“Íslenski bærinn” or Turf House, is located at Austur-Meðalholt of Flói parish in the south of Iceland, where one of Iceland’s best preserved turf farms can be found. It is an example of the houses built of natural material, a subtle and almost seamless extension of nature itself. The few remaining traditional farmhouses rank with the handful of buildings in Iceland that can be deemed of global value. Ever since the first inhabitant settled in Iceland in the ninth century, and well into the twentieth, turf or sod along with unshaped but carefully selected rocks, has been the predominant building material in Icelandic houses. The Icelandic turf house with its roots in the shared building heritage of Europe from before the settlement, evolved in a special way under unique conditions over many hundreds of years, gradually developing into more complex and mysterious clusters of interrelated houses depending on their intended use. This organic cluster of buildings we refer to as the Old Icelandic farmstead. At the very heart of it, there is the main living room, “baðstofa” – a place where the Icelanders worked, ate and slept, were born and eventually died.
A cultural institution honoring this heritage with an ambitious teaching and exhibition is being established at Austur-Meðalholt under the name Íslenski bærinn/Turf House. Its activities and purpose will be integrated in the following:
I. An exhibition of the old farmhouse at Austur-Meðalholt, where eight buildings form a homogeneous arrangement on the farm site.
II. A permanent exhibition featuring photographs, drawings, models and other visual materials that will produce a comprehensive picture of the evolution of this tradition of building over the centuries. The core of the exhibition will be installed in a newly constructed sustainable museum building.
III. Cultivation of practical skills which would be of use in the maintenance of turf houses and various types of sustainable buildings. The Icelandic Turf Builders Guild will give courses and lectures. Extensive international workshops are also held in co-operation with University of Iceland and The Icelandic Art Academy: aaaa-workshop.hi.is.