Very few buildings from the 19th century left in Iceland Skip to content

Very few buildings from the 19th century left in Iceland

Margrét Hallgrímsdóttir, Director of the National Museum of Iceland, has criticized urban planning aimed at demolishing old buildings in downtown Reykjavík and points out that very few houses that were built in the 19th century are left in the capital.

“People will probably regret this when they wake up one day after a few years and realize that an important part of 19th century Reykjavík has disappeared,” Hallgrímsdóttir told Morgunbladid.

Old houses on Laugavegur, Reykjavík’s main shopping street, are scheduled for demolition in the near future. Hallgrímsdóttir said the perspective of housing conservation is not being considered.

“It would be a very serious mistake to continue to tear down old houses, because it is greatly important to protect the image as a whole,” Hallgrímsdóttir stated.

“Demolition should not take place in the oldest part of the city. Reorganization of the city center should be discussed in detail with the entire area in mind,” Hallgrímsdóttir added, pointing out that in most cities in Europe old city centers are being preserved, while in Iceland urban planning seems to be more profit-oriented.

Hallgrímsdóttir is however positive towards a competition for architectures to come up with ideas of how to reconstruct the area around Austurstraeti in central Reykjavík where two buildings from the 19th century burned down in April this year.

Not only in Reykjavík is the old street image at risk of disappearing, in Akureyri an old house on Hafnarstraeti 98, Hotel Akureyri, has been scheduled for demolition. “It is a potential disaster for the preservation of our heritage,” Hallgrímsdóttir said. “I hope actions will be taken to preserve the house. Otherwise a gap will be left in the historical image of the street.”

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