Iceland is well known to travelers for its many splendors. From its glaciers and lava fields, to its geothermal spas and northern lights, Iceland will not disappoint.
But few tourist brochures mention Iceland’s fascinating architecture.
It’s thrilling to encounter common materials used in unexpected ways. Such is the case with Icelandic architecture. Many of the homes, churches, and commercial buildings employ the whimsical Swiss chalet style, with a twist …
They are clad in corrugated metal – the siding and the roof! Many are painted in bright colors; others are left in their natural state, adding that gritty urban vibe.
From impressive mansions …
… and businesses …
… to rustic cottages …
… and churches, affectionately known as “tin tabernacles.”
As a kid growing up in the USA, I thought corrugated metal was strictly utilitarian. Any trip to the countryside guaranteed sightings of metal chicken coops and grain silos, their wavy ridges glimmering in the sunlight.
Who could have predicted the ruffled iron would reach its current level of architectural notoriety. Who knew corrugated metal could be so cool!
So What’s the Story?
Converts have been singing the praises of corrugated metal for years. Thanks to its high strength-to-weight ratio, it is lightweight, durable, economical, fire-resistant, moisture-resistant, and a good choice for areas that have termite infestations (probably not a problem in Iceland). Invented in the 1800s, it continues to stand the test of time.
The use of corrugated metal in Iceland came about as a response to natural disasters (volcanos, floods, and earthquakes), scarce wood supply (decimated by the Vikings), and catastrophic fires that ravaged the cities.
“Ships travelling north from Britain to buy sheep would carry cargoes of corrugated iron to sell in Reykjavik, where it quickly became clear that the material was well suited to the isolated volcanic island with limited local construction materials.” —Lloyd Alter, Managing Editor of Treehugger
And although there’s a thoroughly scientific explanation for the wavy look of corrugated metal, others among us might believe it was inspired by Iceland’s “columnar jointing.”
Corrugated metal may have started its life as a utilitarian building material, but it’s gone from practical to spectacular, functional to fantastic, ho-hum to Wow! The result is surprisingly fresh and appealing.
Enjoy the “Waves,”
2. WorldIslandInfo.com via Wikimedia Commons
4,5. Christian Bickel via Wikimedia Commons
10. Ouicoude via Wikimedia Commons
14. I, Eysteinn Guðni Guðnason via Wikimedia Commons
15. Johann Dréo via Wikimedia Commons