WEBINAR: The Icelandic Turf House - More Than a Human Story. Environmental Lunchtime Discussion

How can architecture form new human-nonhuman relations, cohabitation, ecosystem thinking and doing? Anthropologists Tinna Grétarsdóttir and Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson talk on the socio-material entanglements and multispecies relations of the Icelandic turf house.

illustration, people, walking, gear, suitcases, commission

Photo: Untitled. 2018. Hannes Lárusson, Hildigunnur Sverrisdóttir, Sigurjón B. Hafsteinsson and Tinna Grétarsdóttir.

How can Icelandic turf house architecture be of value in “hold[ing] open space in the world for other living beings” (van Dooren 2014: 5) in pandemic times when communities and ecosystems are sinking deeper into devastation. In the early twentieth century, the turf house, the home of Icelanders for more than a millennium, was considered an obstacle to progress and was brutally eradicated. Advocating for renewed interest in this vernacular architecture, Grétarsdóttir and Hafsteinsson speculate about the loss of the turf house ontology and the human and nonhuman distributed agencies and dependencies embedded in it.

Challenging human-centered approaches to architecture, they approach the turf house as superorganism, consisting of complicated root systems, soil, fungi, microbes, plants, lichens, stones, wood, insects, humans, cows, sheep, etc. As such reflecting upon the turf house socio-material entanglements, multispecies relations, time and space as essential elements for creating architectural complexes of an interdependent and growing coexistence. The research is grounded in an interdisciplinary approach of art and science and will affect thinking on how future architecture can become accountable for forming new human-nonhuman relations, cohabitation, ecosystem thinking and doing.


About the speakers

Tinna Grétarsdóttir is trained as an anthropologist and seeks new ways of
combining research and art. She has researched, published and curated exhibitions
on art and neoliberal cultural politics, competing discourses of creativity, human and nonhuman ecologies and death. She has done fieldwork in Canada, Iceland Greenland and Finland. She is co-director of art-led research projects OH and Chill-Survive and is currently co-writing a book on architecture as multispecies organism. She is a caregiver of four children, a cat, plants, grows red beets and has been a compulsive tree planter.
Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson is a professor at the University of Iceland. He has engaged in fieldwork in Canada and Iceland on subjects like indigenous media, deep democracy, neoliberal cultural politics, heritage, and death and has published books, book chapters and articles in these areas.. His latest book in English is Death and Governmentality in Iceland: Neo-liberalism, Grief and the Nation-form (2018), co-authored with Arnar Árnason and Tinna Grétarsdóttir. The book is based on ethnographic research in Iceland that reflects on linkages between death and grief, the fluctuating fortunes of the ´nation-form´ and the different ways in which political power can be legitimised through the changing relations between ´nation´, ´state´ and ´individual´. Hafsteinson´s latest book in Icelandic is The History of Art Museums in Iceland (2019), an edited volume about the histories of twenty five art museums founded between 1884 and 2007. 

About the event series

The OSEH Environmental Lunchtime Discussion series consists of short, 10-15 minute presentations by invited guests, followed by a discussion. We invite speakers from a wide variety of fields, both academic and beyond. The presentations are accessible and are aimed at anyone with an interest in environmental issues. All are welcome.

Tags: Environmental Humanities, HF, IKOS, OSEH, Architecture, Iceland
Published May 4, 2020 11:21 AM - Last modified May 6, 2020 11:51 AM