Glaumbaer Museum in Skagafjordur, Northern Iceland
Glaumbaer Museum in Skagafjordur, Northern Iceland

Icelandic building tradition

During my soon thirty years in Iceland I have met quite a few people who grew up in turfhouses. It was likely in the 1960s when the last inhabitant moved out. Even ten years ago there was a stigma about these houses. Whereas they were of course celebrated through the various museum sites, like Laufás near Akyreyri in Northern Iceland, Glaumbaer, a bit further westwards. Then one of my favourites at the fringe of the northeasterly Highlands, Saenautasel and then of course the only one surviving in its original form, in Keldur, Southern Iceland.
Not too far from Keldur you will find a reconstruction of a house from the settlement times ( But whereas it is a magnificent display of craftmanship, particularly the height of the building is disputable because archaeological data gives only an idea of the floorplan, but nit the elevation.
The recent years have seen Icelanders changing in many ways. One of the changes is that the ancient building style is now more celebrated and quite a few architects choose now to integrate traditional forms and/or building materials into their designs. That was more or less unthinkable a few decades ago.
bhm 118
bhm 435 1
Recently, courses for building traditional walls of stone and turf have been offered regluarly by the Agricultural University of Iceland (it is of course not an University in the UK sense, it would be a College of HE...) and these courses have been very popular.
Last week I finally got the opportunity to take part in one. That had been a dream of mine for very many years. I was fascinated immediately when I got to know Icelandic houses for the first time and I always dreamt about learning how to build them. Now, I know the principles and there should be no hindrance for me to start rebuilding our old sheep pen (I just need to take care of my back ;-)
 steinn og torf1
Combination of rocks and turf, an appatently unique Iclandic technique. Inside walls have no turf.

steinn og torf2 endir
The wall is ended with nice and stable corner stones. Watch your back...

steinn og torf3 fylling
The inside is filled up with broken gravel, that will ensure good drainage.

You can either look for the perfect stone or "make" a good one. I prefer to search because thr right stone is there somewhere.

steinn og torf4
Eventually, grass will grow from the turf. That will deflect rain, so the wall stays relatively dry at all times.

torf2 snidda
A simple and quick turf wall is made from "snidda". This wall will sty wet and "alive".

This wall is made of klambrar and strengir. it is supposed to dry out. See also below.

Here below now a few details from a simple house that could serve as a root cellar. Note that it is built into a hill.
I will keep you posted on the progress of our own turf- and stone house...
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 09:51
(0 votes)
Read 514 times

More in this category:

« Russian Beach Tour »

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.