Category Archives: Architecture

Gunnar Turns Over in His Grave

In March 1940, Gunnar told Nazi Germany about Icelandic architecture that blended with the land. He meant a mixture of German and Icelandic styles, such as his house at Skriðuklaustur, designed by the Hamburg architect Fritz Höger and, well, countrified by its Icelandic workmen, who substituted Icelandic river stones for square cut German ones. Ooops. Nice turf roof, though. Blending in.

He was trying to avoid this:

Albert Speer’s Volkshalle (Hall of the People): architecture that luckily never was.

What the American occupation of the war gave Gunnar’s East Iceland was this:

Dang. The poor man is turning over in his grave.

Got the turf right, though.

The Purpose of Trees in Iceland

In Iceland, trees wash up on the beach after swimming over from Siberia, which is fun.

Borgarnes

Their purpose is much like that of moose antlers in Canada or Alaska: nail them to the front door to honour wilderness… or a viking ship mast. Or a viking curse.

This is why Icelanders are such fine film makers. They are good at staging dramas in real time.

The Art of Cairns

When you are caught by a veið, or a plane of gaping energy, that can devour you without a trace…

… where everything (and soon you too) is thrown, or strewn, around without sense…

… it’s best to create memory, and sense, or you will be lost, literally. Cairns like the one below are the Parthenons of Iceland. Don’t touch.

And don’t make more! That would be like destroying Shakespeare.


Even if the highway-building crew starts it, please resist translating cairns, energy gathered from throws to make wide space close, into an image of yourself as witness. This isn’t magic or art. It’s architecture and language. The path to history through them should remain open. If not, why go to Iceland?

~

Images from between Hafragilsfoss and Dettifoss, as well as on Highway 85 to Vopnafjörður.