Evoking Vernacular Architecture – From turf

01

David Sullivans life.

02

History of the material.

03

Development of the icelandic turf house.

04

Sindri Þorkelsson.

Published
19.07.2016

We continue our series of graduation project with graduate architect Sindri Þorkelsson from Aarhus School of Architecture:

Sindri Þorkelsson’s interest in sustainable design is significant, and it is a field that he wants to deal with as an architect.

“I look at sustainable design as an element that can contribute to various problems such as, for instance, the global energy problem, healthier living, material use, etc. It can reintroduce old construction techniques, methods and materials.”

The necessity of making a shelter to protect you against the outer elements is something that has followed mankind through history. In Iceland dwellings were essential if you wanted to stay alive in a very difficult, harsh and changeable climate. The Icelandic nature has little to offer as building material, in contrast to the Scandinavian countries, which are rich in timber and clay. Therefore, people had to rely on traditions and the available materials.

The Icelandic turf house dominated the nation’s skyline for a 1000 years. It’s a product from an island in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, an island that was mostly isolated. It is a product of necessity in a very unpredictable and unforgiving climate. The turf’s insulation qualities are what kept the Islanders alive over the centuries. The turf house is where the sagas developed and where the history of Iceland took place.

Around 1900, Iceland had about 6,000 bær – or farms – and a total of up to 100,000 individual turf structures. By the 1930s, though, official figures put that count at 3,665 bær. By the turn of the millennium, only 60 to 80 remained.

In only one or two generations, the people of Iceland have turned their backs on a heritage that kept them alive through centuries. That is what Sindri Þorkelsson’s project wants to evoke.