In addition to a myriad of attractions, The Pearl has an important function. It is not only a highly technical playground for its visitors, but serves as an important link for the hot water distribution from the deep boreholes within the capital itself and others in its proximity.
Nowadays the Municipal Energy Authority serves close to 70% of the country’s population. It supplies hot water for house heating and other purposes, electricity and operates the Water Works as well. The boreholes in the vicinity of the Laugavegur Street yield close to 310 l/sec of 127°C hot water and the Ellida Valley holes yield about 220 l/sec of 88°C hot water. The boreholes northeast of the capital yield about 1860 l/sec (86°C) and in 1990 the geothermal power station at Nesjavellir, 27,2 km east of he capital, was inaugurated. Its present capacity is about 220 MW of heat energy and 90 MW of electricity and increased future developments look very promising.
Four of the tanks upon which The Pearl is resting, contain 24.000 tons of hot water at about 80°C. The remaining two are used to collect the backflow water from the houses. There are three main distribution centres for hot water in the capital and the supplies underneath The Pearl are used to meet peaks during extremely cold periods.
The structure is about 30 m high with a space of about 20.000 cubic metres. It is six floors high and offers about 3.700 metres square. The Winter garden has an area of about 1000 metres square and offers ample space for various celebrations and exhibitions. The construction of The Pearl took about three years. Construction materials were imported from six European countries and The United States. The hexagonal veranda on top of the tanks offers an excellent panoramic view of the capital area and its surroundings and the highest point of the glass dome rises 14 m higher. Its was constructed of hollow stainless steel profiles through which hot water is pipelined for heating in winter and cold water for cooling in summer. The parking area in front of the building is also heated and free of ice during winter.
The revolving restaurant is highly computerized as well as the fountain, the watering system, the heating and acoustic systems, and the PA-system. The combination of the architectural design and the electronic has proven highly compatible and successful. The conference and information library in the basement, accommodating up to 50 persons, are equipped with the latest video, acoustic, and projection apparatus.
The almost overwhelming feeling of space inside the building is mainly caused by the high clearance, 10 m in the winter garden, 5 m in the cafeteria, and up to 9 m in the restaurant. The main support construction, the stairs and the elevator shafts, were designed to amplify this feeling.
The Pearl immediately became one of the capital’s landmarks and has already become one of the cultural centres of the city as well as a centre of social life. The late and most renowned painter of the country, Johannes Kjarval, suggested the building of something similar to The Pearl on this 61 m high hillock in the early 20th century. He wanted his contemporaries to be able to enjoy cultural and social events in such surroundings, but did not live long enough to see his dream come true on the 11. of Mai 1991, when The Pearl was inaugurated.
The Municipal Geothermal Heating Authority owns and leases The Pearl. The construction costs amounted to Ikr. 28 billions (US$ 269 millions). The architect was Ingimundur Sveinsson. The building might remind of a spacecraft. The winter garden is decorated with exotic plants, palm trees and rubber trees (figs). The winter garden accommodates up to 600 people and is used for receptions, exhibitions and other functions. Wedding celebrations soon became a popular trend and the names of the newlyweds can be seen on a basaltic column right by the main entrance.
The Cafeteria above the winter garden is open between 11:30 and 22:00. It offers an assortment of Italian ice cream, small courses and snack. It is nice to relax there over a cup of coffee, read various foreign newspapers and enjoy the excellent view. On the platform are binoculars and by pressing a button, explanations in foreign languages about what meets the eye can be heard.
The revolving restaurant above the Cafeteria accommodates 340 persons and the view from up there is even more impressive than from below. The menu suits the surroundings and the prices are a little higher than can be expected for a restaurant of this category elsewhere in the country. It contains quite a few delicacies prepared by a group of culinary specialists.
In the centre of the restaurant is an elevated bar, where the guests meet for an apéritive or sit down for refreshments after an enjoyable meal. It seats 40-50 persons and offers a high quality acoustic system with soft background music. The wine selection is excellent and the house wine is very popular.