Turf houses are a distinctive type of dwelling found in Iceland with origins dating back to the 9 th century AD, which are attributed to the country’s Nordic settlers. The development of turf houses in Iceland took into consideration the island’s local climate, as well as the available building materials. Turf houses continued to be widely used until the middle of the 20 th century. Today, few turf houses remain in Iceland and they are regarded as an architectural heritage of the country, being nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status in 2011.
A turf house in Bakkagerði. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )
Unique Construction Used the Natural Materials of the Region
The turf houses of Iceland originate in the long-house tradition of the Norse. During the 9 th century AD, the Vikings settled in Iceland, and brought their architectural traditions along with them. Over the centuries these structures were adapted to suit the Icelandic climate, and the natural resources available on the island.
In the Norse homeland of Scandinavia, long-houses were typically constructed with timber, preferably oak, which is native to the region. In Iceland, however, dwarf birch was much more readily available, and therefore was used to construct the frames of the turf houses. Additionally, the island has an abundance of lava rocks, as a result of eruptions. These were used for the construction of turf houses.
Earth covered building in Sænautasel (Saenautasel) in Iceland. (Image: Chris73/ CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The most distinct building material for these Icelandic structures is the turf itself. In Europe, turf was harvested in blocks from bogs, and used for construction purposes. This building technique has been in use since the Iron Age. In other parts of Northern Europe, turf was used by the poorer classes, though in Iceland both the rich and the poor exploited this natural resource. Thus walls and roofs of the Icelandic turf houses were made using this material. The houses of the rich had wooden frames on which the turf would be placed. The turf served as a natural heat insulator and provided protection for its inhabitants from the harsh northern climate. The turf needed replaced from time to time, depending on the regional frost and thaw patterns. In some places, for instance, the turf could last for as long as 20 years, whereas in others, up to 70 years.
- The Icelandic Kvöldvaka: Cultural Phenomenon in the Twilight Hours
- Archaeologists Search for Neolithic Home of Avebury Stone Circle Builders Between the Monuments
- The Weird, Wonderful and Wicked Beings in Scandinavian Folklore
‘Torfhaus’ Grass roofed hut in Iceland. (Image: piviso.com)
The Extreme Survival of Turf Houses
Up to the middle of the 20 th century, turf houses were the norm in Iceland. A number of these turf houses still survive to this day with the oldest existing example of such a structure being the Keldur at Rangárvellir, on the southern border of the Icelandic highlands. Keldur consists of a dwelling house with a number of outbuildings. During the 12 th and 13 th centuries, Keldur was home to the Oddi clan, one of the powerful families in Iceland during the Free State era. Keldur has been rebuilt many times over the centuries. The current turf house there was rebuilt after the devastating earthquakes of 1896 and 1912. Keldur was acquired by the National Museum of Iceland in 1942 as part of the National Historic Buildings Collection and is opened to the public between June and August.
Earth covered turf homes in Keldur, Iceland. These were built in 1193 and are supposedly the oldest buildings in Iceland. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Modern Materials Take Hold – Spotlight on Preservation
Around the middle of the 1960s the last inhabitants of Iceland’s turf houses began moving out. These traditional structures had been gradually falling out of favor among Icelanders since the beginning of the 20 th century. In the country’s capital of Reykjavik, for instance, concrete became the preferred building material when the city was rebuilt after being razed by fires in 1915. Three years later, Iceland obtained its independence from Denmark. A nationalistic campaign was launched to clear the country of its traditional buildings, including turf houses, in favour of modern ones. In more recent times, however, the boost of tourism in Iceland has brought the turf houses under the spotlight and has raised questions about their preservation. In 2011, the Turf House Tradition was nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status, an indication of the Icelandic government’s efforts to boost the status of these traditional buildings.
Icelandic Turf Houses Are Old-School Green With a Viking Twist
Take it from animals that hibernate in dens surrounded by earth and roots, turf makes for a cozy home in cold climes – a fact not lost on Northern Europeans dating back to at least the Iron Age.
Building from turf has been embraced in many places, over many spans of time – Norway, Scotland, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, the Netherlands, and even in the American Great Plains. But while in these areas the practice was used to build dwellings for those with few means, the turf houses in Iceland differ.
Iceland's turf farmsteads developed from the longhouse – a tradition brought to Iceland from Nordic settlers in the 9th century, the first of which were Vikings. And according to the UNESCO World Heritage List, for which Iceland’s turf house tradition is nominated, the turf-building technique in the island nation is unique in that it was used for all economic classes and for all types of buildings.
The legend Móðólfur in Mt. Móðólfsfell
There is a legend connected to Víðimýrarkirkja church, written in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Collection of Folklore of Jón Árnason. It goes like this:
"Mt. Móðólfsfell is the name of a mountain peak by Vatnsskarð or in the mountains in the vicinity of Vatnsskarð. There is a cave in the mountain, but its opening is now blocked by collapsing rocks.
Once upon a time, a troll lived in that cave, by the name of Móðólfur. The mountain is named after that troll. He enraptured a woman from the region. The woman and the troll fell in love and the woman fell pregnant. The foetus was so imposing that she couldn't give birth to it and died in childbirth.
Móðólfur the troll moved her body one night to the church at Víðimýri - in a skillfully made coffin. The coffin stood in front of the church door one morning and next to it was a ring made of copper and a coil with runic characters, explaining what had happened - the copper ring was a gift to the church serving as a burial fee.
The body was buried at Víðimýrarkirkja church and the ring has since then been placed in the church door. It is said that Móðólfur went back to his cave and died of grief".
(Translated into English from Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Collection of Folklore by Jón Árnason).
Víðimýrarkirkja turf church in the dusk
The church is open during the summertime from June 1st - August 31st from 09:00-18:00 and there is a small entrance fee.
Víðimýrarkirkja turf church is located in Skagafjörður, south of Varmahlíð village. It is off ring road 1 as you drive up to or down from Vatnsskarð mountain pass.
If you would also like to see a beautiful turf-house then you can visit Glaumbær in Skagafjörður, which is close by.
To reach this area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive to Skagafjörður in 3.5 hours.
Let's remember to treat these beautiful turf churches with respect. There are only 6 of these extraordinary turf churches left in Iceland and they are fragile and cannot withstand too much traffic. To me, they are pure gems.
Icelandic architecture draws from Scandinavia and traditionally was influenced by the lack of native trees on the island. As a result, grass and turf-covered houses were developed. The original grass houses constructed by the original settlers of Iceland were based on Viking longhouses.
Much of the history of Iceland has been recorded in the Icelandic sagas and Edda. The most famous of these include Njáls saga, about an epic blood feud, and Grænlendinga saga and Eiríks saga, describing the discovery and settlement of Greenland and Vinland (now the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador). Egils saga, Laxdæla saga, Grettis saga, Gísla saga, and Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu are also notable and popular.
Iceland has produced many great authors including Halldór Laxness, Guðmundur Kamban, Tómas Guðmundsson, Davíð Stefánsson, Jón Thoroddsen, Steinn Steinarr, Guðmundur G. Hagalín, Þórbergur Þórðarson, and Jóhannes úr Kötlum. W. H. Auden and Louis MacNeice wrote Letters From Iceland (1937) to describe their travels through that country.
Painting and sculpture Edit
The first professional secular painters appeared in Iceland in the 19th century. This group of artists included Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval, who painted village life in Iceland. Ásmundur Sveinsson, a 20th-century sculptor, was from Iceland. Einar Hákonarson is an expressionistic and figurative painter who brought the figure back into Icelandic painting in 1968. He is a pioneer in the Icelandic art scene and art education. He has been called "The crusader of the painting",  because of his involvement in those conflicts many Icelandic painters had with the public fine art centers. He was a driving force in founding the Icelandic Printmaking Association and its first president. 
Icelanders generally have a traditional liberal Nordic outlook, similar to other Nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden. Yet, an important key to understanding Icelanders and their culture (which differentiates them from the majority of their contemporary Nordic peoples) is the high importance they place on the traits of independence and self-sufficiency. In the June 2005 European Commission Eurobarometer public opinion analysis, over 85% of Icelanders found independence to be "very important" contrasted with the EU25 average of 53%, 47% for the Norwegians, and 49% for the Danish. 
Icelanders are proud of their Viking heritage and Icelandic language and take great care to preserve their traditions. Modern Icelandic remains close to the Old Norse spoken in the Viking Age. Until the Christianization of Iceland, many traditional Viking beliefs were strongly held, remnants of which remain today. According to a 2005 article in The New York Times, the majority of Icelanders either believe in elves or are unwilling to rule out their existence.  There are a number of accounts of roads that have been re-routed and building plans redesigned or abandoned to avoid disturbing rocks where elves are said to live. 
Icelandic society and culture has a high degree of gender equality, with many women in leadership positions in government and business. Iceland has a highly progressive gay rights legislation, with couples having been able to register civil unions since 1996, adopt since 2006, and marry since 2010. Women retain their names after marriage, since Icelanders generally do not use surnames but patronyms or (in certain cases) matronyms.
The 2003 Children's Act outlawed spanking, verbal and emotional abuse, and makes child protection a priority. Physical or mental violence is punishable by imprisonment and/or fine. In 2006, Iceland was ranked as the fourth happiest nation in the world.  Local and national festivals include the annual National Day, celebrating the country's independence in 1944, Sumardagurinn fyrsti which celebrates the first day of summer, and Sjómannadagurinn which is held every June to pay tribute to the country's seafaring past.
Iceland offers wide varieties of traditional cuisine. Þorramatur (food of the þorri) is the Icelandic national food. Nowadays þorramatur is mostly eaten during the ancient Nordic month of þorri, in January and February, as a tribute to old culture. Þorramatur consists of many different types of food. These are mostly offal dishes like hrútspungar (pickled ram's testicles), putrefied shark, singed sheep heads, singed sheep head jam, black pudding, liver sausage (similar to Scottish haggis) and dried fish (often cod or haddock).
Much of the cuisine centres on Iceland's fishing industry. Traditional dishes include gravlax (salmon marinated in salt and dill), hangikjöt (smoked lamb), and slátur (sausages made from sheep entrails). A popular food is skyr made of cultured skim milk, in the summer time it may be served with bilberries as a dessert. Brennivin is an Icelandic liquor made from potatoes and caraway.
Coffee is favored as a beverage and may be served at afternoon break called kaffi in Icelandic. 
The system of education in Iceland is loosely based upon the Danish system, and there are four levels: pre-school, compulsory, upper secondary and higher. Education is mandatory for children aged six to sixteen. Most institutions are funded by the state, there are very few private schools in the country. The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture has jurisdiction over education. Over the years, the educational system has been decentralised, and responsibility for primary and lower secondary schools lies with the local authorities. The state runs upper secondary schools and higher education institutions. Students can quit at age 16 or can continue until age 20.
Iceland is home to the popular children's TV programme LazyTown (Latibær), created by Magnús Scheving. It has become a huge phenomenon with children and adults alike and is shown in over 98 countries, including the United States, Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Latin America. The LazyTown Studios are located in Garðabær. Iceland is the home of the successful 1980s and 1990s band The Sugarcubes from which the very successful singer Björk hailed. Another popular musical group from Iceland is Sigur Rós as well as Kaleo, whose song "Way Down We Go" features on a number of films and on PlayStation(FIFA).
Iceland is a technologically advanced and digitally-connected country. In 2006 it had the highest number of broadband Internet connections per capita among OECD countries. 
Famous early Icelanders were Erik the Red, who discovered and colonized Greenland in 982, and his son Leif Erikson, who introduced Christianity to Greenland and discovered the North American continent (c. 1000). Two famous patriots and statesmen were Bishop Jón Arason, who led the fight for liberty against the power of the Danish king, and Jón Sigurðsson, who led the fight for independence. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir served four consecutive terms as president from 1980 to 1996, becoming the first female elected to the presidency of any republic.
Prominent writers were Ari Þorgilsson, father of Icelandic historical writing Snorri Sturluson, author of the famous Prose Edda, a collection of Norse myths and Hallgrímur Pétursson, author of Iceland's beloved Passion Hymns. Leading poets include Bjarni Thorarensen and Jónas Hallgrímsson, pioneers of the Romantic movement in Iceland Matthías Jochumsson, author of Iceland's national anthem Þorsteinn Erlingsson, lyricist Einar Hjörleifsson Kvaran, a pioneer of realism in Icelandic literature and an outstanding short-story writer Einar Benediktsson, ranked as one of the greatest modern Icelandic poets Jóhann Sigurjónsson, who lived much of his life in Denmark and wrote many plays based on Icelandic history and legend, as well as poetry and the novelist Halldór Laxness, who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1955.
Stefán Stefánsson was the pioneer Icelandic botanist. Helgi Pjeturss, geologist and philosopher, was an authority on the Ice Age and the geology of Iceland. [ , Iceland's greatest sculptor, is represented in European and American museums. The former world chess champion Bobby Fischer became an Icelandic citizen in 2005. Russian pianist and composer Vladimir Ashkenazy has been a citizen since 1972.
The principal language of Iceland is Icelandic, a highly inflected North Germanic language. Danish and English are also taught in schools. Linguistic purism is strongly supported in Iceland in an attempt to prevent loanwords from entering the language. Instead, neologisms are coined from Icelandic roots, creating a compound word to describe new concepts. For example, the word for computer (an introduced object) is tölva which combines the ancient terms for number and seer. It is often the case that old words which are no longer used are recycled with a new meaning. Some loanwords persist in Icelandic, and many more, the majority Anglicisms, are used in everyday speech.
Though changing in the past years, Icelanders remain a very healthy nation. Children and teenagers participate in various types of leisure activities. Popular sports today are mainly soccer, athletics, handball and basketball. Sports such as tennis, swimming, chess and horseback riding on an Icelandic horse are also popular.
Chess is a popular type of recreation favored by the Icelanders Viking ancestors. The country's chess clubs have created many chess grandmasters including Friðrik Ólafsson, Jóhann Hjartarson, Margeir Pétursson, and Jón Loftur Árnason. Glíma is a form of wrestling that is still played in Iceland, thought to have originated with the Vikings. Golf is common around 1 in 8 Icelanders play the sport.  Handball is often referred to as a national sport, Iceland's team is one of the top ranked teams in the world, and Icelandic women are surprisingly good at soccer compared to the size of the country, the national team ranked the 18th best by FIFA.
Ice climbing and rock climbing are favorites among many Icelanders, for example to climb the top of the 4,167-foot (1,270 metre) Þumall peak in Skaftafell is a challenge for many adventurous climbers, but mountain climbing is considered to be more suitable for the general public and is a very common type of leisure activity. Hvítá, among many other of the Icelandic glacial rivers, attracts kayakers and river rafterers worldwide.
Icelandic music is related to Nordic music forms, and includes vibrant folk and pop traditions, including medieval music group Voces Thules. The only folk band whose recordings are available abroad is Islandica.
The national anthem of Iceland is "Lofsöngur", written by Matthías Jochumsson, with music by Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson.  The song was written in 1874, when Iceland celebrated the one thousandth anniversary of settlement on the island. It was in the form of a hymn, first published under the title A Hymn in Commemoration of Iceland's Thousand Years.
Norse Paganism was the primary religion among the Norsemen who settled Iceland in the 9th century AD. Christianity later came to Iceland around 1000 AD. In the middle of the 16th century, the Danish crown formally declared Lutheranism the state religion under the Icelandic Reformation.  This increasing Christianization culminated in the Pietism period when non-Christian entertainments were discouraged. At present the population is overwhelmingly, if nominally, Lutheran (75.4% in 2017).  Other denominations of Christianity are also practiced such as Catholicism and Mormonism. Other major religions that are practiced include Islam, Judaism, and various and folk religions such as Ásatrúarfélagið. There are also folk beliefs concerning elves that do not rise to the level of religion, but have gained some note.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland is visiting the geothermal spas and pools that can be found all around the country, such as Bláa Lónið (The Blue Lagoon) on the Reykjanes Peninsula near the Keflavík International Airport.
There are no railways in Iceland. The country has an extensive road network, and a ring road follows the coast, making it theoretically possible to traverse the entire island. Sea and air transport are both popular to connect larger population centers.
Mow the roof – One of Iceland’s last turf houses still has a summer resident
In Iceland, an island of active volcanoes and glistening glaciers, lakes and rivers, vast grasslands and dramatic ocean cliffs, many a unique housing tradition has evolved. That’s especially true of the turf house.
Turf is abundant on this island in the North Atlantic. The material provided insulation superior to buildings of wood and stone during the bitterly cold winter. These fairy-tale turf dwellings once dotted the landscape but were almost completely abandoned during the 1960s.
Photo of Iceland by Luke Gram. Photo Credit
They constitute an invaluable architectural heritage, but, sadly, there are not too many turf houses left. The majority belong to the Þjóðminjasafn Íslands, the National Museum of Iceland.
Lindarbakki House, Iceland Photo Credit
While the last year-round inhabitants reportedly moved out of their sod house in 1966, one turf house, in private ownership, is occupied in the summer. It is known as Lindarbakki Turf House. The name of the summer tenant is Elísabet Sveinsdóttir, now in her 80s.
The unusual red dwelling can be found in a small fishing village on the island of Borgarfjörður Eystri on Borgarfjordur Bay, in the east of the island. The house’s oldest parts date back to 1899, although the earth dwelling was entirely renovated just before the end of the 20th century.
Elísabet bought this lovely little house back in 1979, along with her late husband, Skúli Ingvarsson. Upon buying the property, the marketing description read: “Lindarbakki is very old, built out of turf, stones, wood and cement and is in many ways not a fashionable property.”
Still, since 1979, Elísabet has stayed at Lindarbakki every summer, from mid-May until the very end of August.
Elísabet and her husband put tremendous effort into rebuilding Lindarbakki, which is a one-bedroom, 323-square-foot house. It has a cellar and a well underneath the house. Warmth comes from an original oil heater, despite the fact that most heating for housing in Iceland is sourced from geothermal stations.
A shed just behind it, and in the same style as Lindarbakki turf house, adds to the property’s charm. Its contents are old artifacts and equipment that the couple collected throughout the years.
These days, Elísabet takes care of the property with the help of local people. One part of turf-house maintenance is to mow the roof.
Over time, Elísabet’s summer home has become a favorite subject of photographers, not only from Iceland but all over the world. Some visitors might knock on the door and receive a warm welcome from the owner and a tour around the property.
One of them was photographer Luke Gram, who conducted a 12-day road trip across the island country. He has said about Iceland: “It’s truly a surreal, beautiful little spot in the middle of the ocean, and just going there it becomes so evident as to how rare and unique it is.”
Traveling with friends from university, Gram embraced the opportunity to capture some stunning images, and truth be told, his shots of Lindarbakki House are irresistible. More of Luke’s amazing work is available on his website, Facebook or Instagram.
Lindarbakki House, Iceland. Photo Credit
The woodwork encompassing the turf house was added in 1934 it is only the cellar and the well that belong to the original construction in 1899.
However, as My Modern Met nicely sums up about the dwelling, it is still “a shining example of the Icelandic turf house, a traditional dwelling born from the hardship of the environment.”
The Red Mountain Resort
Captured by the mystique and mystery of the Icelandic landscape, where, according to local mythology, ‘invisible people’ and ‘half-men, half-trolls’ are believed to roam, Johannes Torpe Studios has designed a resort for the modern spiritual traveler.
Situated on the Western peninsula of Snæfellsness, at the point where the river mouth runs out to the sea, the resort faces ‘Snæfellsjokull’, a majestic glacier covered stratovolcano. The mountain is home to the Icelandic saga about Barður Snæfellsás, who is said to have left the chaotic world of men behind to live in solitude.
The resort is designed to invite guests on a journey of self-discovery, just like that of Bárður Snæfellsás. The journey is facilitated by an architectural concept that explores the interplay between nature and architecture, and their combined capacity to provide the necessary triggers for an inward journey.
Exposure to nature
The architecture is hence designed so as to expose the guest to nature in various ways. Numerous panoramic views remind guests of nature’s presence her power and her fragility, her hostility and her warmth. Sky courtyards enclosed by glass panels invite the rocky landscape inside, while the lagoon literally flows through the reception, blurring the line between outside and inside.
Some could even be mistaken for Neolithic pagan shrines were if not for the prominent crosses
Many modernist churches in Iceland are futuristic odes to this original architectural model. For example, the churches that celebrated Icelandic architect Ragnar Emilsson designed — Mosfellskirkja, Stóra Dalskirkja,and Kópavogskirkja — are all revisitations of the signature triangular structure of the turf house.
Seltjarnarneskirkja, designed by Harðar Björnssonar and consecrated in 1989, follows a similar style, with the addition of multi-layered triangular rooftops.
The angular Mosfellskirkja, also known as Mosfells church, is a contemporary gem (Credit: Alamy)
But the undisputed leader of the Icelandic architectural revolution was Guðjón Samuelsson who was commissioned to design new buildings in Reykjavik after a devastating fire in 1915 destroyed the majority of the Norwegian timber houses. Samuelsson wanted to contribute visually to the revival of the independent Icelandic Commonwealth, a movement that poetically was on the cusp of realisation at the time of the fire. When Denmark granted Iceland sovereignty in 1918, Samuelsson’s unique vision was ready quite literally to rise from the ashes of foreign rule.
The stunning Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik is an important landmark, with its distinctive 75m-high spire (Credit: Alamy)
Samuelsson drew inspiration from early European Modernism and Iceland’s breathtaking landscape. Not only did his buildings take on the shape of Icelandic natural monuments, but often were infused with local types of rock like obsidian, quartz and Icelandic spar.
Iceland’s largest building, Hallgrimskirkja, is a church designed by Samuelsson and is a testament to his style. Commissioned in 1937 and consecrated in 1986, Hallgrimskirja’s imposing shape was designed to resemble Icelandic trap rocks, mountains, and glaciers.
Many Icelandic churches follow Samuelsson’s naturalistic approach to Modernism. For example, Stykkishólmskirkja, designed by Jon Haraldsson and consecrated in 1990, consists of dramatic curved white slopes and jagged edges reminiscent of a glacier. In the winter months, when the surrounding landscape is covered in snow, Stykkishólmskirkja appears to grow seamlessly from the frozen ground.
The imposing interior of the concrete Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran church, designed by architect Guðjón Samuelsson (Credit: Alamy)
In profile, the jagged rooftop and skeletal spire of Hákon Hertervig’s Ólafsvíkurkirkja, look like the mountains that loom on the Icelandic horizon.
Lindarbakki Turf House in Borgarfjörður-Eystri in East-Iceland
A cute little red-painted turf house catches one's eye in Bakkagerði village in Borgarfjörður-Eystri in East-Iceland. As you might know from my previous travel-blogs then I have written about almost all of the remaining turf houses and turf churches in Iceland.
These turf houses are of great interest to me and I seek these old houses out on my travels in Iceland.
Lindarbakki Turf House in Borgarfjörður-Eystri
The turf houses are our architectural heritage, but unfortunately, there are only a few of them left, most of which belong to Þjóðminjasafn Íslands - the National Museum of Iceland.
The majority of Icelanders used to live in turf houses in the olden days and the last inhabitants moved out of the turf houses around 1966.
But there is still one turf house, which is inhabited in the summertime and that is Lindarbakki turf house, a privately owned turf house. It is one of only a handful of turf houses in Iceland that is still inhabited.
Lindarbakki Turf House in Borgarfjörður-Eystri
The lady who lives in this cute little turf house lives there only in the summertime, from mid-May until the end of August, so Lindarbakki is a summer house, as it were.
Her name is Elísabet Sveinsdóttir (85), called Stella, and she lives in Kópavogur town in the wintertime, but Kópavogur is part of the Great-Reykjavík area where I live.
Elísabet has stayed at Lindarbakki turf house every summer since 1979.
I had read in the newspaper before leaving on our trip from Reykjavík to East-Iceland, that Stella welcomes visitors. So we knocked on her door and she showed us around inside her lovely house.
I was too shy to ask her if I could take photos of inside her home, so I have only photos from the outside to show you.
The oldest part of the turf house dates back to 1899, but the woodwork is mainly from 1934. The cellar and the well are original.
Elísabet and her late husband, Skúli Ingvarsson, bought this lovely little turf house in 1979. When they bought the house the deed said: "Lindarbakki is very old, built out of turf, stones, wood, and cement and is in many ways, not a fashionable property" :)
Elísabet and Skúli put a lot of work into rebuilding the turf house, which is a one-bedroom 30 sq.m. house, with a cellar and a well underneath the house. They added a shed behind the turf house in the same style as Lindarbakki turf house, a lovely red painted turf outhouse, containing old artifacts and equipment, which the couple collected through the years.
By Lindarbakki turf house in strong wind
Lindarbakki is heated by an original old oil-heater, but nowadays the houses in Iceland are heated by geothermal water. Elísabet maintains the turf house with help from local people. One part of the maintenance is to mow the roof!
This cute little picturesque turf house is one of the landmarks of Bakkagerði village and it is a popular photo motive for tourists and Icelanders alike visiting Borgarfjörður-Eystri.
Elísabet and my husband at Lindarbakki
I have written another travel-blog about Borgarfjörður-Eystri as in the cute little village of Bakkagerði you will also find a myriad of puffins from April until mid-August, which is their breeding season. And here you will also find the residence of the Queen of the Elves of East-Iceland:
To visit this area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and include Borgarfjörður-Eystri on your ring-road tour.
The historic ensemble of Orchha
The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.
The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.
Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party
Orchha is a historical town in the Niwari dist ri ct of Madhya Pradesh, India with a total population of around 12,000 inhabitants. The town encompasses a very dense collection of the historical buildings, gardens an d traditional housings. It was the seat of an eponymous former princely state of central India, in the Bundelkhand region. The historical settlement derived its name from the phr as e ‘Ondo chhe’ meaning ‘low’ or ‘hidden’. The site was indeed bowl-like, buffered by bluffs an d forests, lying on the Betwa River.
Orchha was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela chief Rudra Pratap Singh, who became the first King of Orchha. The son of Rudra Pratap Singh, Bharti Chand (r.1531-1554), shifted the capital from Garh Kundar to Orchha, because the site was a better place to fortify against the growing Mughal pressure. After almost a decade of mayhem, Bir Singh Deo (r.1605-1627) became the king of Orchha who was perhaps the greatest of the Bundela Kings of Orchha. Bir Singh Deo became closely affiliated with the Mughal heir prince Salim. On suggestion of the la tt er, he ambushed and murdered Akbar's closest counsellor Abu' Fazal in 1602. Although Akbar's army invaded Orchha the same ye ar , an d Bir Singh Deo had to flee, his vicious act was rewarded three years later, with the as cension of P ri nce Salim to the Mughal throne as Jehangir. Jehangir installed Bir Singh Deo as king of Orchha. Bir Singh Deo was a great builder, not only in Orchha, but he also constructed the Forts of Datia and Jhansi, an d temples in Mathura an d Varanasi which spread the Bundeli architectural styles to the various pa rt s of North India. Later Hamir Singh, who ruled from 1848 to 1874, was elevated to the rank of Maharaja in 1865. Maharaja Pratap Singh (born 1854, died 1930), who succeeded to the throne in 1874, devoted himself entirely to the development of his state, himself designing most of the engineering and irrigation works that were executed during his reign in Orchha.
Even though the seat of power changed frequently in Orchha, the city flourished and grew under the leadership of Bundeli kings an d became the inception point for a new style of architecture known as the Bundeli ar chitectural style.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
As the capital of the Bundela dynasty from 1531-1783 CE, Orchha's monuments, gardens, temples, and murals as an ensemble, represent remarkable evolution in town pl an ning, fortification of settlement, in buildings, garden design and art. The cultural landscape fostered various traditions of myths, ballads, literary and folk arts.
Criterion (ii): Orchha thrived to be an example and epitome of the Bundela dynasty to showcase their unique architectural style. The local geography aided to the incorporation of the various pragmatic planning principles in the historical town while the individual elements of architecture and gardens in various buildings and houses, borrowed from the several Rajput and Mughal traditions, gave a harmonious visual language to the settlement. In Orchha, the blending of the existing Raj put culture with the invading Mughal culture carne to an exquisite apogee.
The fortification, town planning, the garden design in Orchha evolved into a unique new form with amalgamation of Mughal style of gardens (cf. char bagh), Rajput Fort gardens, Hindu sacred groves and evolved hydrology systems. These gardens were strategically located around area of dense activities to provide relief to the urban fabric and to enhance the views from the high stories of palaces and temples. Thus, Orchha houses a unique ensemble of monuments and sites to understand the organization of the 16th-18th century society in India.
Criterion (iv): Palatine and temple designs of the Bundelas were stylistic innovations in medieval Rajput architecture. Based upon archetypal mandala forms with elements from Sultanate and Mughal architecture, they are unique aesthetic statements. The three palaces, Rani Mahal (now Ram Raja Temple), Raja Mahal, and Jahangir Mahal have a mandala plan, i.e. square subdivided into smaller squares and rectangles with open space in the center leading to highly evolved composition and massing and play of solids and voids. These open courtyards alternating with pavilions at higher stories such that interior open spaces form an inverted pyramid structure, mark the achievement of the Bundeli architectural style, which influenced the later architecture of the whole of Bundelkhand.
In this style the proportions are not only very different from the architecture elsewhere in the region but also imbibes various elements of both Mughal and Rajput architecture. This amalgamation of various styles can be seen in both tangible and intangible practices resulting in the structures like those of cenotaphs of Bundeli rulers, town morphology and rituals which together outline the Outstanding Universal Value of the historic ensemble of Orchha.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Orchha is a living cultural site where the new development has not been too much against the character of the historical township. The cultural landscape survives as a discernible palimpsest, its historic layers still overpowering the new development. Orchha has retained the geomorphological character with evident historical connections between the settlement, the river Betwa and the forest around it. The ensemble of the monuments, gardens and temples have been maintained over years owing to their constant use and maintenance efforts by the community in many cases and the Bundeli architectural style till date, remains the architectural language of the whole settlement.
Comparison with other similar properties
Orchha, though different chronologically, can be compared to Champaner and Hampi in India and at international level to the City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto in Italy and Angkor in Cambodia. The architecture and settlement planning of Orchha has had a heavy influence from both Rajput an d Mughal style. As a smaller kingdom within the center of India Orchha survived often on excellent diplomatic relations with the then neighboring kingdoms or states. This allowed a vast exchange of information an d technology for building design, urban pl an ning principles, cultural an d agricultural practices.
At inte rn ational level, Angkor in Cambodia, which is a world heritage site, can be a parallel since both the sites contains several temples, some of which are still functional, hydraulic structures, landscapes as well as the pl an ning principles as a strong response to the geographical context. The sites ar e very different in scale yet in both the sites, architecture forms a harmonious whole, due to the coherent use of local materials an d vernacular techniques leading to a unique architectural style. Both Angkor an d Orchha are major sites exemplifying cultural, religious an d symbolic values, as well as containing high architectural, archaeological an d artistic significance where the population still practice agriculture as their main occupation.
Similarly, in Europe, the City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto in Italy exhibit the unique architectural style developed over time while having its roots in the rom an architecture. The Palladian s ty le promoted through the various urban buildings in the same time period as was the Bundeli ar chitecture in Orchha, made great impact on the regional architectural style an d spread to England an d other European countries. The parallel can be drawn for Orchha where the Bundeli style also though rooted in the Rajput style evolved into something unique which influenced the architecture an d garden design principles for the vast region of Bundelkhand in India.
In India, the group of monuments in Hampi and the Champaner-Pavgadh archaeological park have remarkable parallels to the historic ensemble of Orchha in terms of the concentration of temples, monuments, landscape features. Both Hampi an d Champaner also showcase the development of a unique architectural style developed from the amalgamation of various styles, like in Orchha where the architectural style took inspiration from other various sources, paving way to development of a unique an d eclectic style which is can be only referred to as Bundeli architectural style. Orchha however distinguishes itself by remaining the living site where the town flourished due to its strategic defensive location, its huge religious impo rtan ce an d valor an d exemplary diplomacy of the BundeIi ruler of Orchha in the given geopolitical environment.
Red Mountain Resort
Captured by the mystique and mystery of the Icelandic landscape, where, according to local mythology, &lsquoinvisible people&rsquo and &lsquohalf-men, half-trolls&rsquo are believed to roam, Johannes Torpe Studios has designed a resort for the modern spiritual traveler. The Red Mountain Resort is a spa and wellness retreat that offers guests a sensory escape into the void of the breath-taking Icelandic nature and simultaneously invite them to embark on a journey of self-discovery.
The resort consists of a 150-room hotel, 20 distinct bungalows, a center for creative industries including housing and an installation space for artists-in-residence, a spa and wellness center and a 1000m2 lagoon.
Situated on the Western peninsula of Snæfellsness, at the point where the river mouth runs out to the sea, the resort faces &lsquoSnæfellsjokull&rsquo, a majestic glacier covered stratovolcano. The mountain is home to the Icelandic saga about Barður Snæfellsás, who is said to have left the chaotic world of men behind to live in solitude.
The resort is designed to invite guests on a journey of self-discovery, just like that of Bárður Snæfellsás. The journey is facilitated by an architectural concept that explores the interplay between nature and architecture, and their combined capacity to provide the necessary triggers for an inward journey.
Exposure to nature
The architecture is hence designed so as to expose the guest to nature in various ways. Numerous panoramic views remind guests of nature&rsquos presence her power and her fragility, her hostility and her warmth. Sky courtyards enclosed by glass panels invite the rocky landscape inside, while the lagoon literally flows through the reception, blurring the line between outside and inside.
The spa experience
The spa is the heart of the resort and the centre of the transformational journey found in the saga of Barðar Snæfellsás. Key emotional states experienced by him on his journey towards a new-found purpose in life are instilled into the space through various expressions of nature. The spa takes the guests through five emotional states: Contemplation, exposure, confrontation, clarity and enlightenment. The element of steam is a motif in the spa that symbolises the fog that arises in the saga every time Barðar experiences an emotional change. Other natural elements are further captured to create wind tunnels, fire baths and ice pools that represent the unpredictable extremes of Icelandic weather.
The resort&rsquos outdoor lagoon is designed to look and feel like a natural extension to the nearby river. It is outlined with shallow passages, areas with currents, and still water pools. The further one moves through the lagoon the more one is rewarded with solitude and the opportunity to become totally immersed in nature.
Traditional construction techniques turned inside-out
We explored the tradition of Icelandic turf houses built by the first Norwegian settlers, experimenting with ways of creating a modern interpretation. The emerging idea was to turn the construction inside-out. Turf houses are wooden structures insulated by a thick wall of turf - in other words, a light structure with a very heavy base.
We inverted this structure by creating a heavy concrete structure enclosed by a light base of glass. As a natural extension, the relationship between positive and negative space has been explored, and throughout the building there is a clear contrast between light-weight and more heavy building volumes.
Concrete is chosen as the primary material and is treated with a red pigment that mimics the hue of the surrounding landscape. The concrete is applied to create layers of contrasting rough and smooth textures and form patterns inspired by those found in the layers of the turf houses.
Selected parts of the rooftops are covered with grass like the traditional building techniques of the area. This both intensifies the notion of a building that is closely related to the history of the site, and adds to the sense of a hidden destination that discreetly rises from the landscape.
Drawing from the rich heritage of Icelandic Folktales, a sense of surrealism and the concept of imaginary realms is additionally infused into the space. The use of reflecting glass on the building&rsquos exterior creates a mirror effect, evoking the illusion of a building that disappears into the landscape. Portals and tunnels are additionally dispersed throughout the building to enhance this otherworldly and magical atmosphere.