Project Overview

Iceland is a unique island nation where culture, energy usage, and design of the built environment are intrinsically shaped by the qualities of the pre-existing natural context.

Located just below the arctic circle, Iceland has approximately 1% cultivated land, 1% forested area, and extreme variation in day length. Icelanders face the threat of natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides.  The island nation is 103,000 square kilometers and 600 miles from Norway.Today, Iceland is a highly developed European country.  While the US aims to supply 10%-15% of energy from renewable sources sometime in the future, in Iceland the figure is already 80% due to geothermal and hydroelectric resources. Reykjavik has made concerted efforts to become one of the “greenest” cities.

How did Icelandic people adapt throughout history to such a seemingly inhospitable place? Today, how do they maximize their utility and quality of life while minimizing their negative impact on their natural environment? How do these methods play out, and with what level of success, across the various scales of towns? What challenges face Iceland or lie ahead in the future? The goal of the resultant research is to understand how adaptation and integration strategies in the Icelandic context fit into the larger framework for analysis of future sustainable development.