Holiday home by Þingvallavatn is an arresting masterpiece by KRADS, located in the dream-like landscapes of Iceland’s southwest coast. The building overlooking the mountains and lake Þingvallavatn offers a connection to nature and culture unlike no other.
- Design: KRADS
- Location: Thingvellir, Iceland
- Completed: 2020
- Gross area: 145 m2 and separate boat house 26 m2
- Lead architects: Kristján Eggertsson and Kristján Örn Kjartansson
BUILT ON A SLOPE opening up to the magical landscape of Lake Þingvallavatn, the vacation home by the Icelandic-Danish architecture office KRADS is quite literally like from another world. Holiday home by Þingvallavatn, located on the southwest coast of Iceland, is an unapologetic work of art built on the terms of its environment – offering an unforgettable retreat from the mundane.
Informed by critical regionalism, an architectural approach underscoring a coalition between global and local, the building was designed to be a part of the identity of its surroundings – and vice versa. “Holiday home by Þingvallavatn is rooted in the modern tradition, but with strong ties to its geographical and cultural context,” architect Kristján Eggertsson tells Design Stories.
The site of the building was carefully chosen. The large windows and glass walls frame breathtaking, almost surreal landscapes for the viewer to take in – to the north opens a view to the rugged yet breathtaking landscape of the enchanting Þingvallavatn lake and Skjaldbreið mountain, while mountains Jórutindur and Hátindur stand southwest to the building.
The project drew direction from an old and run-down wooden cottage standing on the land: the new building was placed almost directly in the same spot as the old one to create as little damage to the vegetation and the ground as possible. The concrete foundation of the staggered wooden house adapts to the unique topography of the environment, creating movement and layers both indoors and out.
”Although recently completed, the building grows out of its surroundings in a way that makes it seem to have always been there.”
Subordinate to the landscape, the project faced a series of unique challenges – and a worthy reward. “Preserving the landscape and vegetation during the building process was probably the most challenging part of the project, so we had to come up with creative solutions,” Eggertsson explains.
“For example, most of the timber-frame exterior walls were built off-site in small sections that could be erected with the help of a crane from the road, outside of the plot. Although recently completed, the building grows out of its surroundings in a way that makes it seem to have always been there.”
The timber cladding features a tar-black hue, which effortlessly binds the building to the color palette of its surroundings and the cultural context, evoking images of traditional Icelandic houses with deep-black tarred timber façades. The turf roof, overgrown with moss and grass, softens the look of the house and underlines the focal point of the project – building a connection with history and nature.
“Turf has been used as an architectural material in Iceland since the first settlers arrived in the 9th century – up to 50 percent of Icelandic dwellings were still partially comprised of turf until the late 19th century. It was used for both walls and roof, laid over a timber structure. And there was a good reason for this, which still holds today: turf is a durable, renewable, and widely available material, as well as a good insulator,” says Eggertsson. “The turf roof plays a key role in this house both aesthetically and functionally. It also situates the house within a building tradition as old as Iceland's recorded history.”
The charming living roof also has a unique function – one can follow the ascend of the roof and enjoy the panoramic scenery unimpeded.
The charming living roof also has another unique function. As the goal was to preserve the densely vegetated plot and its immediate surroundings as untouched and natural as possible, the building was designed to rise like a wedge above the trees instead of clearing the view by force – allowing one to follow the ascend of the roof to its highest point and enjoy the panoramic scenery unimpeded. The roof can also be used as an extension to the yard, as a recreational surface.
The interior of the building opens up fresh, bright, and deliberately minimalist. The free-flowing space has been restrained as little as possible: by replacing fixed walls and doors with slatted walls and sliding doors the space offers intimacy and can still be modified without compromising its openness.
Resting nooks and multifunctional recesses were designed near the windows to create even more possibilities to enjoy the unforgettable view.
Treated with a soft, bleached finish, the Douglas fir floors draw together the different levels of the building. The partially slatted ceiling and walls together with sliding doors in the same shade add depth and warmth to the otherwise rather light and airy color palette – while also creating a link to the texture-rich look of the surrounding nature.
The large windows pull you to a halt as they continue to frame glimpses of the breathtaking scenery throughout the building. The interior has been designed to support this unique feature with inventive fixed furniture solutions – resting nooks and multifunctional recesses were designed near the windows to create even more possibilities to enjoy the unforgettable view.
One of these resting places, however, is above the rest. The generous seating island, built in connection with the lounge area and the kitchen, contains an extraordinary surprise: the padded cover is detachable, revealing a stunning pool where you can truly immerse yourself in the other-worldly landscape while bathing.
- Architectural office founded in 2006.
- Founded and led by Kristján Eggertsson and Kristján Örn Kjartansson.
- Based in Iceland and Denmark.
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Text: Mira Ahola Images: Marino Thorlacius