Photos by Melissa Chua
In a coastal drive along soft moss-cloaked lava fields, sheep sheathed pastures, basalt towers and other ethereal landscapes, we were captivated by a quaint house on a farm called Teigarhorn in Iceland’s East coast. The basalt coastline cliffs adjacent to the house yield beautiful scolesite crystals that are harvested and sold to the public.
Teigarhorn is an example of how the Icelandic family unit revolves around the farm, the livestock and the land. Icelanders are very much in touch with their earth, and the island’s churning volcanic activity contributes to the ever-shifting landscape. Early Viking homes, dating back to the 9th century, were made of earth clay and topped with turf or grass, and once abandoned would just disappear back into the land – the earliest forms of what we know today as “sustainable housing” and “green roofs.”
When Danish merchants arrived in Iceland around the 1700s, Icelandic architecture shifted from turf to imported timber, requiring much less home maintenance than before. High pitched roofs with dark exteriors became stylish. The Teigarhorn house was one of the first to use the tar paper exterior coating, and it stands on a small peninsula overlooking the Atlantic.
The house was built in 1880-1882 by Niels Weywadt (1814-1883), director of an enterprise at Djúpivogur, for his Danish wife and 14 children. Weywadt’s second child, Nicoline (1848-1921), grew up to be one of Iceland’s most celebrated photographers and built a photographic workroom into the house after her father’s death. Since 1992, the house has been marked as one of Iceland’s national historic buildings.
Finally, the site remains one of the oldest weather stations in Iceland, with records dating back to 1874. It captured the highest temperature ever recorded in Iceland, 30.5 ○C (87 ○F) in June of 1939.