Birkimörk Halfway House / PK Arkitektar

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Architects: PK Arkitektar ehf
Location: Hveragerði,
Client: Ministry of Social Affairs
Design team: Pálmar Kristmundsson and Bernd Kolb
Consultants: ÞB verkfræðistofa og Verkfræðistofan TERA sf.
Construction Supervisor: VST – Verkfræðistofa Sigurðar Thoroddsen hf. Selfossi
Site area: 1,560.8 sqm
Constructed area: 430 sqm
Project year: 2006-2007
Photographs: Rafael Pinho & Helge Garke

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The remarkable apartment housing is located in the lowlands of Hveragerði, a small town of about 1,700 inhabitants that lies some 45 km east of Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital. Surrounded by an eminent mountain range to the north, the town is conveniently located on the Ring Road, Iceland’s most important highway. In 2001 was invited by the Ministry of Social Affairs to plan a facility for severe handicapped youngsters in Reykjavík. The project demonstrated to be successful and therefore the studio was again commissioned to design a similar building.

ground floor plan
ground floor plan

The amazing setting for the new house required adjustments and reorganization. From the beginning it was clear to the architects that the task was to create a home rather than simply an institution for handicapped youngsters. The architectural appearance is simplistic and characterized by a sincere and clear composition of two white blocks with different heights and separated by a distribution corridor.

The entrance formed by an L-shaped exposed concrete wall, leads to a common lounge connected to a terrace and to the main kitchen of the house.

The apartments area and functional spaces are connected by a corridor in the middle of the building which brings natural light in, providing a warm and serene ambience.

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The five apartments are fully equipped for severe handicapped youngster. They are all 34,5 sqm each, with its own kitchen and bathroom. Tracks inlaid in the ceiling connect the rooms and facilitate transportation of the residents inside the house.

The functional rooms on the other side of the corridor consist in a common bathroom, staff quarters, washing room and storage.

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The plastered white and simple horizontal volumes of the exterior are in contrast to the warm choice of material indoors. Walnut is the main material in the floor and fittings custom designed by the architect. PK Arkitektar is currently working on a wide range of projects in Iceland including several single family houses, summer houses and Höfðatorg, a 80.000sqm mixed-use complex located close to the city center of Reykjavík due to be finalized in the year 2011.

Cite: "Birkimörk Halfway House / PK Arkitektar" 27 Oct 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 19 Apr 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=38771>

5 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I really like the idea and think they made a lot of really nice moves dealing with ‘path’, ‘approach’ and one’s ‘domain’ within an otherwise difficult building type and user. However it would be nice so see the exterior of the building to gain a bit more insight into why certain things were done on the interior. Why concrete? the detail looks forced just to “reveal” concrete….is it structural or visual?

    two problems with the floor:
    1. poor installation of the floor boards. their already cupping. If one is going to go with wide solid floor boards then one must know how to detail the proper installation. new building and they are already warping.

    2. what is up with the stain line on the floor from the corridor into the dining room? If they wanted to allow the patina of time to be evident in the floor then they needed to go all the way, not half-baked like it is here. Its not even straight!!!!! annoying!

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I bet the concrete does acts as structural, however, I think the idea behind it was conceptual and not structural.

    I’m guessing it’s to emphasize continuity, the exterior concrete wall (building number) leads you to the entrance and beyond. There’s no change of material. I like it.

    Would be great to have more info on those handicapped bathrooms, just to compare with US requirements (which I think they’re waaaaaaay too much)

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    would like to see a roof section. how do you design a flat roof in iceland? the architects did get to do something interesting though with the natural lighting in the corridor and the materials are nice.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    this is kinda boring,to me. but it’s got a stunning exterior-too bad about everything else.

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