At the opening of the Waldorf Astoria in 1931, guests were greeted by the 10-foot tall figure of a woman standing triumphantly above the door with pointed wings raised above her head. The statue, titled Spirit of Achievement, stood there for more than 80 years until it was removed from the building in 2017 when renovations began. While the New York statue sits inside the residential gallery of The Waldorf Astoria Residences, waiting to be returned to its original location, a twin of the statue has popped up in Iceland.
Iceland’s Spirit of Achievement was created using 3D scanning technology. The statue – along with other landmarked heritage spaces within the hotel – was scanned by New York-based MYND Workshop. The scan of the statue was then gifted to Iceland by hotel owner Dajia US in honor of Nina Sæmundsson, the original sculpture’s creator.
Sæmundsson was the first Icelandic woman to earn a living as a professional sculptor. Her design for Spirit of Acheivement was selected from among 400 submissions for the Waldorf Astoria‘s commission in the 1930s. The skyward looking statue represented innovation, progress, and ambition, ideals the new Art Deco hotel building itself embodied.
Iceland’s statue stands at the center of Hvolsvöllur, a small town in South Iceland near Sæmundsson’s birthplace. It was unveiled on August 22nd, a date that would have been Sæmundsson’s 131th birthday. A few of her descendants were in attendance at the unveiling ceremony. Facing southwest the recreation reaches toward its twin on Park Avenue in Manhattan at the Waldorf Astoria.
Next, check out 10 Secrets of the Waldorf-Astoria!