Rural Icelandic cottages by PK Arkitektar have turf roofs and burnt timber cladding

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Batons of charred timber and layers of turf help this pair of holiday cottages by PK Arkitektar settle into the rugged landscape of south-west Iceland (+ slideshow).

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar

Reykjavík-based PK Arkitektar won a competition in 2012 to design the 20 rental cottages for the Association of Academics (BHM) – an umbrella organisation of trade unions. These two cabins form the pilot for the scheme, which is called BHM Vacation Rental Cottages.

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar

The rental cottages are located in Brekkuskógur, a lakeside area around 50 miles east of Reykjavík, and feature large windows and terraces that aim to take advantage of the scenery.

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar

"The main focus of the design is to create a semi-rural architecture that blends in with the landscape and the surrounding mountains," said PK Arkitektar.



"The area features picturesque surroundings with uninterrupted views from each cottage to the nearby lake, Laugarvatn."

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar
Photograph by Bjarni Kristinson

The timber buildings are both covered in strips of charred wood cladding, while vegetation preserved during the site clearance was reinstalled on the roofs.

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar

Earth excavated during the construction of the concrete foundations is built into wind-breaking mounds around the terraces, and also forms ramps around the edges of the buildings.

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar

These features are designed to give the house longevity, but also as a reference to the local turf houses.

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar

"The exterior is clad with burnt hardwood paneling, utilising a method well known in Japan among other countries, to enhance the durability of the wood," explained the team.

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar

"The roof is a grass layer fused together with the surrounding slope, a traditional method used in the old vernacular turf houses in Iceland."

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar

Inside, the floors in each of the cabins are polished concrete, while the walls and ceilings are lined in strips of light-coloured timber spaced in the same intervals as the exterior cladding.

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar

Living and dining spaces are set in the centre of the cottages, while bathrooms have access to decked terraces leading to a geothermal hot tub.

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar

Geothermal energy is also used to power the cabins, giving them "close to zero carbon footprints".

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar

The spaces are dressed with neutral-toned textiles and furniture, and grey cabinetry throughout – emphasising the the views through the cabins' abundant windows.

BHM Vacation Rental Cottages by PK Arkitektar
Photograph by Bjarni Kristinson

PK Arkitektar is led by architect Pálmar Kristmundsson. It previously created a ridged concrete residence overlooking a glacial valley outside Reykjavík, while in the city it used red volcanic stone to conceal the doorway of a bright white house.

Photography is by Rafael Pinho, unless otherwise stated.


Project credits:

Architect: PK Arkitektar
Design Team: Pálmar Kristmundsson, Andrew Burges, Fernando de Mendonca, Erna Vestmann, Sunna Dóra Sigurjónsdóttir, Liidia Grinko
Consultants: Verkhönnun, Landark
Client: Association of Academics (BHM)

Steypustooin_Summer-House_BHM_dezeen_1
Typical floor plan – click for larger image
Steypustooin_Summer-House_BHM_dezeen_2
Typical section – click for larger image
  • Sim

    It looks great. Love the Japanese-like kitchen. However, if you are designing with views in mind, why place the couch with its back to the windows?

  • Concerned Citizen

    Turf n burnt.

    • Guest

      Got a smile from me.

  • Michael Purcell

    Is that Icelandic birch?

  • Samuel Hoang

    Any idea who to contact about renting these cottages?