AĐALVÍK (IS) - Young Italian architect Paolo Gianfrancesco has designed an appropriately austere refuge in the raw Icelandic fjord landscape.
In a few months' time, an inconspicuous Barn House will arise on the shore of one of Iceland's most remote north-western fjords. It will replace the ruins of an old barn dating from the 1950s. The new barn, which will be used as a summerhouse, will be so unobtrusive as to be scarcely visible from a distance. At least, that is the architect's intention.
The at first glance primitive, archetypical form turns out to be a well-thought-through object. Architect Paolo Gianfrancesco designed the house as a prototype, drawing his inspiration from the raw, silent setting, which seemed to him to call for a light frame and a simple form. At this latitude (66°22' N - 23°00' W) the sun angle is very low and cladding the structure with a grid of narrow, light grey wooden slats gives the long shadows free play.
The character of the house is also determined by a specific limitation; the remote location is only accessible by sea, during the brief Arctic summer. Thanks to a sophisticated shutter system, during the time when the house is empty (the greater part of the year), it can be transformed into an imperforate wooden box with a minimal footprint.
There are no superfluous details to detract from house's monolithic form, which is based on the Icelandic vernacular barn typology. The uniform timber slat construction is wrapped like a 'skin' around the entire structure. Even the corrugated aluminium roof is concealed beneath the timber shell, which is extended at the front to create a sheltered entrance and balcony. During the untenanted months these can be completely closed off, as can the cantilever windows on the side elevations. When designing the house, the architect sought to optimize the size and weight of the component parts, which will be prefabricated in Reykjavik, in order to reduce the on-site construction time. After the prototype has been tested by a carpentry school this winter, the Barn House will finally be assembled at Aðalvík. Conveyed there by fishing boat, then manhandled up to the site and assembled without recourse to mechanical tools, this is a building completely in tune with its challenging setting.
July | 2009 | Iceland | Hannah Schubert