An Iceland Turf Tribute to Pink Floyd

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Brian Wilson: Traditional Craft Maestro



We don’t need no new construction,

We don’t need cement at all.

No concrete mortars in our buildings,

We don’t need no bricks at all.


Hey! Helgi! Leave them spades alone!

All in all it’s just, another Turf in the wall.

All in all you’re just, another turf in the wall.


We don’t need no stainless fixings,

We don’t need no steel at all,

No pressure-treated graded timber,

We ain’t got no trees at all!


Hey! Helgi! Leave them saws alone!

All in all it’s just, another Turf in the wall.

All in all you’re just, another turf in the wall.


We don’t need no Health & Safety,

We don’t need hard hats at all,

No spirit levels, no tape measures,

These buildings ain’t got far to fall!


Hey! Helgi! Leave them plans alone!

All in all its just, another Turf in the wall.

All in all you’re just, another turf in the wall.


We don’t need no Regulations,

We don’t need no plans at all,

Just split the Reisifjol, lay the Klambra,

Strengur turfs to bind it all.


Hey! Helgi! Leave them cakes alone!

All in all its just, another turf in the wall.

All in all you’re just another turf in the wall.


(With huge apologies to Roger Waters!)

Brian Wilson 2022


Name: Brian Wilson

Organisation: Wildland Services, EBUKI (Earth Building UK and Ireland)
Dates: 22-29th May 2022
Location: ICELAND (Reykjavik and Skagafjordur)
Funding Agency: Erasmus+
Project Promoters: ARCH
Hosting Agency/Partner: Byggasafn Skagfirdinga
Host/Tour Organiser: Bryndis Zoega
Summary of Itinerary: 
The main focus of this study tour was on the Vernacular Architecture of Iceland, including its Heritage and Management, with particular reference to the Icelandic Turfhouse.
Visits to cultural and buildings heritage sites and museums allowed first hand experience of several of these remarkable and unique buildings, and provided a backdrop to lectures, demonstrations and ongoing discussions on the conservation of turf buildings, turf as a building material, the tools and skills related to the use of turf, and the craft of turf building.
Sites visited included Skagafjordur Heritage Museum, Glaumber Turf Farm, Turf church at Vidimyri, National Museum Buildings Collection at Skagafjordur, Holar Cathedral, Nyibaer Turf Farm, Grafakirkja (church), and the excellent Settlement Exhibition, Reykjavik
A 3-day practical course in turf building was also held – by the Heritage Craft School (Fornverkaskolinn) and instructor Helgi Sigurdsson – during which all participants were able to handle traditional tools, cut various sizes and shapes of building turf and to assemble parts of a traditional building on site. (Upper section of wall, driftwood carpentry on roof structure, turf roof covering of a typical hay storage barn)
Fornverkaskolinn is a partnership between the Carpentry Dept of NW Iceland College, Skagafjordur Heritage Museum, and the Tourism Dept at Holar University College
This study tour has given me a very comprehensive overvue of turf building in Iceland, both historical and contemporary, and both theoretical and practical. Turf buildings have survived longer in Iceland, particularly in areas where stone and timber were either unavailable, poor quality, or were in short supply. The north of the country (perhaps because of a dryer, colder climate) retains some particularly fine representative vernacular buildings. They are an outstanding example of good use of local resources, minimal impact, sustainable building practices, and of appropriate technology. The techniques in heritage craft turf building have evolved over centuries in response to the need to build strong, warm, durable structures in areas with minimal timber, poor quality stone, no mortar, harsh climate, and seismic activity.
Icelands heritage of turf buildings is  in danger of being lost, or at least of falling into increasing disrepair, if some major challenges are not recognised and addressed. These include funding, climate change, and loss of skills/knowledge. Pressure of increased tourist visiting may also become a threat to these buildings.
Professional and Personal Intentions: 
I have a professional interest in sustainable building using natural materials. In Scotland this means mostly stone, timber and thatch, but I have also built with turf, although the Scottish highland turf building traditions have been largely lost in recent centuries. some of my work includes archaeological restoration and reconstruction (brochs, crannogs, roundhouses, Creelhouses) and I am very interested in the overlap in the Scottish and Icelandic building heritage and traditions. I intend to try to incorporate what I have learned of the Icelandic ways into my own building practices, demonstrations and training courses.
This course was everything that I had hoped and expected it to be – and much more. The study group was a well chosen mix of varied professionals who were able to combine their skills, opinions and curiosities for mutual benefit. And the hosts and instructors were hospitable, friendly, knowledgeable and well organised. The tour also worked well socially, with visits to cultural sites, eateries, hot pools and scenic stops some of the highlights of the week. I hope to find a way to return to Iceland to follow up some of the themes of this tour, and to explore much more, as soon as possible, perhaps as soon as next year.
I would like to conclude with a big thank you to everyone who has been involved in the organising, funding, planning and implementation of this excellent program, and I hope it will be able to continue, in some form, for years to come.
Brian Wilson,
Wildland Services,


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