Icelandic Turf Houses

Íslenski bærinn Turf Museum

Our research residents Brenda Freitas and Katya Bryskina together with curator Sofia Pia visited Íslenski bærinn Turf Museum and Árbær Open Air Museum in Iceland to see traditional vernacular techniques. 

Starting from the first settlement up to the 20th century, most of the people in Iceland lived in grass-topped farmhouses. Turf houses are a result of difficult climate conditions in a combination of locally available materials. They were offering high-quality insulation and a fairly stable temperature throughout the year compared to buildings made of timber or stone alone. At the end of their lifespan, those buildings can be decomposed.

During a visit to The Icelandic Turf House Institute (Íslenski bærinn), Hannes Lárusson gave an amazing tour, shared the way he grew up and how people were living in addition to his knowledge about building and preservation techniques. To maintain a vernacular house like this, it has to be partly rebuilt every 30-40 years. 

Currently, almost all materials in Iceland are imported, and these vernacular techniques show the potential of using local resources and living in a more harmonic way with nature.

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