“The research involves the registration of abandoned farms and houses in the Icelandic countryside to encourage the preservation of interesting and historically important houses from an architectural point of view ; as well as record the scope and cultural value of these houses,” says Þuríður Elísa Harðardóttir, MA student in Archaeology. Last summer Harðardóttir and her collaborators gathered data on a number of abandoned farms. A non-governmental organisation – Eyðibýli - consisting of a group of students of architecture at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, and in engineering and archaeology at the University of Iceland sponsors the project. The study has attracted widespread attention and has already received a grant from the RANNÍS student innovation fund; the Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland; the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, and Icelandic municipalities.
“My final thesis in Archaeology was on abandoned farms and my supervisor was Gavin Lucas, Professor of Archaeology. He, with Elín Ósk Hreiðarsdóttir, archaeologist, supported the idea that research on abandoned farms deserved increased historical and cultural depth. I was consequently asked to work in that direction,” says Harðardóttir.
Last summer 236 abandoned farms in the West- and Northeast of Iceland were registered; but 103 houses had previously been registered in the South and Southeast of Iceland. The houses are accounted for in a a series of publications; Eyðibýli á Íslandi. Three of these have already been published, but the plan is to have an issue for each part of Iceland. Harðardóttir and associates have taken numerous artistic photos of the abandoned farms that are published in these issues. “Each individual house is covered in the publications.”
Harðardóttir says that the feelings that emerge facing these abandoned houses vary. “Some of the houses possess a good atmosphere whilst others do not and the mind wanders. When you see abandoned kitchen appliances or a jacket that has been on this hanger for years; you cannot help but wonder why they were left behind. I believe that abandoned houses touch everyone.”
Harðardóttir hopes that in time all abandoned farms will be studied and registered in order to form a comprehensive database with all abandoned houses; but such a database in currently non-existent. “The project will hopefully promote the conservation and maintenance of a cultural heritage that otherwise will vanish in time.”
Participants in the project besides Harðardóttir were: Axel Kaaber, BA in Architecture from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, Bergþóra Góa Kvaran, student in Architecture from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, Birkir Ingibjartsson, BS in Engineering from the University of Iceland and BA in Architecture from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, Hildur Guðmundsdóttir, student in Architecture from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, Olga Árnadóttir, student in Architecture from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, Sólveig Guðmundsdóttir Beck, Doctoral Student in Archaeology at the University of Iceland, and Steinunn Eik Egilsdóttir, BA in Architecture from the Icelandic Academy of the Arts.
Supervisors: Sigbjörn Kjartansson, Gláma-Kím Architects, and Gísli Sverrir Árnason, R3-Ráðgjöf