Contractors tore down a protected building at Skólavörðurstígur 36 yesterday, Morgunblaðið reports. The city’s building inspector Nikulás Úlfar Másson told the paper that the owners only had permission to add a story to the building, not to demolish it. The former home appliance store was built in 1922, and all construction, demolition or transportation of houses built before 1925 require a review from the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland.
The building in question used to stand on Skólavörðurstígur, the street leading up to the landmark Hallgrímskirkja Church in the city centre, and for 47 years, it was home to the Þorsteinn Bergmann home appliance store, which closed down in 2017. The building was not only protected due to its age but according to the Reykjavík City Museum, it has cultural value for the area’s overall appearance and as part of the 1920’s street scene.
The city’s building inspector had granted permission for a story to be added to the building, not demolition. The building owner told the paper that he had all the necessary permits and had intended to add the permissible story to the building. When construction began he discovered that the building’s structural frame wouldn’t support it, due to large windows being added to the front of the building in 1968 when it was converted from an apartment to a storefront, weakening the structural frame. That’s why he had the house torn down, but he intended to rebuild it in its original form. The building owner claimed full cooperation with the city’s regulatory body, but the city’s building inspector rejects that claim. For now, the city’s building inspector has halted construction and will meet with lawyers to determine the next steps and reaction to the building’s demolition. Nikulás told RÚV that the matter is being taken seriously and is reminiscent of when the Exeter building on Tryggvagata 12 was torn down in 2016. He is surprised by the way this was done as he thought lessons had been learned from the Exeter demolition.
The building was advertised for sale in the spring of 2019. The advertisement suggests that it is in dire need of renovation. The 150 m2 (1,614 sq.f.) building contained both a storefront as well as an apartment. A suggested city planning amendment would allow for a considerable expansion of the store area on the 216 m2 (2,325 sq.f.) plot, the construction of a roof deck on the second floor and office space or apartments on the top floors.