Vanishing Turf Houses in Iceland Skip to content

Vanishing Turf Houses in Iceland

Turf houses were the homes of half of Iceland’s population just 100 years ago. Fifty years later, in 1960, almost no one still lived in the traditional houses. The houses disappeared unbelievably fast, says Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson, professor at the University of Iceland.

turffarm-holar_goPhoto: Geir Ólafsson/Iceland Review.

At the end of the 1800’s, people started to think of the turf house as a shack not suitable for living in and a symbol of Danish oppression through the centuries. Their rapid disappearance was in part a result of the Icelandic government’s housing policy, ruv.is reports.

Today, however, turf houses are considered part of the cultural heritage of mankind. Over the last 20 years, people have started to see turf houses differently. “Today they are considered the cultural heritage of mankind, not just of Icelanders,” Sigurjón says.

There is a worldwide growing interest in traditional architecture, ruv.is reports. Sigurjón says that Icelanders should reflect on the fact that all but a few turf houses were destroyed. “In Iceland, we succeeded, without fuss or difficulty, to destroy the turf houses. No one complained, and still not today. […] I think it is important that we look at what we really did,” he said.

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