Iceland? On the website about Ireland? No, it’s not a typo.
In certain ways these two islands are quite similar. Iceland seems to be in certain aspects an extreme version of Ireland. It’s a remote island at the edge of Europe, scarcely populated (with majority of the population based in the capital city) and rather windy and rainy for most of the time. Both countries appeared on the maps as independent states around the same time. Iceland became independent state in 1918, and became republic in 1944. Icelandic economy at the beginning of 20th century was far cry from the wealthy state it is now.
With these facts in mind Iceland can be used as a good case study to compare the modernist architecture development on both islands.
Surprisingly, for such a remote and small community, modern architecture was introduced almost without any opposition, and young architects educated in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries were heavily influenced by the functional nordic approach.
Some of the buildings from Reykjavik dating roughly 1920-1947 (my highly subjective dates for the heroic period of the modernism) are presented below.
- National Museum of Iceland. 1944-1950. Architect: Sigurður Guðmundsson, Eiríkur Einarsson. Functionalist concrete building erected as a gift of Icelandic people to the nation to celebrate creation of the republic.
2. Einar Jónsson Museum. 1916-1924. Architect: Einar Jónsson, Einar Erlendsson. Iceland’s first museum. Designed by the sculptor himself as a gift to Iceland to display publicly his works. Top storey contained penthouse apartment. ‘Column’ at the back of the building contains spiral staircase. The style of the building can be only described as eclectic, as the the term ‘postmodernism’ will have to wait until modernism gets invented.
3. Reykjavik Art Museum. 1933-39. Architect: Sigurður Guðmundsson, in collaboration with harbour master Þórarinn Kristjánsson. Originally built as a fishery office and a warehouse. Rebuilt in 2000 to house the museum.
4. University of Iceland. 1936-40. Architect: Guðjón Samúelsson. Concrete building with Icelandic quartz cladding.
5. Melar School. 1944-46. Architect: Einar Svensson, Ágúst Pálsson. Due to architect’s education in Germany – the design was highly influenced by German funcitionalism. At the time of erection this was Reykjavik’s most splendid building used also for public events.
6. Nes Lutheran Church. 1944-57 Architect: Ágúst Pálsson. First non-traditional church in Iceland. Sparked some controversy at the time of construction.
7. Reykjavik Swimming Pool. 1929-37 Architect: Guðjón Samúelsson. First swimming pool building in Iceland. Reinforced concrete structure.
8. Agricultral Bank of Iceland. 1946-48. Architect: Gunnlaugur Halldórsson. Clear example of new ‘International Style’ with open plan public space, clean architectural lines and structure based on concrete columns.
Map below shows the locations of the buildings around Reykjavik. Red circles denote public buildings, green ones – residential.
Residential modernist buildings in Iceland will be covered by separate blog entry.