Tag Archives: architecture

The Roots of Reykjavik Architecture

Do you wonder why Reykjavik looks like Reykjavik? 

For the answer, go to the Northeast.

Bustarfell, near Vopnafjörður.

Note the multiplicity of small houses, all that turf and driftwood and the strength of a horse can manage …

… with many dark passages leading to faint light…

… sometimes brighter…

…and all joined together by spontaneous organic design…

And then back to Reykjavik you go, this time with the delight of recognition…

Splendid.

It’s improv theatre!

This is the kind of history the Icelandic National Museum doesn’t cover. Best to get lost on your way there, I think.

One of Iceland’s Small Pleasures

I know, it’s a thing to chase after waterfalls, but consider the lowly Icelandic driftwood fence. It’s a charming tradition, speaking of past pain set aside.

Unaós

It doesn’t really do anything except to remember, but it’s a fine artwork nonetheless. It catches the mind and holds it, and that is… well, that’s memory. Cool.

What Iceland Can Teach About the 1970s

In the 1970s, A-Frame housing, cheap and easy to build, was all the rage in Canada. We were being very modern and Scandinavian back in those years, two things we’ve given up. We also soon grew tired of living at a slant and having half our floor space unusable (not to mention bonking our heads). I lived in a house like the one below for two years.

After that, we all gave it up and invented the 1980s, which was all about rectangular solids painted to look like California, with Tudor trim. In Egilsstaðir, however, the 1970s are still alive and well, because, well, it’s Scandinavia and, also, they couldn’t afford to throw anything away. And it’s still modern! A lesson for us all.


 

The Family Dragon is the Best

Iceland is a society of cairns. Cairns are artificial humans made out of stacked-up skulls, which allow the living to find their way in the footsteps of those who came before. Here’s one in the Berserker Lava Fields.


Here’s one in Borg.

And an artful one in Reykjavik.

And back to the Berserker Lava Field, where a modern cairn, a 4×4, moves as the driver anticipates where you are going to be, but you have to show up there to find it. Unlike the others, it isn’t a visual cairn. It’s more like one or the whole body.

Skull training starts young. Here’s a pretty standard kid’s playground, with a build-it-yourself dragon.

The dragon you make yourself is not the one that’s going to hurt you.

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.

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.)