Unit 2-3F: (Nordic) Vernacular Workshop
Turf House | 900
The tradition of the Icelandic vernacular architecture dates back to the ninth century with the arrival of the of Norse and British settlers who also brought the timber longhouse typology. Unfortunately, the settlers caused substantial deforestation, due to their limited consideration on natural preservation in their use of timber. This caused the Icelanders to look to alternative methods for building with limited timber resources and a harsh climate to consider. Hence, the Icelandic turf hut developed as a replacement for the longhouse.
The weather conditions in Iceland, played a significant role in which materials the Icelanders used to build their turf huts thereby the typology of the turf hut changed from north to south. In the south and west, the materials used for building was mainly stone, due to a lack of turf – this was because of bad soil, and therefore they had trouble extracting turf – and also to withstand the harsher climate conditions. However, in the north-eastern part of Iceland turf was the predominant material as it was easy to come by and offered good insulation against the cold climate. Here, the turf was carefully carved out from the ground in wedges, which could be stacked in a strong interlocking key, creating an elaborate pattern. The turf walls sat on a stone foundation supported by an interior timber construction.
The turf houses would consist of small unheated units such as winter stock and workshops, organised in front of the heated living residence or ‘badstofa’ where gatherings, eating, cooking, sleeping, working and socialising took place
Mimicking the vernacular
Exploring the aesthetic adaptation of the vernacular typology
The Icelandic turf house has many sustainable architecture principles developed from the harsh climate and context, which can be seen in contemporary examples. This includes the use of local materials and their thermal properties, the interior layout and materiality and the aesthetic appearance. While this modern example does not strive to be a sustainable building, the influence from the vernacular can be seen and post-rationalized as sustainable. Including using concrete as a thermal mass material, increased by soil being placed against the façade; the interior layout around the fire and spatial arrangement into smaller, more easily heated spaces.
Hafsteinshus / Högna Sigurdsardóttir
Reykjavík, Iceland | 1968
The possibilities of local materials
Adapting local materials and techniques to contemporary construction
Icelandic vernacular buildings are an excellent example of sustainable architecture principles such as making use of thermal insulation from local materials, efficient use of materials, building layout which reduce energy consumption while also allowing flexibility of use and reusability of materials.
This contemporary example adapts many of these into a modern building. The thermal properties of the turf structure are translated into how the building is situated lower within the landscape and incorporating a grass roof. Similarities within the spatial layout are visible, with smaller building volumes emerging of a common hallway; as well as the use of materials – with timber cladding on the outside and as an interior material, combined concrete structure for thermal mass and due to availability in a contemporary setting.
Hof Residence / Studio Granda
Skagafjörður fjord, Iceland | 2007
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