Today, the penultimate day of the 13th year of the 21st century, here’s a look at one eco-friendly structure that manages to incorporate a long list of qualities that we here at MNN have held in the highest regard this past year.

Perched atop a craggy, moss-covered hillside amidst the lava fields of volcanically active Mount Hengill, Iceland’s ION Luxury Adventure Hotel has received a decent amount of press since opening earlier this year, and for good reason. As part of the built environment, it possesses an utmost respect for the natural world, promotes a sense of adventure, encourages both exploration and relaxation, takes full advantage of renewable resources, celebrates recycling and reuse, and is extremely easy on the eyes.

Located about a 15-minute drive from one of the world’s more epic/haunting UNESCO National Heritage Sites, Thingvellir National Park, and a little less than an hour east of sleepy-chic Reykjavik, the ION Luxury Adventure Hotel is a minimalist 45-room property that, while stunning in its own right, intentionally plays second fiddle to the natural splendor surrounding it. But I suppose this should be expected when the hotel bar is more of an aurora borealis-spotting hotspot than a pickup joint, the spa specializes in volcanic mud facials, and the website has an entire section dedicated to wildlife.

Already bestowed with numerous hospitality and design awards, the geothermal-powered hotel along with its adjacent restaurant and bar are all the creations of Minarc (Minimalism in Architecture), the same Santa Monica-based design studio — the firm’s husband-wife principals, Tryggvi Thorsteinsson and Erla Dögg Ingjaldsdóttir, are native Icelanders — that teamed up with Habitat for Humanity this past fall to bring affordable net-zero prefab homes to South Los Angeles.

Iceland hotel with northern lights in background

Although vacant lots in low-income areas of South LA and the lava fields of Mount Hengill make for two decidedly different backdrops, the two projects are both innovation-heavy, holistic in approach, and revolve around sustainability, particularly energy-efficiency and the use of recycled/reclaimed/locally sourced materials — think recycled rubber tire sinks, corrugated cardboard lampshades, and salvaged driftwood everywhere. Both the hotel (actually an existing building which had been abandoned with new wings and additions added on) and the Habitat homes make use of Minarc’s proprietary prefabricated, panelized building system called mnmMOD.

Explains Minarc:

Beneath its stark appearance, which could easily be mistaken for part of the evolving landscape, is a high-performance system that maximizes energy efficiency with a reduced carbon footprint. An abundance of natural hot springs surrounding the hotel provide guest rooms with clean, energy-efficient geothermal heating and hot water. The extensive use of oversized windows throughout the hotel captures the natural daylight, reducing the need for artificial lighting, while providing unobstructed views of the natural wonders beyond.

So there you have it — if snorkeling in a rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, embarking on a Jeep safari across a glacier, or kicking back with an Icelandic microbrew while you gaze upwards at the midnight sun all seem like "luxury" activities that you’d want to pursue in 2014, this is very much the spot in which to do so.

Brennivín wishes and salted cod dreams. See you next year.

Via [Co.Design]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Hot springs-heated hotel in Iceland does the northern lights right
Iceland's ION Luxury Adventure Hotel isn't so much about the hotel itself but about the stunning, otherworldly landscapes that surround it.