Artist Studio Hlöðuberg / Studio Bua
Text description provided by the architects. Studio Bua has transformed an abandoned concrete barn in the Icelandic countryside into an artist’s home and studio. Hlöðuberg Barn, Skarðsströnd is located on an old farmhouse overlooking the Breiðafjörður in West Iceland. The rural site is surrounded by mountains, meadows, a fjord and the sea beyond, which subjects it to extreme weather and temperature.
The brief was to create a space that could act as a working artist’s home and studio for clients. Finding the right balance between workspace and family home was key. The space had to be neutral enough to display works of art, but also a welcoming family home and a place to entertain guests. The renovation was designed and built as a work of art. Studio Bua was determined to retain as much of the existing concrete structure as possible in order to preserve the unique character of the barn and to use suitable elements.
The main part of the existing structure was constructed of thick, sturdy mass concrete with a corrugated iron roof. The quality of the existing concrete has been retained on the exterior, with unique lichen growth and local pebble aggregates creating the illusion that the barn is growing from the earth. A lean-to, devoid of roof and in perfect state of ruin, was left as is and forms a sheltered courtyard.
The beautifully ruined, foundationless perimeter walls have been retained, enclosing a new walled garden where flowers, vegetables and herbs can be grown. With no existing floor slab, the first step was to stabilize the original structure and line the barn floor with a reinforced concrete slab. The local landscape was incorporated into the design wherever possible, with pebbles and volcanic sand from the beach used to fill in gaps in the existing structure. A two-storey light wooden structure was inserted into the existing space.
The new wooden volume is clad in corrugated industrial Aluzinc, which embodies the lightness of the inserted volume. Aluzinc is one of the few materials capable of withstanding the harsh environment and extreme climatic conditions of the site. The undulation refers to the local building tradition and reflects the color of the sky and the surrounding grassland, changing with the seasons and the weather. The siding, roofing, flashings and downspouts were all produced locally. Despite the extreme conditions, the house is very efficient and durable.
A geothermal heat pump has been installed, along with low temperature underfloor heating and triple glazing on all windows. In order not to compromise the existing unreinforced structure, only two new openings were added on the ground floor. Existing and new openings have been diamond cut to provide a smoothness that contrasts with the rough exterior finishes and reveals, in cross-section, the color and texture of the irregular aggregate.
The detailed yet calm interior has been kept neutral to ensure it doesn’t distract from the artwork on display. The material palette is inspired by the colors found in the surrounding nature. There’s a sophistication and control to the interior that stands in stark contrast to the rugged exterior.