Page 1


FROM COFFEE CUP TO PLAN DOCOMOMO 2012 REYKJAVIK 1943 – 1965 FOREIGN INFLUENCES ON PLANNING AND CONSTRUCTION

The authors are Ólafur Mathiesen architect at the office of Gláma Kím Arkitektar Laugavegi 164 ehf and Björn Marteinsson architect and civil engineer at the Innovation Center Iceland. We would like to thank Haraldur Sigurðsson, urban planner at the Reykjavik City Planning Office, for sharing his invaluable insights and unpublished manuscript; 20th Century Town Planning in Iceland. The following articles are a part of Betri Borgarbragur, an ongoing critical research into the Icelandic Planning History, funded by a three year grant from The Technology Development Fund of RANNIS, Icelandic Centre for Research and based, in part, on a draft manuscript by the author; Urban Planning in Reykjavik 1916-1976, origin, theory and practice. The publication of the articles is supported by a grant from Reykjavik City Planning Office. A list of photographs and copyright is in preparation and will accompany images as pr. requirement.

Gláma Kím Arkitektar Laugavegi 164 ehf

105 Reykjavík

530 8100

www.glamakim.is


00 Introduction Primarily the paper will discuss the development and foreign influences on city planning in Reykjavik from 1943 until 1965 1 and building methods and development of prefabrication. The period is divided into two time periods; 1943 - 1957 and 1957-1965. The decade before, 1933-1943 was dominated by a planning vacuum created by the rejection of the 1927 Reykjavik City Plan, an economic recession, the Second World War and the significant presence of the Allied Occupational forces in Iceland.

Image#1. 1936 Reykjavik, Draft for City Extension. City Engineering Office,.

During twenty year period after the war Iceland developed from a home rule state under Danish Crown into a fledgling independence, usurping the control and development of city planning and development of it´s urban areas.The first planning period, 1943-1957, immediately after the war is marked by German and Swedish influences whilst the second by American and Danish Planning practices. It is during the second period that Reykjavik is confronted with the problems of industrialization, large population shifts towards town centers, public or private housing issues become predominant in the political discourse, the use and prioritation of public funds in a burgoening modern society is a matter of dispute, travel distances between home and work grow longer affecting discussions on public transport labour issues, pre-fabrication and standardization becomes a viable method of construction, and the basis for a discussion of a burgeoning industrialized welfare state are established.

Image#2. 1947. Reykjavik. Copyright Árbæjarsafn.

Although not large compared to metropolitan areas abroad, the population growth of Reykjavík from 1

See also: Ólafur Mathiesen, Docomomo, Living and Dying in the Urban Modernity –chptr on Iceland, Cph, 2010 pg.72.

-1-


48.000 to 78.0002 between 1940 and 1970, called for new strategies in city planning and housing initiatives. Private car ownership escallated from 680 to 17.500 automobiles3 during the period calls for a critical evaluation of the transport strategies encouraged and employed. In many instances the planning remedies stemmed from larger societies and were not scaled down to an appropriate level when executed in Reykjavik and adjacent regions 4. As a result, sustainable urban development in modern Reykjavik is hampered, and officials and professionals alike are struggling to find ways of tightening the urban weave and maintaining a cohesive and continous fabric. 01 Context and background During Second World War the Allied Occupational forces took over most of vacant lots in the center of Reykjavík and immediate environs. In total the Occupational forces built 5.200 structures in the city in comparison with the estimated 8.000 existing structures when the first soldiers arrived in 19405 and the 1.900 units built during the war. They controlled approximately 1000 ha of land, whilst the core of Reykjavik (inside Hringbraut) covered only 200 ha 6. The impact on the growth and development of the planning and executing new areas was immense.

Image #3. 1946. Allied Camp at Skólavörðuholt. Sigurhans E. Vignir (VIG loftmyndirA 4-1.jpg)

The declaration of independance in 1945 and the sudden secession from the institutional backbone in Denmark in 1945 and subsequent severence of ties came at a cost. The Icelandic Authorities had to seek new avenues when confronting issues of city planning and resolutions of a longstanding housing backlog in the immediate aftermath of the war. Whilst the city population ballooned from 38.000 in 1940 to 47.000 inhabitants in 1945 7 the State and Town Planning infrastructure was minimal at best and not compatible with the expanding need for planning and execution of new districts. The responsibility for Regional and Town Planning resided with the State Planning Authority, whilst the implementation of Town District Planning was by Reykjavik´s Municipality Engineering Office. The State and City had a long history of territorial squabbling and political irritation wherein the City Council struggled to control their stride in short term planning resolutions, whilst the State Planning Board strived to maintain an overall view and control of the town´s development. In addition professionally trained architects were few. Their methodology was varied and disperse. Most had been trained in Germany and Denmark in the early thirties, others in Norway, Sweden and England. Two or three had been professionally seasoned abroad, and only one had specialized in City Planning.

2

Eggert Þór Bernharðsson, from website http://notendur.hi.is/eggthor/maturErindi.htm. Ólafur Mathiesen, Minnispunktar og yfirlit rannsókna á sögu og stjórn skipulagsmála í Reykjavík 1916-1976, draft, 2011. Ólafur Mathiesen, Docomom, Living and Dying in the Urban Modernity –chptr on Iceland, Cph, 2010 pg.72. 5 Eggert Þór Bernharðsson, Undir bárujárnsboga, Braggalíf í Reykjavík 1940-1970, Reykjavik 2001, bls. 27 6 ibid, pg. 15, 17. 7 ibid 3 4


At the end of the war, when the Allied forces left Reykjavik, the city was littered with army structures, many adversely located for future development of the city fabric. An airstrip had been located in the heartland of the city strangling the expansion to the south and large camps where occupying key center areas. The city population grew substantially during the war whilst the housing stock had not followed suit. At the outbreak of war the housing shortage was already manifest, during the war it became painful and substandard and after the war the problem had reached the level where sanitation and public health issues were hazardous. The barracks, in their various state of disrepair, became the housing of last resort. This confronted the city planners with even a greater problem, that of having to plan and build housing areas before eradicating unhealthy temporary structures and displacing tenants.

Image #4. 1956. Home at Skólavörðuholt. Andrés Kolbeinsson (AKO 003 097 4-2.jpg)

To add to the problem the City Counsel had granted garden alotments (similar to the Dauerpachtgarten in Germany, and more recently Schrebergarten8) where citizens could apply for areas of land for domestic agricultural use. The lots were leased longterm with contingent constraints where the tenancy could be passed on to the next generation. Limits were set on construction and usage. This procedure was in place from the early part of the 20th century until early 1940´s and is partly responsible for stifling the natural and continous growth of the adjacent urban fabric. The problem was compounded as the city infrastructure, schools and services, water supply, heating, sewage and roads, were lacking or at a primitive stage and in dire need of major capital investment. To further exasperate the problem the Government coffers where emptied of currency reserves in only three years, causing the State to set strict financial restraints in place and rationing currency for a.o.t. building materials 9.

Image#5 1959-1961. ÞJV gatnagerð nr 1.jpg .

8 http://www.gartenfreunde-rendsburg.de/vereinshistorie 9 Gíslason, J. Haralz, Tryggvason, Björnsson, Álit hagfræðinganefndar, 24.10-16.11.1946, Reykjavik 1947, pg 9-17.

-3-


Image #6. 1956 – Gunnar Rúnar Ólafsson GRÓ 009 084 1-1.jpg.

At the end of the war Iceland was at a crossroads. The accumilation of significant currency reserves during the war was quickly disposed of by the Government, leaving the coffers empty after only three years. Having severed the ties to Denmark Iceland lacked an avenue for meaningful participatory role with the post-war planning discourse on the mainland in Europe. The choice of a route to economical success were limited, and being lured by the American Marshall Plan10, partly in lieu of an Nato base at Keflavik, the travel companions were preset. It is ardous to sketch a consistent narrative line from the end of the war in 1945, when political ambition in publicly funded social housing was negligent, until 1963 when the Reykjavík City Council officially recognized the immensity of the housing shortage. In the late 1950´s the labour unions were finally heard and state funding for housing initiatives were politically legitimized. The squiggly narrative travels up from the heimstatte in prewar Germany, crossing the strait from Denmark to Sweden during wartime, with odd side trips to England and Norway immediately after the war, a longing interlude in the United States and presumably ending in Danish hands again11. The Scandinavian Welfare State was long in coming to Iceland, in the meantime the American dream took a firm and moulding grip of the naive mindset of a newborn democracy. Ólafur Mathiesen

10 11

http://www.marshallfoundation.org/ Ólafur Mathiesen, Docomomo 2010, Living and Dying in the Urban Modernity, Iceland, pg 72.


02 Building Methods, Prefabrication and Standardization. The variety of local building material in Iceland is very limited. There are no forests to speak of and the geology does not afford any metal industry. Apart from driftwood, lumber for construction has always been imported from abroad. Cementous mortar and stone construction was first used in the years 1753-55 in ViĂ°eyjarstofu, designed by the Danish architect Nicolay Eigtved. The building was partly constructed as an educational effort to familiarize and teach the local populace a different construction method that could replace the traditional turf and stone buildings1. The Icelandic bedrock is young, porous and often cracked and limestone mines are not found in the country. The condition for stone masonry and stone building with cementous mortar was not accessible for the common public. When the production of Possolan cement started in early 19th century, and modern ferrous concrete production began, the first realistic possibilities for a local building material, other than turf and stone, emerged. The first Icelandic building constructed of chalk-cement was erected in 1876 and the first of Portland cement in 1895. From that point on reinforced concrete became the building material of choice. In 1915, after a devastating fire in ReykjavĂ­k, wooden buildings were restricted and reinforced concrete became the most common building material in Iceland. Throughout the 19th century methods for prefabrication of small lightweight cement elements were investigated and implemented, however, traditional poured-in-place concrete was the general rule. The formwork was made of lumber, which is time consuming and due to lumber being imported, building cost was high. During the 20th century the population grew and moved from the country to towns and villages along the coastal lines. The need for economy and speed in housing construction to cope with the shifts and growth in the towns became a priority for engineers, technicians and architects, and the construction trade in general. The education of engineers and advanced technicians was primarily conducted at academies and universities outside og Iceland. In 1974 the first engineers (a few years period during second world war excluded) graduated from the University of Iceland, many engineers and all architects still (in 2012) travel abroad for the last part of their professional degree. Having to seek education at foreign institutions, primarily in Scandinavia, Germany and the United States, resulted in the formation of professional relationships which benefitted the local construction practice. As an example a party of six professionals were sent of on an educational excursion in 1958 where they experienced the use of modular system for interior walls and ceilings, where the exterior walls were then tied onto the supporting structure. In the concluding report the method is said to be of interest but the quantity of housing needed to justify the capital investment of powerful cranes set the technology outside the pragmatics of the Icelandic building industry2.

Image #7. 1958. Self climbing formwork.

The need for new and efficient construction methods was dire, in agricultural areas as well as in the urban areas. In 1948 the first use of self climbing formwork was applied in the construction of silos for storage of moist or wet hay on farms3. The formwork was imported from Sweden and already in 1950 the application of the technique in the


Swedish housing industry became known to the Icelandic professionals. Self climbing formwork for use in housing construction arrived from Sweden in 19564. During that year, and the next two years a few buildings were constructed using this technology, among them a 12 story high apartment building, the tallest building in Iceland at the time5. It was common knowledge from the start, that the technology, on economic grounds, would not suit buildings lower than 3- 4 stories, and preferably in some quantity and of the same type. The market, on the other hand, was consisted predominantly of low rise buildings of various types and the method did not gain hold. During this period the construction trade was mainly small scale developers with limited economic resources. The awareness grew for the need for developers with financial strength and leverage. These would be able to take on large scale construction projects with the technological advantages that would lead to lower building costs6. Building cranes were non-existent on the Icelandic building site during the first half of the 20th century. Thus the modular building units and formwork were dictated, or limited by what could be hand lifted or carried. Around the 2nd World War smaller cranes were common, belt cranes and later, around the mid-sixties cranes on Lorries were a common sight. The first large scale construction cranes appear in 1962. That year there were three cranes in construction use in Reykjavik, two of them on a housing site, a year later the number had grown to seven7. Until then concrete had been hauled up with hoisting frames or transported laterally along vertical rails, in addition to the belt and lorry cranes. The first hydraulic concrete pump of its kind in Europe was imported to Iceland from the USA in 1965 8 succeeding the concrete cranes. The production of small buildings modules started in the mid 1950´s. Subsequently, in early 1960´s, the production of larger units began necessitating the use of larger cranes and machinery to manoeuvre the units. Lorry cranes were used for this purpose, for ease of economy and are still the mainstay on modern building sites for this type of work. During the early part of 1960´s the Icelandic building trade became aware of the practicality of larger formwork modules9 especially formwork braced with steel structures when constructing buildings10, however the sizes of these units were limited. With the advent of the building cranes the possibility to use large and heavy modules became feasible. During 1962, two housing slab-blocks were erected using this technology; large steel braced formwork and a building crane11.

Image #8. 1967. Steel formwork and building cranes in Breiðholt.

In early 1960´s as a part of an agreement between the state and the labour movement, a large scale public housing that would be erected in a new district, Breiðholt. The district would be planned, designed and constructed by a state and city run design/build construction firm, FB. Here the technology finally gained a substantial foothold in the Icelandic construction trade. The agreement called for prefabrication and standardization in order to provide low-income housing to the general public. The construction period was to start in 1966 and finish in 197012. The plans proved too optimistic and the project dragged on until 198013. The first part of the housing district was set


aside for imported single family houses. Subsequently the construction of multifamily housing began in 1967. The formwork was a recent innovation from Denmark and called for large and powerful cranes14. During the early stages of development, it was surmised that the proposed design of the first phase of the housing district (Breiðholt 1) was not practical for prefabrication and mass production and that during the next phase (Breiðholt 3) planning and design would be done in parallel to maximize on the efficiency of the technology. That decision marked the beginning of housing construction on an industrial scale in Iceland15. The construction project run by FB was controversial and dominated the public and political discourse during the whole period it was under way. The concept of publicly funded housing was alien to a conservative construction trade, the prevalence of home ownership had been ingrained into the system, and market forces felt threatened by the possibility of a stabilizing entity on the housing economy. The median housing stock in Iceland is now approximately 30 years, setting the buildings from the heyday of industrial housing construction (1965-1970) well over the mid-range. These projects are already well into the maintenance phase and are now in need of renovation and adaptation if they are to stand up to modern requirements of sustainability, accessibility and maximum usability. That will be the greatest challenge that faces Icelandic building industry over the next decade; to maximize the benefits and value of the already built environment. Björn Marteinsson, Ph.D. architect and civil engineer.

1 2

3 4

5

6

7 8

9

10

11

12

13 14 15

Helge Finsen og Esbjørn Hiort: Steinhúsin gömlu á Íslandi. Kristján Eldjárn þýddi. Reykjavík, Iðunn, 1978. Haraldur Ásgeirsson (1958) „Viðhorf í byggingarmálum“, Tímarit Verkfræðingafélags Íslands, 3. tbl, 43 árgangur, 1958, Fylgirit IV, pg 3942 Marteinn Björnsson (1958) „Um byggingamál á Norðurlöndum“, 1. grein, Tíminn 8. Febrúar 32. Tbl. 1958, pg 7,8 Marteinn Björnsson (1958) „Um byggingamál á Norðurlöndum“, 2. grein, Tíminn 11. Febrúar 34. Tbl. 1958, pg 7,8 Tíminn 9. okt 1948, 223. blað, pg. 7, advertisement. Morgunblaðið 15.ágúst 1956, 184 tbl. pg. 16 „Prentarar byggja stærsta íbúðarhús landsins fyrir 300-400 manns – átta hæða hús sem hægt er að steypa á einum mánuði“ Þjóðviljinn 15.ágúst 1956, 21. árgangur, 183 tbl., pg. 8 „Byggingarsamvinnufélag prentara hefur smíði á stærsta íbúðarhúsi hér – önnur álma hússins verður 8 hæðir, auk kjallara“ Alþýðublaðið 22.júní 1958 XXXIX árg., 137 tbl. pg 1 „Hæsta hús landsins steypt upp í 11 hæðir á þrem vikum- unnið dag og nótt við steypuvinnu“ Hinrik Guðmundsson (1960) „Um daginn og veginn“, erindi flutt í Ríkisútvarpinu 27. Júní 1960, Tímarit Verkfræðingafélags Íslands, 1-2 tbl. 45 árgangur, 1960. Sveinn K. Sveinsson (1963) „Stálmót og byggingakranar“ grein í Tímariti iðnaðarmanna, 36. árg 3 tbl. 1963, pg. 88;90 Tíminn 7. apríl 1965 49 árg. 81.tbl. pg16, frétt án heitis Aðalsteinn Richter (1953) „Fullkomnari vinnubrögð og aukin tækni við íbúðarbyggingar knýjandi nauðsyn-hugleiðingar um byggingamál“ Morgunblaðið, 14.febrúar 1953, 37. tbl. pg. 9 Morgunblaðið 4. nóv 1955, 252 tbl, pg 7. „Ný tegund stálmóta í byggingariðnaðinum ryður sér til rúms – byggingartækni erlendis fleygir fram og er nauðsynlegt að íslenskir húsasmíðameistarar fylgist vel með nýjungunum“ Vísir 2. ágúst 1962, 180 tbl. bls 16, „Tilraun með nýja byggingaraðferð: Steypa íbúðarhús í stálmót“ Þjóðviljinn 10. ágúst 1962, 177 tbl. pg.3 „Kranar og stálmót af nýrri gerð“ Sigurður E. Guðmundsson (1977) Alþýðublaðið 15. janúar 1977, 11 tbl. pg 4. „Verkamannabústaðirnir, verkalýðshreyfingin og húsnæðismálin“ Grein um þróun húsnæðismála á Íslandi sem birtist áður í Vinnunni 2.-3. hefti 1976 Svavar Gestsson (1980) „Árangur sem getur skipt sköpum“, 4. grein, Þjóðviljinn, 15.júní 1980, 134-135 tbl., pg. 6 Alþýðublaðið 26. mars 1967, 48. árg, 189 tbl, pg 1, 7 „Nýjar byggingaaðferðir í Breiðholti“ Vísir 9. janúar 1967 7. tbl. pg 8. „Upphaf stóriðju í byggingariðnaði“ viðtal við Gunnar Torfason verkfræðing og framkvæmdastjóra Framkvæmdanefndar byggingaráætlunar.


03 1943-1957 The decade around and after WWII was marked by large population shifts from country to town, growing housing demands, government financial constraints , political re-alignments within the Icelandic society as well as abroad. During the war the State Planning Authority had aquired an authoritative new lead in the architect Hörður Bjarnason. Bjarnason had graduated from Technische Universitat in Dresden in 1936, started work in the State Planning Office in 1938 and became Head of State Planning in 1944. In a scathing article on urban issues in Reykjavík published in the periodical Fálkinn1, he set his agenda for the next two decades. Bjarnason castigated the town authorities for lack of vision in planning of the city, lack of ambition in sanitizing the housing stock for it´s citizens, and lack of discipline in carrying out the few plans and projects that had been agreed upon. The conservative majority on the City Councel cannot have been amused by the negative image portrayed as the so close to the the general elections for the Council.

Image #9. 1963. Reykjavik Expansion Study , State Planning Office.

Over the next years Bjarnason would collaborate with the City Planner Einar Sveinsson (in charge of City Planning 1934-46), and take the lead for developing the potential extensions for Reykjavík. The process, despite the small scale of the City, was circuitous. The politicians on the municipal board had a history of seeing their planning prerogatives differently from the State Planning Office, and were uncomfortable in heeding the directives of the State appointed Planning Board. On repeted occasions the city would try to ascertain their independance, either through proposing change in the legislation 2 in the Parliament, or by silent circumvention in the execution of planned initiatives.

Image #10. 1948. Reykjavik Density Projections (appr. 14 units pr. ha - 1985), State Planning Office. (DSCN1727.JPG)

In the immediate aftermath of World War II the Icelandic Social Democratic Government sent one of their economic advisors, Jónas Haralz, to Stockholm, to study the planning practices of the Swedish 1 Hörður Bjarnason, Fálkinn, 07.05.1938, pg 3, 14-15. 2 Haraldur Sigurðsson, Bæjarskipulag og mótun umhverfis á Íslandi á 20. öldinni, unpublished manuscript, 2003, pg. 164.


Government pertaining to the building industry. Haralz had studied in Sweden during the war and was a close friend of Halldóra Briem-Ek, the first Icelandic woman to graduate as an architect 3. Briem-Ek studied under Uno Ahren and Tage William-Olsson and had worked in TW-O office during her years as a student and following her graduation in 1940. Amongst the projects was a competition for Garden City of 10.000 4. In the early 1950´s Briem-Ek was employed at the Hyresgasternas Sparkasse och Byggnadsforening (HSB) and had won the 1st prize in a housing competition for Vasteraas north of Stockholm. The project was built, housing xx and composed of low multifamily housing blocks surrounding an openn organically landscaped park5. Around the same time the State Planning Board sent architect Gunnlaugur Pálsson for a work-study period at the City Planning Office in Gothenburg and it is reasonable to surmise that Briem-Ek had a hand in setting up the arrangement. Tage WilliamOlsson´s headed the office at the time, succeding Uno Ahren in 1943 and stayed in office until his retirement in 1953. During the period Gothenburg …”was in desperate need for new homes and highly receptive for experiment…6” making it an attractive context for Pálsson to study the mature methodology being practised under critical conditions. The task for the economist Haralz, was to study the Swedish Housing Authority “Bostadsstyrelse”; it´s structure and economy and report back on the feasibility of an application of a similar institution in Iceland. He attended courses conducted by Uno Ahrén at the Tekniska Universitetet in Stockholm and in his report to the Icelandic Economic Board surmised that although conditions in the two countries were somewhat dissimilar, the pioneering and solid work being imple-mented in Sweden could set an sound example in the work that lay ahead for the Icelandic Government7 .

Image #11. William-Olsson; scheme for forortssamhalle 1941 Image#12. Torpa, Gothenburg 1949 (TW-O, Rudberg etal) Image#13. Bostadstavlan, Cover for competition results, Gothenburg, 1951. (copyright of above images is not ascertained by ÓM )

Upon return Pálsson and Haralz joined forces and published two articles in Byggingarlistin 19518, (the launching issue of the first architectural publication in Iceland). There, based on Swedish examples, they presented the argument for a social housing building program, where the legislative, state funding and city planning should work in consonance in order to address and allieviate the widespread housing shortages in Reykjavik. Pálsson´s article used references from the 1951 competition held by the Housing Authority (Bostadsaktiebolag) in Gothenburg for new apartment types. The first prize was awarded Tage William-Olsson, et al, for their entry “Gyllene Björkar” 9. Pálsson also presented the floorplan for the 3rd winning entry; by architect Gunnar Hendriksson. These were point-towers similar to those that would later show in proposals for the Hálogaland district in Reykjavík, pinwheel distribution of floorplans of various sizes and central stairwell and elevator core. The full impact of the compatriots tenure in Sweden and consequent reporting was never harvested to it´s full. The political soil for publicly funded housing was barren within the City Council, ruled by the Conservatives, the aura of self-built small dwellings, reminiscent of the German Heimstatte prevailed. More significantly, the Government broke down over the issue of the Nato Alliance and a new Government, led by the Conservative Party took hold. The planned economy, or the socialist agenda, was abhorred as the 3

Steinunn Jóhannesdóttir, Saga Halldóru Briem, Rvík 1994, pg. 201. Ibid, pg. 232, 5 Ibid, pg. 2__. 6 Claes Caldenby, Tage William-Olsson planner and polemicist, downloaded 01062011, http:// journals.cambridge.org 7 Jónas Haralz, Byggingarlistin 1951, pg. 2. 8 Byggingarlistin 1951, 1st and 2nd issue. 9 Bostadstavlan1951, pg. 45. 4


government led the country towards a free market economy akin to the one practised in the United States. The advent of the Cold War, with it´s political rhetoric deepened the trenches between activists who called for a cohesive approach to the housing problem, including legislation, public funding, and design of planned neighbourhoods and those who wished to parcel the lots out and leave the building process and progress to the initiative of the individual homeowners.

Image #14 . 1956 Pétur Thomsen, 220 1 mynd 1.jpg

In a series of radio broadcasts in 1957-1958, the former State Planner, Bjarnason, presented the recent development of Reykjavík. The city would soon be a thriving metropolis. The old city core would be sanitized and rebuilt with appropriate structures and a self sustaining new neighbourhood district of 15-20.000 inhabitants located west of downtown and east of the Elliðaárvogur 10. In his presentation Bjarnason discussed recent city planning developments abroad, citing examples from Vallingby close to Stockholm, Lambertseter in Oslo, Ballerup in Denmark and the Hansa-vierteil in Berlin. He then goes on to present the most recent district in Reykjavik, Háaleiti, as an example, and projects that this development will proceed as the population grows.

Image #15. 1946. Langholt Planning Proposal, Office of City Engineer. Image# 16. 1955. Langholt, final Plan, City. Office of City Engineer, 1955.

The neighbourhoods planned at this time in Reykjavik, were parcelled out, each parcel small and missing the formal manifestations or operative tools of the traditional city spaces or fabric. As an example, the district of Langholt was to have a population of 11,800 spread over a 3 sq.km area. The district was divided into smaller parcels that were planned and designed by various architectural offices as well as the City Planning Office. The periphery of the area was lined with a recreational area, 10 Hörður Bjarnson, Sunnudagserindi Ríkisútvarpsins 1957-1958, pg. 111-139.


Laugardalur, for sports facilities, stadiums, an arboretum and a leisure park. Connections with the adjacent neighbourhoods is problematic, necessitating transversing major traffic arteries or meandering through villa quarters which eventually lined the park. The initial scheme called for a church to be the centerpiece priding the highest point, but the final scheme reflected 12 storey point towers in an open, unsheltered space occupying the natural mound. This articulation of an unfocused, disparate nonspaces would be symptomatic for the methodology practiced by the City Planning Office in planning and developing in-fill areas over the next decades.

Image#17. Langholt study, 195?. Architectural Office of Gísli Halldórsson, Sigvaldi Thordarson and Kjartan Sigurðsson,

Certain characteristics of the neighbourhood is reminiscent of the precedents cited in the radio broadcasts. There are point-towers 8-9 stories in height, a series of row houses at the edges, slabblocks and the peculiar Icelandic apartment house; a fairly squat building, 3-4 floors, with one unit pre floor and an attic apartment. Shops and services are located at the entry points into the smaller neighbourhood units, the schools are located on the edges of the adjacent neighbourhood, and the church is relegated to the perimeter. In contrast to the prescription for a neighbourhood unit offered by Clarence Perry 11 there is no apparant center or focus, neither in terms of a common building or a common green space. In fact, schools are located on the other side of major arteries and the neighbourhood has become peripetic and disperse. The green open areas are peripheral, with access and use as a public amenity limited by designation of a sports complex or grounds. In 1957, Gunnar Ólafsson, by now the Reykjavík City Planner, concluded in a newspaper interview, that the City had fully planned the areas west of Elliðaárvogur 12, and the development of these would suffice and cater for the projected population growth for the next 50 years. When fully developed the area would accommodate a population of 80.000. This did not come to bear – Ólafsson prematurely died in 1959, the City Planner´s Office was folded in under the Reykjavík Engineering Office again, and the politicians started casting their eyes inland of Elliðaárvogur. Only nine years after the interview with Ólafsson, Odd Brochmann, the Norwegian architectural critic, in a political step-up before the local spring elections, would cite this area of town as an example of a planning disaster. Construction had run amok and only the validation of the Bredsdorff - Nyvig Masterplan for Reykjavík 1962-1983 would a put to a necessary halt 13 to further damage. With the implementation on Bredsdorff´s plan Reykjavík would become the example for others to follow where motorways and low buildings would dominate the city landscape. A sweet sound for local ears. 04 1957-1965 In 1955, as an effort to bring Town Planning up to standards compatable with the neighbouring countries, the Parliament began a review of existing laws with the aim to, define hierarchy, designate fiscal indipendancy of relative institutions, formalize procedures, instill discipline and secure professional practises, at the municipal as well as state level. Zóphoníus Pálsson, a survey engineer, 11 The Neighbourhood Unit, New York Regional Plan of New York and its Environs, 1929, pg 34 12 Gunnar H. Ólafsson, Morgunblaðið, 1957, pg. 13 Brochmann, Eksempel til efterfölgelse, Fremtidens Reykjavik, planlagt af Bredsdorff og Nyvig, Politiken 04.05.1966, pg. 31.


had replaced Hörður Bjarnason as State Planner and the architect Gunnar Ólafsson had taken charge of the City Planning Office. Ólafsson graduated from Trondheim Tekniske Universitet in 1940. He trained in offices in Trondheim during the German Occupation, participating in the planning program led by the City Planner Sverre Pedersen, “Brente Steders Regulering” (BSR). The thrust of the legislative changes was driven by Reykjavík´s ambition to become autonomous in it´s planning decisions. The State Planning Board had resisted the inclination, but in the late 1950´s succumbed. The compromise would be to prepare and execute a Nordic competition for a Masterplan of Reykjavík proper and the neighbouring townships making up the metropolitan area. The idea of a competition had been dormant since 1933 when the State Planning Board failed in ascertaining the 1927 Reykjavik City Plan, due to vehement opposition from the Town Board and real estate owners. An impasse had been reached by which the architect Einar Sveinsson was hired as City Planner in the Reykjavík municipal engineering office. Sveinsson had graduated from the Technische Universitat in Darmstadt two years earlier, in 1932. In its preparatory stage the review committee called on various state and city planning institutions in Scandinavia, Germany, England and as far away as Israel to share their planning laws and regulations for comparison and, if appropriate, assimilation into the Icelandic legislation. In the final draft the legislative proposal reflected similar laws in Norway, Sweden and Finnland, as well as aspects of the Danish and the English Planning Legislation 14. However, proposal was never passed by Parliament. But, importantly, a consensus was reached and parts of legislation were enacted by City and State officials. One of the changes was that the Reykjavík municipality should become more autonomous and take a lead in the future planning of it´s environs. Subsequently Reykjavik appointed their first Chief of Planning, Gunnar Ólafsson, and as a part of the agreement with the state approached Peder Bredsdorff 15 to aid in preparations of a Masterplan for the Metropolitan region. This prologue led to the Planning Legislative review in Parliament during the following years finally manifested in the laws that were passed in 1965, shifting the Planning authority and intitiative onto the Municipal Planning Office. By late 1959, the City of Reykjavík and neighbouring towns had called on the Danish architect and planner, Peder Bredsdorff, to assist in the preparations for the competition for the greater Metropolitan area. The larger scope of the competition, a comprehensive regional plan for the Reykjavik Metropolitan Area and it´s environs never came to fruition. The problem was deemed to difficult to resolve, despite the precedents in most Scandinavian, and for that matter, Baltic cities, f.ex. the Tallinn competition as early as 1915 by Saarinen. Instead the Bredsdorff team, along with local politicians, engineers and architects produced a preliminary plan for the larger area, which was contingent on the future establisment of an Regional Planning Committee and their ensuing work. The decision was met with protests by local architects who argued that the Councel had backtracked on the committment to take planning issues by the horns, but to no avail 16. However, a Masterplan for Reykjavik (AR 1962-1983) was submitted and confirmed, presented in a bound copy as late as 1965. The AR 1962-1983 was a composition of smaller parts planned either prior to Bredsdorffs work or planned by local architects under the supervision of, and in part, by Bredsdorff 17 .

Image #18. 1961. Reykjavík Egnen – skitse projekt. Peder Bredsdorff.

14 Haraldur Sigurðsson, Bæjarskipulag og mótun umhverfis á Íslandi á 20. öldinni, manuscript, pg. 127. 15 Ólafur Mathiesen, Docomomo 2010, Living and Dyingin in the Urban Modernity - - Iceland, Cph 2010, pg. 70-73 16 See f.ex. Skúli Norðdal, Þjóðviljinn xx.xx.19—pg. 17 Docomomo 2010, Living and Dying in the Urban Modernity, Ólafur Mathiesen, Iceland, 2010, pg 70-73.


The largest, and possibly the most devastating, contribution was the implementation of a traffic system which was based on population estimates far exceeding the ones used during the planning period 19451957. It is interesting to note a report by Dr. Feuchtinger in 1956 18 presented to the Reykjavík Trafic Committee. In his report Dr. Feuchtinger stressed the importance of prioritizing the public transport system when planning for new areas of the city. The AR bypassed the issue of public transportation almost completely 19, placing their faith in the feasibility of everyman´s aquisition of an automobile, “... the City Council as adopted an accommodating attitude towards the growing process of motorisation, including the trend for buying private cars and thus creating a system of private transport.” In reality the decision left the majority of the citizenry standing on the vast and intricate curblines, waiting for the odd bus.

Image #18. 1960 Reykjavik, Neshagi, Gunnar Rúnar Ólafsson, GRÓ 005 093 1-2

Gísli Halldórsson a practicing architect and planner as well as a conservative politician on the City Council was instrumental in bringing Bredsdorff to Reykjavik. Bredsdorff had been Halldorsson´s professor during his studies in early 1940´s 20 at the Royal Academy of Arts in Copenhagen. Halldórsson was in charge of city funded housing projects, designed to eliminate unsanitary barrack housing. In late 1955 the International Cooperation Administration in Washington (ICA) 21invited five professionals and specialists in the planning and building industry on a educational excursion through the north eastern region of the United States. The aim was to familiarize the Icelandic professionals on the US methods and procedures in manufacturing and construction of in-expensive housing with the aim to adapt similar methods in Iceland. Halldórsson was one of three architects on the tour, the other were Jósef Reynis, architect and planner for the State Planning Office and Þórir Baldvinsson Director for the architectural offices for agricultural housing. The itinerary included projects by the New York Housing Authority, Metropolitan Life Insurance in New York, and sites like the Park Forest in Chicago and Northland Shopping Center in Detroit. The list reflects the concurrant planning issues facing Reykjavik; small house developments, shopping centers, renovation of the downtown areas, restructuring of the transport system, building authorities and institutions, and material and construction technology.

18 Dr.Ing.habil. Max-Erich Feuchtinger, Leiðbeiningar um skipulag umferðar í Reykjavík, Tímarit VFÍ 1957, pg 10-13. 19 AR 1962-1983, pg 131, “... the City Council as adopted an accommodating attitude towards the growing process of motorisation, including 20 Jón M. Ívarsson, Gísli Halldórsson, minningar, menn og málefni, 2005, pg. 184 21 see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Cooperation_Administration, and http://www.marshallfoundation.org/TheMarshallPlan.htm


Image #20. Image from IMSÍ report, 1957. Northland Shopping Center, Detroit, US.

Research into to the impact of the six week excursion to the United States remains to be done. Possbly it affected the development and articulation of the Reykjavik urban area, creating a watershed from a dense city fabric described by Bjarnason towards a sprawling suburban development critized by Björn Ólafs in late 1960´s22 . What is certain is that the areas west of Elliðaárvogur were projected as being able to accommodate the city´s needs until 1985 (50 year planning requirement), but the execution of the various districts had not begun. Before the build-out or implementation the attention and planning efforts were to the east of Elliðaárvogur and western part of the city was never projected to it´s full capacaty, and the consequent development led to a much lower density neighbourhoods, affecting the economical base of the city and most importantly, the quality of the urban spaces.

Image #22. 1970 Breiðholt and Árbær Model, Friðþjófur Helgason ALB 001085 2-1.jpg

Around 1960 and as a part of a government labour agreement Reykjavik set aside land for low-income housing estates in Breiðholt23. The joint effort was run by a Steering Committee (FB) for the planning and construction of estate 24. Halldórsson chaired the Steering Committee and solicited architectural services from a.o. the danish architect Knud Hallberg 25. Hallberg, along with Jörgen Bo, was the architect for the Element houses in Hjortekær, Kongens Lyngby in Denmark, (1947-1948) 26 and Skoleparken, Gladsaxe (1953-55) He advised on the planning phase of Breiðholt 1 27, and the layout of apartment unit, some of which carried on into Breiðholt 3 (2nd phase) in some capacity over a period of 10 years28.

22 Docomomo 2010, Living and Dying in the Urban Modernity, Ólafur Mathiesen, Iceland, 2010, pg 74-85 23 Ibid, pg 70-73 24 Ibid 70-73 25 Gísli Halldórsson, Reykjavik Municipal Archives, Private collection of letters #359, Box 71963-1973, 26 As pr. http://arkark.dk/building.aspx?buildingid=694 and http://www.ltk.dk/media(3435,1030)/Kærparken.pdf 27 Docomomo 2010, Living and Dying in the Urban Modernity, Ólafur Mathiesen, Iceland, 2010, pg 70-73 28 http://www.mbl.is/greinasafn/grein/43215/


Image #21 . Breiðholt 1 Image #22, 1955 Skoleparken, Gladsaxe (- off website – likely no good )

The Steering Committee planned, designed and constructed 1250 units between 1965 and 1985. The impact on the housing market was without precedent and has not been replicated since. A part of the reason for dismantling the program were vehement protest by contractors in the private sector 29 from the beginning of the projects. After the last units were handed over to their new owners, the program was dismantled and the housing sector left, to a great extent, to private initiatives. Building and design standards were no longer established by official example and determination of deliverables in housing schemes and furnishing of communal spaces left to the whims of market forces. Ultimately this has led to lower quality of communal space in housing developments and rampant development of suburbian housing which came an abrupt halt in the financial crisis in 2008 30. Ólafur Mathiesen

29 30

Frjáls verslun, ed. Jóhann Briem, #5, 1968, pg. 7-10 'Adda Birnir, After the gold rush' The Architects Newspaper, 03.04.2009, http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=3253


Survival of modern  

Docomomo The authors are Ólafur Mathiesen architect at the office of Gláma Kím Arkitektar Laugavegi 164 ehf and Björn Marteinsson architect...

Advertisement
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you