icelandic writer Halldór Laxness called Iceland's wetlands the lungs of the country, because of their importance for the quality of the air.

Due to their role in the circulation of water wetlands have also been likened to kidneys. If one imagines the city as a body, then one might say that Vatnsmýri has at times been treated as the end of the alimentary canal: this is where the city's waste and sewerage has ended up.

Perhaps we should rather compare Vatnsmýri to a birth canal. Skúli Magnússon, the famous 18th century town magistrate, can then be described as the midwife of Reykjavík. He used peat from the moor to fuel the construction of the city.

Or maybe Vatnsmýri is the brain of the city – the common subconscious of its inhabitants where old dreams are laid to rest and new ones are born, the city's conscience, and a place that helps us understand the interconnectedness of all living things. Take a moment to think about it and you might see the many possibilities of this area.

The exhibition tells the story of the diverse life and history of Vatnsmýri and offers visitors the opportunity to learn more about nature's role in the city, and the city's role in nature.