Temporary Exhibitions

In the eleventh hour

  • 17.9.2022 - 26.2.2023 The Photo Gallery - National Museum of Iceland

In the 1970s, only a few of Iceland’s turf houses were still inhabited. Having served as the primary form of housing for more than a thousand years, the Icelandic turf farm had now played out its role, and with no comprehensive preservation plan in sight, the remaining farms faced extinction.

It was an Icelandic architecture student in Copenhagen who initially spurred the Danish architecture schools to set out and document a representative selection of the Icelandic turf farms before it was too late. Working closely with the National Museum of Iceland and other parties to identify important subjects for their surveys, the two schools organized recurring study trips to Iceland throughout the seventies. Summer after summer, students and teachers traveled around the country to measure and draw the unique Icelandic turf architecture as well as other buildings in danger of disappearing. Their parallel promotion of their efforts drew attention to the importance and urgency of preserving Iceland’s built heritage, and the research expeditions became an important eye-opener.

Offering a glimpse into life as a “measurer” in 1970s Iceland, the exhibition aims to give an insight into the expeditions and the invaluable source material that was derived from them. While Iceland’s neglected 19th century timber houses were measured as an integral part of their preservation and later restoration, most of the turf houses perished or fell into ruin. In many cases, the architecture schools’ documentation is the only existing source in relation to these buildings.

The original material now belongs to the National Museum of Iceland due to the initiative and generous donation of the architect Poul Nedergaard Jensen in 2017 and other donors. This collection has formed the basis of the two-year research project, I den 11. time by Kirsten Simonsen, which will be published by the museum in connection with the exhibition.

Photo: Poul Nedergaard Jensen, Guðlaugsstaðir í Blöndudal, 1978