24 August 2006


Summertime in Iceland isn't all hotsprings and hikes. It's also a frantic scramble to finish all the ambitious construction projects in the few months of (relatively) peaceful weather and long daylight hours. Everywhere I spend my time these days is surrounded by the clamor of construction. At work the dumptrucks come and go from various hole-diggings, and an entire new office building keeps the sounds of jackhammers and saws going. Near a friend's house and entire new pool is in its last stages before a (likely to be delayed) September 1 opening date, and where I am staying now, they are building a brand-new sidewalk. Not knowing it was fresh cement, I unwittingly left a sneakerprint in the new curb which I now look at as I pass by every day. Roads are constantly being closed and traffic rerouted for a quick one-day paving job, and entire buildings have been encased in scaffolding and tarps.

The skyline of Reykjavik is already not one of the most scenic, and it is now festooned with highrise cranes. It's a rare windowview that does not yield at least two. In fact, in the absence of my weather-trees, I use the chains on the cranes to determine just how windy it is outside (if the chain flaps in the breeze, you know you're going to be leaning pretty hard into the wind to get anywhere).

I'm already underwhelmed by much of the recent construction here, and I shudder to think that more of it is going up. There are whole neighborhoods, almost towns that are going up here, full of yet more of these comfortable-to-live-in buildings that do nothing to enhance the charm of their dramatic surroundings. This is why I am a downtown girl. I appreciate the ease and comfort of a new shiny building with storage units, modern-living spaces and brand-new fixtures, but what I love most are the old places, the ones that have odd door hinges or original light fixtures and funny corners. It keeps me connected to the layers of time which I so love about the downtown here, about my childhood spent in basements and attics as my dad explained how the beams were cut 200, 300 years ago. I can only hope that I'm not the only one who feels this way here.

Ship sighting: I commuted this morning partly on foot in the still misty morning, and checked out the stern of the cruise ship Astor, tied up at the miðbakki dock. I like that one of its former names was Dostoevskiy. The newspaper a few days ago also reported that one of the somewhat controversial whaling boats that are always tied up (immediately across from where the whalewatch boats depart) has been pulled up into drydock. The photo showed its hull laden with barnacles- I'll have to go down and have a look this week!


tsduff said...

I still live vicariously in Iceland through your eyes. I too love the old houses, history of times gone by. My Sweetie's former family home in Hafnarfjordur was recently completely remodeled... with the outside being the only original part remaining. He and his mother were crushed when we went to visit the relatives now living there... everything is moved around inside, even walls and stairs. It is an old 3 story place, with dormers and a basement, with windows on the street level. A beautiful tall house, with a harbor view, it is right next to where the old bakery used to stand. (It is behind the Viking restaurant downtown).

The construction you mention was evident in Hafnarfjordur as well as everywhere in between Reykjavik. We checked out a huge development going up on the outskirts of Hafna...big ugly multifamily dwellings (apartments) set up like dorms almost. We were sad to see all the lava fields ripped up. Progress sucks sometimes.

Jen said...

When I visited Iceland, I was both amazed and happy at how awesome the country was . . . but also a bit sad at the signs of construction. Yes, I saw all the cranes up and about in Reykjavik and while I'm not against development, I just thought how sad it would be if Iceland lost its signature look to the pressures of architectural globalization.

And if you couldn't tell, I also live vicariously in Iceland through your blog. Whenever I read your entries, I dream about returning . . . Thank you. I'm glad you decided to stay.