Category Archives: Architecture

Iron Age Iceland: An Archaeological Field Trip

Over in Lágkotstangi, iron age ruins are not hard to spot.

Because of recent tree-planting initiatives in the North and East, it is slowly being replaced by a rudimentary Wooden Age.

Because Iceland has been isolated so long, history is coming very quickly now. Even as we speak, both iron and wood are giving way to the Age of Plastic. They’re not going down without a fight, though.

Look at Iron and Wood trying to be useful (and sneaky) still!

Learning to Tilt in Iceland

The land teaches that all falling is not vertical.

Hamrahlið, north of Grund

Good to know.

Grundarfjörður, west of Grund

When we were there, parents were being advised to walk their children under 12 to school, as the hurricane-force winds might blow them over. The older kids could tilt, it seems, like everyone else.

Tracking Elves in the Icelandic North

While searching for elves in North Iceland, I found this farm. It has a church and a manure spreader and a human house, so pretty well-equipped. Plus an elf house, of course.

Cold Rainy Day!

Here’s the elfin view of the, um, colonial improvements. A tractor and mower, too, as you can see, just south of the Arctic Circle. Brr.

It’s always this way. It’s not that there were elves here before humans. They came along in human heads, but they needed a place, and so houses (and churches) were allotted for them too, which means that the humans had to choose well. Here’s the view out over the human camp to the sea.

And look at the tumble of elves crowding up agains the road, unable to cross! Tut tut.

Humans are sweet. When you build a new house down by the water, in the wind, you put a graveyard in the old one, where your ancestors lived while alive. They can live on there, with their elf neighbours.

So, all in all, a good social relationship!

The True Inspiration for Icelandic Architecture, Promise

Here’s a turf house window in Iceland. You’ll still find a few here and there. Wonder where the idea came from?

Wonder no longer.

Of course, that’s old architecture. The new stuff is, like, modern and all. Or maybe not. Here are some apartments in Reykjavik, and the elf stone in front of them, where no developer was allowed to build, because it was already occupied, and you don’t want to mess with magical rocks. Where did that idea come from?

From Snæfellsnes, that’s what. All that’s happened is that people finally got the upper hand and build houses taller than the magical rocks.

That’s simple enough, but what about finer architectural features, such as the red windows below on Laugavegur in Reykjavik. Tough one, eh?

Not at all. We just need to go to the Fljotsdalur in the East and all is revealed.

See, two red panels. Nice. Fine, but what about the really tough ones, like the Harpa concert hall?

Pshaw, nothing to it. I guess you didn’t go quite far enough out on Snæfellsnes. Here you go.

And the Harpa:

See? You can be in and out at the same time. That’s the ticket. Now, about the modern brutalism that graces the city…

… well, not modern at all. You can see its model at Ásbyrgi, in the far North.

Oh, one more time. This time, note the air conditioner…

Nice, eh. Where, oh where, does that come from? Again, the far North.

Well, just imagine the building as a flat rather than a height and you’ll see it. It is a crazy island, but if you hang around it long enough it will come into focus.

Book Laundry in Reykjavik

(Other countries launder money, but Icelanders have learned their lessons about messing with crazy stuff like that.)

 

 

Icelandic Counter-Migration Techniques

 

Tired of barbed wire on the rooftops?

Reykjavik.

Beats  nose  level,  I  guess.

 

Hofstaðir

 

But  I wouldn’t get too worried about it.

Kirkjubær

 

Where you going to go, anyway?


Skagaströnd

It’s just jewelry.

Otherwise the land would wander off into the Atlantic.

It happens. What can I say.

 

 

 

Living Among the Ruins: Italy and Iceland

This is the kind of thing that annoyed the Icelandic writer Gunnar Gunnarsson in 1928. This is Hadrian’s Villa, built in the year 134 near Tivoli, in what is now Italy. He thought it was too bright.He meant that this man and his politics were wrong for Scandinavia (which, to him, included Baltic Germany):

Mussolini Rejects Democratic Rule in 1928

He also meant that this version of Hadrian’s Tivoli villa was the wrong approach to art:

The Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park in Copenhagen

Gunnar didn’t see art as a populist entertainment. He was after something else. This is the architecture he liked:

Landhus Farm, Fljótsðalur

You could consider it a part of the landscape, he said. Almost all the houses of this type are ruins now, but not like Hadrian’s ruins:

Like this:

In the 1950s onward, the Icelandic government gave away trees, as part of a nationalist program of rebuilding the eroded landscapes of the country. Out of the same impulse as Gunnar, people planted them on the sites of their former turf houses, leaving the hills, the intended recipients of the trees, bare.  The government keeps a few turf houses as museums:

Farmhouse Window,  Bustarfell

It is the same impulse that drove Gunnar from the Tivoli Gardens. He considered that mixing northern culture, an expression of northern land and climate, with a southern one would destroy it, such as the German Reich’s turn from a people’s culture, based on farm life, to an Imperial one, as documented in the image below.

For Gunnar, independence meant to have no masters at all, and the point of modernity was to refine old folk ways. He shared that with the Italians and Germans of his day. He was more clear than they were, however, on the price of Imperialism and power exercised as force. It’s too bad he didn’t speak more clearly about this, but at least we have the ruins…

Buðahraun

… to speak…

… for him …

… now:

Sandgerði

Reykjavik is Hadrian’s Villa.