On the way to Akureyri I stopped at two examples of traditional turf construction near Varmilhíð. This included buildings of two scales, a small church (Viðimýrarkirkja) and a farmhouse (Glaumbær). The histories of these buildings are dynamic, in two different ways. There was a church as this particular location since the 12th century but it was rebuilt over time as needs changed (the current building dates from the 18th century) . At Glaumbaer, spaces were added as needed (Glaumbaer grew throughout the 18th and 19th century).
The wood elements of the church are original, and the turf is replaced every 15-20 years. On the top roof there is about 18” of turf, and over 6′ of thickness at the sides.
I spoke to the guide and caretaker at the church, and he told me that he sprays it with water each morning as part of the upkeep. Does this century old roof ever leak? “No, we’ve never had a problem.”
Another striking spatial aspect of the church is the relation to the immense landscape created by the fence around the churchyard. Somehow, the simple act of a fence creates a human scaled landscape in an almost scaleless space.