The basics of construction were taught as incidental in the wider aims of learning about turf-building through building with turf. Questions were answered through instruction, so the builder was learning whilst doing. This is a practical approach which suited our group of enthusiastic and driven individuals. With an abundance of written and specific information available about the methods of turf building, it was more accessible to simply give it a go without being too precious about the exactitudes required in other construction methods.
Day 1 of turf building at Tyrfingsstaðir with Helgi Sigurðsson of Fornverk ehf: Our brief for the week
was to help with construction of “The Smokehouse”, a small rectangular building made of simple
round pole timbers and to be used for meat smoking in the future. This was part of a complex of turf
buildings belonging to the family who still worked the land, the matriarch Kristin having been born in
the main turf house before moving into the modern house now standing close by. The turf buildings
have since become a place for tourists to visit and for students of turf such as ourselves to practice
The training courses that do exist and are developing will probably suffice to educate enough
people to retain political will and technical understanding to continue this for future generations.
I hope that turf building techniques can be encouraged and somehow integrated with modern building
techniques to grow the cultural identity and the important historic link that turf has to the Iceland
people. I suspect that it is only through a modern reinvention that turf will in anyway become anything
more than a museum piece which will sadly loose relevance in time and its importance in the
landscape will be lost.
“Achieving a sustainable balance between the promotion of heritage tourism and the conservation of the very artefacts one seeks to increase access to is a universal dichotomy, and my observations during the week have been most thought provoking. “ Neil Buchan
Cultural Heritage Interpretation and Sustainable Tourism