Architects: Studio Bua
- Area: 182 m²
- Year: 2021
Lead Architect: Sigrún Sumarliðadóttir
- Design Team: Mark Smyth
- Design Consultant: Giambattista Zaccariotto
- City: Dalabyggð
- Country: Iceland
Text description provided by the architects. Studio Bua has transformed a derelict concrete barn in rural Iceland into a home and artist’s studio. The barn at Hlöðuberg, Skarðsströnd is situated on a former farm overlooking the Breiðafjörður in western Iceland. The rural site is surrounded by mountains, meadows, a fjord, and the sea beyond, making it subject to extreme weather and temperatures.
The brief was to create a space that could act as both a home and a working artist’s studio for the clients. Finding the right balance between workspace and family home was key. The space needed to be neutral enough to exhibit artwork but also a welcoming family home and a place to entertain guests. The renovation has been conceived and built as a piece of art. Studio Bua was determined to keep as much of the existing concrete structure as possible to preserve the barn’s unique character and make use of the fit-for-purpose elements.
The main part of the existing structure was built from thick and sturdy mass concrete with a corrugated steel roof. The quality of the existing concrete has been retained externally, with unique lichen growth and local pebble aggregate creating the illusion that the barn is growing from the earth. A lean-to addition, which was missing its roof and in a complete state of ruin, has been left untouched and forms a sheltered courtyard.
The beautifully ruined, foundation-free perimeter walls have been retained, enclosing a new walled garden where flowers, vegetables, and herbs can be grown. With no existing floor slab, the first step was to stabilize the original structure and line the barn floor with a reinforced concrete raft. The local landscape has been incorporated into the design where possible, with pebbles and volcanic sand from the beach used to fill holes in the existing structure. A lightweight, two-story timber structure was inserted into the existing space.
The new timber volume is clad in corrugated industrial Aluzinc, which embodies the lightness of the inserted volume. Aluzinc is one of the few materials able to withstand the site’s harsh environment and extreme weather. The corrugation references local building tradition and reflects the color of the sky and surrounding meadow, changing with the seasons and weather. The cladding, roofing, flashing, and downpipes were all locally produced. Despite the extreme conditions, the house is very efficient and sustainable.
A ground source heat pump was installed, along with low-temperature underfloor heating and triple glazing on all the windows. To avoid compromising the unreinforced existing structure, only two new openings have been added to the ground floor. The existing and new openings have been diamond cut to give a smoothness that contrasts the rough external finishes and reveals, in section, the color and texture of the irregular aggregate.
The detailed but calm interior has been kept neutral to ensure that it does not distract from the artwork on display. The material palette was inspired by the colors found in the surrounding nature. There is sophistication and control in the interior that contrasts vastly with the wild outdoors.