Turf homes, Iceland’s architectural jewels

Turf homes in Iceland on the finish of the nineteenth century. Picture by Szilas within the Nationwide Museum of Iceland

Burfell, Iceland:  Within the Thjorsardalur valley in Iceland’s southern highlands, the primary inexperienced shoots are beginning to sprout up from the browned grass, till just lately lined by a thick blanket of snow.

Quickly, a carpet of lush inexperienced turf will cowl the bottom — and envelop the perimeters and roof of the big farmstead and its stone-encircled chapel, positioned in the midst of an enormous area not removed from the Hekla volcano.

Iceland’s turf buildings, which mix in completely with their pure environment, are pristine examples of an area architectural custom launched by the primary Nordic settlers within the ninth century.

Due to the dearth of bushes in Iceland, turf was a well-liked constructing materials and thick turf partitions have been helpful to chase away the chilly.

“We do not have an excessive quantity of bushes, so for one factor (turf) is straightforward (to) entry… It was low cost and it really works effectively,” explains Olivera Ilic, a Viking historical past buff who heads a challenge to take care of the positioning.

Reduce from close by marshlands, the turf was sliced into slabs and used to create thick outer partitions on a construction usually product of timber — both driftwood or obtained by commerce.

Stone foundations have been additionally frequent.

Their type “varies as a lot because the variety of turf homes made — no two are the identical,” says Eyjolfur Eyjolfsson, who lives within the Austur-Medalholt plains close to Selfoss, in southern Iceland.

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Right here 4 houses clustered collectively are snugly wrapped in a thick layer of grass.

A nineteenth century farmstead which now serves as a museum bears an indication throughout the door studying: ‘The place Nature is A part of the Home’.

“The turf home represents an structure that’s in excellent or full concord with its environment,” says Eyjolfsson, a 39-year-old musician and folklorist.

“Turf is a really easy-to-use materials to construct constructions, however on the similar time it’s not an excellent materials,” he says.

With Iceland’s inclement climate, turf houses wanted to be rebuilt about each 20 years, although some may final for as much as 70 years.

In 1910, there have been round 5,500 turf houses of those rustic and primary farmsteads in Iceland, accounting for greater than half of all residences, in keeping with historians.

At present, solely a small fraction of the 249 houses registered in 1960 nonetheless exist, uninhabited and preserved as cultural heritage websites and museums.

The constructing custom continues to be practiced in Iceland, though solely by a number of craftsmen educated within the strategies utilized by older generations.

Sustaining the houses is tedious enterprise.

“We attempt to hold it as genuine as doable. We need to do it the outdated means, which is time consuming,” says Ilic.

Since 2011, Iceland has positioned 14 turf houses on the tentative record of UNESCO World Heritage websites, that means they could possibly be eligible for nomination sooner or later.