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LANGALĂ G preliminary work


Thesis Project in Architecture Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art NTNU Supervisor: Kerstin Hรถger Spring 2018

LANGALรG Thesis Project in Architecture Kristinn Pรกlsson






















NEW NEIGHBOURHOOD What are the aim, goal and personal challenge of designing a new neighbourhood in the heart of your hometown?

For my master thesis project, I aim to design

When I started studying architecture, I often got

a new housing scheme for my hometown of

questions from friends and family like; “Don’t

Vestmannaeyjar-islands in Iceland. The proposed

you miss the traditional architecture?” Wording

building site is well located and is seen by

like “the old architecture” was also used without

many islanders as the most promising unbuilt

any explanation in these casual discussions about

development area. Throughout the years it has

design. These questions also had a follow-up

been debated what should be built and how the

statement like; “all architecture today looks like

site should be planned. Islanders are concerned

simple boxes.” The conversation was not about

about their environment due to the islands limited

classical architecture but rather some design that

buildable land. This project will need to have some

people are used to in their environment. To bring a

research base to use as a foundation and a good

personal preference to the project I want to intwine

understanding of the surrounding environment.

this question with my research and design. To

Figure out the islander’s expectations and preferred

see what kind of a homogeneous housing scheme

housing type. Document the local architecture to

design can fit with the traditional architecture of

see what characterises the towns overall image.

Vestmannaeyjar. And try to make the new extension fit with the existing town fabric.



Don’t you miss the traditional architecture? Various friends and family members




VESTMANNAEYJABÆR The proposed project needs to take into consideration the historical context of the island, islanders society and the urban plan of the town throughout the last century.

Vestmannaeyjar is in geological terms a young

wind direction being south-east. Vestmannaeyjar

archipelago that lies south of Iceland. Eruptions

enjoys the country’s highest average annual

have formed the islands over the past 10,000-

temperature from around -1.3–12.3°C. This is an

12,000 years. This volcanic system consists of

effect from the Gulf Stream having a substantial

around 70-80 volcanoes, either below or above

warming effect.

sea level. Vestmannaeyjar is a group of 15 islands


and approximately 30 skerries. They got an international attention when the volcano on the

Do to the geological location of the town of

main island, Heimaey, it erupted on the edge of the

Vestmannaeyjar it is said to be the first dense area

town of Vestmannaeyjar. The eruption destroyed

in Iceland. Lack of land pushed farmers closer

many buildings and resulted in a months-long

and due to the importance of fishing for the area

evacuation moving islanders to the mainland.

made the town developed around the harbor. The

Heimaey is the most significant and only inhabited

island is also thought to be one of the first places in

island with a population around 4,300.

Iceland to be settled in the early 9th century.

The island is in the northern hemisphere and can

The town of Vestmannaeyjar grew a lot at the

often be wary windy with the highest measured

beginning of the 20th century. Luckily at that

wind speed of 61m/sec with the most common

time the state architect, Guðjón Samúelsson,


lead a workforce that started to measure and

In 1976 a nordic planning competition for the

design schemes and plans for each town in

new town was held. The work of Elin and Carmen

Iceland. In 1932 a new town plan was approved

Corneil was chosen and influenced the towns’

for Vestmannaeyjar, it was the town’s first master

restoration. Form their scheme some great ideas

plan. The scheme was designed around existing

were integrated into the town’s center that we

buildings and streets with ideas of future changes,

can still see traces of today. But different plans

expansions and adjustments. The plan had a circle

were used when developing the new “suburban”

road around the town creating a border. Like

housing areas of the island. The cul-de-sac idea was

other plans by Guðjón made at that time his idea

integrated and freestanding lamellas where suppose

was to develop quite dense towns with houses,

to provide green spaces and parking. The town was

some attached, surrounding some courtyards or

more spread than ever before creating longer travel

green space. This new plan had some influences on

distances for people. It was the most significant

future developments though it was never entirely

development phase the island has ever seen.

built. It was used as a guideline and changed a lot throughout the century and after the Heimaey

But in recent times we see a shift in ideology.

eruption in 1973, a new concept was needed.

Islanders and developers prefer to build in the town’s center or denser areas. Small infill-sites that have been empty for decades are being and slowly this sub-urban town is changing. A new master

Planning history of Vestmannaeyjar shows that designed schemes often aren’t fully developed before a new ideas or changes are introduced.

plan is now in development soon to be released; introducing an urban framework, aims and goals for the town.


*The circle shows the location of Langalรกg.


Population in Vestmannaeyjar























Population in Iceland







At the beginning of the 20th century, the development

The population in Vestmannaeyjar has had an

of motorized boats and ships had a massive impact

unstable growth and many reductions compared

on fishing. Making the industry easier and safer. The

to the overall population in Iceland. During the

town flourished and its population multiplied. It

centuries Vestmannaeyjar has had its events and

was the most significant growth in modern history.

tragedies having significant influences on its

Though the population has mainly dropped since the


eruption, documentation shows that since around 2008 it has slowly and steadily been increasing. Thought it is soon to say, the “Third Industrial

The so-called Turkish-invasion in 1627 left the society in ruins after pirates killed and kidnapped

Revolution” might be one of the leading factors. The

around half of the Islanders. During the late 19th

century of the internet and technology has made

century around 200 people, one-third of habitats

things such as viral distance education possible,

followed Mormons to Utah in search for better

office locations irrelevant, created new jobs for

life. The 1973 volcanic eruption forced everyone

pioneers and helped bring our primary industry,

had to flee the island. Some could not move back

fishing, into the future. Growth in tourism has than

after around 900 homes got destroyed. New fishing

also been a factor, increasing services, creating new

regulations in 1990 had a significant impact on

jobs and pushed forward city center developments

the fishing industry and related jobs, forcing some

due to demand. A new harbor on the southern coast

families to move.

of Iceland in 2010 shortened the traveling duration from around three hours to a half an hour. The

But the story of the Islanders’ community is not

island is therefore blooming, housing demand is

only a sad tragedy. The community’s history is rich

increasing and developments are rising.

with culture and positive social events.


*Main axes in the plan of Elin and Carmen Corneil.




100+ 95-99 90-94 85-89 80-84 75-79 70-74 65-69 60-64 55-59 50-54 45-49 40-44 35-39 30-34 25-29 20-24 15-19 10-14 5- 9 0- 4


100+ 95-99 90-94 85-89 80-84 75-79 70-74 65-69 60-64 55-59 50-54 45-49 40-44 35-39 30-34 25-29 20-24 15-19 10-14 5- 9 0- 4


THE FUTURE A new master plan for the island can help understand the need for housing and new thinking while designing at Langalรกg.

The site of Langalรกg is mentioned in the new

The municipality of Vestmannaeyjar has recently published a new master plan for years 2015-2035.

masterplan. At this 4.5 ha site, they want to build

In their plan, it is estimated that the number of

only 40 apartments. I think this development

inhabitants will grow by around 800 and end up

area, located 600 meters from the towns centre

being 5,100.

and next to the primary connection axes, could be much denser.

The need for new housing, apartments, are said to be 340. A part of the future prediction is that the age of islanders will get higher, this can influence the design of the new housing scheme.



LANGALÁG What kind of influence could the historical use of the area on the design and planning?

The Langalág is around 7.5 ha area in the center

conference and gathering hall mostly known for

of Heimaey-island. It is located roughly south of

having few big dances which are popular amongst

the town’s center and accessible by two of the

islanders. The site is, therefore, more or less unused

principal street axes of the island. Langalág is now

the whole year round except for one particular

occupied by a big outdoor gravel football field and

event. Every year habitants celebrate the last day

a small exercise area for running and other athletic

of Christmas with a big bonfire, fireworks and

sports. It was frequently used during the 20

traditional mythological creatures such as trolls,


century until a new sports-center was established

elves and the thirteen Icelandic Santa-Clauses.


So what could possibly be developed on the site?

Around 4.5 ha of Langalág is unbuilt. On the site, there are only three buildings and a small neglected

Nearby areas of a similar size give an example

hobby forest. The Vestmannaeyjar High School

of Langalág possibly being able to house minimum

is the most prominent building at the site. It can

around 50-60 homes. Those areas were built in 40’s

make housing in the area convenient. Krafla is an

and the 70’s and mainly occupied by single-family

electricity Power Station that distributes energy for

detached houses.

most households on the island it occupies the areas north-western corner. Höllin is an unsuccessful


The area used to be a useful sports arena with football tournaments and mixed athletics. Now the primary use of the space is the unusual and unique event when families gather to say goodbye to the many fictional Christmas characters.




PROGRAM Planning and designing, up to some extent, housing units for the new neighbourhood in Langalág.

• •

Plan the area and its connections, streets, paths


and vegetation.

Roughly design the most popular new housing

units from 40 to approximately around 100

unit for site. •

Densify the site en increase planned housing

Make a timeline for the development plan so

Housing units; small shared urban villas, detached houses and or/and new row-houses.

the scheme can in steps get built over time


without significant changes.

Transformation for the building “Höllin”;

Propose a new place for the previous activity.

extend and integrate its conference/hotel

Bring back some of the sites history.

concept with the site.

Sports and movement. •

Research typologies and try to combine them in


a way that would create a diverse area.

Connecting a main road through the new area and ease the traffic on the closest intersections.

Figure out a possible way to connect the isolated neighbourhood in the southeast part of the site to Langalág and the centre.

Create a modern district that will blend in with other older parts of the town.



A (city) district in its simplest sense is an area of homogeneous character, recognized by clues which are continuous throughout the district and discontinuous elsewhere. Kevin Lynch - The Image of the City






This could be because islanders are too used to their environment. Though this might be true many

This project also faces the challenge of not only being about integrating houses into an existing

inhabitants mention this as a required quality when

townscape but also into the nature that the town

choosing or buying their homes.

itself is a part of. The surrounding landscape The surrounding mountainscape could, therefore,

can easily be neglected as an unimportant design recourse for housing projects in Vestmannaeyjar.

influence the orientation and configuration of the

Many examples of the island showcase that the

new neighbourhood proposed in this project.









KLIF 239m

HÁAHÁ 220m





beautiful views are often forgotten.

It is important that from my home I can either see a mountain or the ocean.










Anonymous Inhabitant - from survey


WORKING METHODS How do you investigate and research a town you know like the back of your hand?


Working with big scale maps will be the starting point of how I want to approach and analyse

Make a survey aimed at islanders asking them

the site. I want to use Kevin Lynch’s technique of

questions about the expectations they have

mapping a city with simple graphics to only focus

towards housing design and their own homes.

on what matters the most.



Roughly study and understand the islands main

Traditional mapping. Map the towns historical

typology and the design details that make the

growth and future development, main connections,

town’s architectural character unique.

services, green spaces and existing structures.



Use physical sketch models to understand the

Understand the site by collaging existing

site’s terrain better. Use it both to sketch and

projects from different places within the shape

display ideas. Make a 1:500 site model and a

of the site. Understand how it could fit with the

1:2500 landscape model.

surrounding fabric.


*Answers from inhabitants survey about planning and housing.



Since the affection for the single-family house is so strong and it has such obvious advantages for identity and ownership, private open spaces and owner maintenance and remodeling, it will be important to work out further variations on the theme, in order to lower costs and achieve higher densities. Kevin Lynch - Good City Form



Kevin Lynch introduces five main elements to understand and mapping a city; using paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks. Different icons and graphics can then determine hierarchy within each group.


TIMELINE This project is design based and from the start, I will focus on visual exercises and mediums. Using diagrams, illustrations, maps, plans, drawings and models.


PREFERRED FINAL PRODUCT AND SCALES 1:2000 - planning, landscape and topography: a model and plans. 1:500 - urban design: model, plans and elevations. 1:200/100 - 3 typical buildings: model, ground plans, sections and elevations.


READING LIST Alejandro Aravena and AndrĂŠs Iacobelli, Elemental - Incremental Housing and Participatory Design Manual, 2012. Aurora FernĂĄndez Per, Why Density? Debunking The Myth Of The Cubic Watermelon, 2015. Bernard Leupen and Harald Mooij, Housing Design: A Manual, 2008. Kenneth Frampton, Towards a Critical Regionalism - Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance, 1983. Kevin Lynch, Good City Form, 1981. Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City, 1960. Laura Vaughan, Suburban Urbanities: Suburbs and the Life of the High Street, 2015.

BIBLIOGRAPHY SOURCES Aðalskipulag Vestmannaeyja 1988-2003. Vestmannaeyjabær, 1988. Lynch, Kevin. Good City Form. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1984. Lynch, Kevin. The Image of the City. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1972. Páll Líndal. Bæirnir byggjast - yfirlit um þróun skipulagsmála á Íslandi til ársins 1938. Reykjavík: Skipulagsstjóri ríkisins, 1982. Sigfús M. Johnsen. Saga Vestmannaeyja - I. Bindi. Reykjavík: Ísafoldarprentsmiðja, 1946. Sigfús M. Johnsen. Saga Vestmannaeyja - II. Bindi. Reykjavík: Ísafoldarprentsmiðja, 1946. Heimaslóð. “Heimaeyjargosið.” Visited November 20th 2017. Heimaeyjargosið. Heimaslóð. “Saga Vestmannaeyja I./V. Um Mormónana í Vestmannaeyjum.” Visited November 23rd 2017.ónana_í Vestmannaeyjum. Statistics Iceland. “Sveitarfélög og byggðakjarnar.” Visited Nobember 20th 2017. talnaefni/ibuar/mannfjoldi/sveitarfelog-og-byggdakjarnar.

IMAGES Bragi Guðmundsson - page: 24. Environmental issues and public work department of Vestmannaeyjar - page: 17, 20, (22), (26), 38. Gísli Gíslason - page: 13. Kristinn Pálsson - page: 32-33, 36, 44-45. National Land Survey of Iceland - page: (9) Páll Þór Guðmundsson - page: 6-7, 10, 14, 25, (30). Torfi Haraldsson - page: 29. Viktor Sigurjónsson - page: 21.


Langalág Preliminary Work  
Langalág Preliminary Work