Works Along the Way

Gisli Sigurdsson

Icelandic Concrete Association 2002
A book review by Danny Yee © 2009
Works Along the Way contains colour photographs and brief descriptions of some 120 Icelandic structures built using concrete. These include houses, churches, power stations, lighthouses, factories, office buildings, swimming pools, sheepfolds, and bridges. The structures are organised by region and small maps are provided to help locate them.

The descriptions are surprisingly engaging, providing information about history, society, and so forth rather than focusing narrowly on the structures themselves. Here are a couple of examples.

Chapel in Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Architects: Helgi and Vilhjálmur Hjálmarsson
The chapel, built from 1969-1974, is a memorial to the Reverend Jón Steingrímsson, the "fire priest". According to legend, he stopped a flow of molten lava with his prayers just before it reached his church during the Skaftáreldar eruption of 1783. The building was partially financed by farmers in the Skaftafell district, each contributing one lamb a year for a considerable period of time. The walls of the chapel have a special texture that stems from the moulds used to cast them and suggests stone-built walls. The roof "floats" on a row of narrow windows that completely encircles the building.

Transmission line poles in Gilsfjörður
Design: Arkitektastofan, Línuhönnun, and Ístak. Construction: Ístak
Concrete power line poles in Gilsfjörður and Þorskafjördur, built in 1980, carry the high voltage West Iceland power line across the fjords. A steel tower was erected on landfill in the middle of each fjord, so that the line can hang in two spans over each body of water. The 12 concrete poles perform the function of an anchor, their shape designed to resist the downward force of the power line with the additional weight of ice and the force of wind on the lines. The traditional solution would have been heavy concrete foundations holding down light steel masts. Here, the concrete in the foundations was used to form a unique supporting structure and clearly demonstrates the strength needed to carry the wires. Each pole consists of four pre-cast units above ground, each weighing between 15-20 tonnes.

The only additional material consists of a half-page forward and four pages of black and white photos illustrating construction work.

I acquired Works Along the Way towards the end of a two week visit to Reykjavik and southern Iceland, but wished I had had it earlier. It would have provided a useful guide to the twenty or so structures covered which we saw, and might have helped us locate some of the others.

December 2009

Related reviews:
- books about Iceland + Icelandic history
- books about architecture + urbanism
%T Works Along the Way
%A Sigurdsson, Gisli
%I Icelandic Concrete Association
%D 2002
%O paperback
%G ISBN 9979607513
%P 56pp