How Iceland Made Corrugated Steel Construction Charming

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Usually you think of corrugated metal buildings in the United States as an industrial cladding – something cool and urban for a modern house or a practical shed in the country.  When I was in South Africa, the townships had a lot of corrugated metal houses in the townships. Once again, the metal was a utilitarian material devoid of charm or quaintness.

Nowhere except in Iceland have I seen corrugated steel building look charming with their bright colours and occasionally fancy design.  Who knew corrugated steel could be made to look Victorian?!

Corrugated steel construction in Iceland
Victorian-style corrugated steel cladding

Reasons for Corrugated Steel Construction in Iceland

Corrugated metal was exported around the world in the mid-19th century to put up quick, cheap housing.  In the 1860’s British ships would trade the local sheep for corrugated steel which turned out to be an excellent building material for the harsh weather in Iceland.  Although first used to clad the roofs, corrugated steel soon became a wall cladding as well.

corrugated steel construction in Iceland
Blue steel roof for a a blue sky.

Thanks to the Vikings, Iceland has a shortage of timber for building homes.  The Vikings had razed the existing forests to build ships and then allowed sheep to graze on the land preventing the trees from growing. Corrugated steel protected the timber building underneath from the harsh elements extending its life by many years.

corrugated steel construction in Iceland
Corrugated Steel with a Scandi dragon twist

Following a massive fire in 1915, city officials in Reyjkavik ordered all houses to be covered in fire proof materials to prevent future fires.  Corrugated steel once again proved to be the best solution because it was strong, lightweight and cheap with excellent insulation properties.

corrugated steel construction in Iceland
A view over the colourful steel architecture of Reyjkavik

The Diversity of Corrugated Steel Buildings in Iceland

These buildings are traditionally painted in bright colours which must really help brighten the gloom in the dark days of winter.  In the sunshine, the light bounces off the metal making it sparkle, like on this church roof.

photos from the colourful and charming corrugated steel construction in Iceland

It’s not just the homes either.  You get offices, restaurants, supermarkets and churches with the corrugated steel shell. And this log cabin… which somehow mixes up rustic with industrial and still makes it cool.

corrugated steel construction in Iceland
Log cabin chic with a steel roof.

This little black house is the Icelandic Emigration Center at Hofsos and stands as bulwark from the wind blowing off a fjord in North Iceland.  Although we went in summer, we were still buffeted by the wind.  Note the little windows which help with the insulation.  The bench was pretty against the black siding but no one was brave enough to actually sit there!

corrugated steel construction in Iceland
Imposing in black.

Here are some photos of the beauty of corrugated steel architecture in Iceland.  The steel colours are varied and individual such as light, dark, pastel and bright.

corrugated steel construction in Iceland
Flowers to soften up the steel.
corrugated steel construction in Iceland
More flowers to soften the industrial look
corrugated steel construction in Iceland
I love the weathered red of this steel roof.
corrugated steel construction in Iceland
An orange steel roof that has seen better days.

These last three photos of buildings are located in Seydisfjordur, a town known for its prefabricated wooden houses that the herring barons imported from Norway.  These kit-houses are mixed in with the usual corrugated steel architecture to give the town a very unique look.

corrugated steel construction in Iceland
A traditional blue & white colour combo is just as pretty in steel.
corrugated steel construction in Iceland
Industrial steel married to a gracious front porch.
corrugated steel construction in Iceland
You can see how the wooden windows show much more wear than the steel.

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Nowhere except in Iceland have I seen a corrugated steel building look charming with their bright colours and occasionally fancy design. Who knew corrugated steel buildings could be made to look Victorian?! Check out these lovely Iceland house architecture photos: Iceland really can make a corrugated steel wall look charming! #architecture #iceland #design #steel
Nowhere except in Iceland have I seen a corrugated steel building look charming
with their bright colours and occasionally fancy design. Who knew corrugated steel
buildings could be made to look Victorian?! Check out these lovely Iceland house
architecture photos: Iceland really can make a corrugated steel wall look charming!
#architecture #iceland #design #steel

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33 thoughts on “How Iceland Made Corrugated Steel Construction Charming”

  1. I had to click in to read and see and now I’m kinda in love with the black house. I wish some homeowners’ associations in the United States would get the memo that color can be fun, interesting and tasteful. Fascinating history on deforestation and pluck.

    1. Yes the U.S. Likes a a standard traditional look for much of its architecture. It seems to be about giving the majority of residents something ‘vanilla’ no one can object to.

  2. Gorgeous photos. The house made of corrugated iron is very atmospheric. C.I. is used a lot in North Queensland where I live. Mainly for roofing or sheds. It is not often painted but modern sheds can be made of powder coated aluminium which kind of looks like iron and they come in different colours.

  3. I would have not expected to see something like this in Iceland. The corrugated steel Victorian house looks so good! In Puerto Rico, a lot of roofs are made of this material. I think is is because of the prices and to avoid heat.

    1. I just assumed metal wouldn’t be good in the heat but clearly steel must be different. Science was never my thing I agree the Victorian house is so pretty. They made steel structure look pretty and delicate.

  4. HI Shobha, my husband and I were also fascinated with the colorful, corrugated homes in Iceland. We actually also wrote a post about it. It’s amazing how they turned an unlikely siding material into something practical and delightful to the eyes. Lovley photos.

  5. Thanks for sharing this post about Iceland and corrugated metal. I know what you mean about how corrugated metal can feel industrial, but with the right roofing contractor it can be made to feel welcoming. You make a great point about making sure that you choose the right colors. Your pictures from your visit are beautiful.

  6. Whoa, I really like the look of that all-black house. I expected to hate how a lot of these looked, but they’re surprisingly cute. The bit about how ships would trade the corrugated steel for sheep.

  7. I have never thought of metal buildings as being charming, but you convinced me with the Victorian style building. It seems like steel buildings would hold up better to the harsh elements of Iceland, too. With the ability to choose such a variety of styles and colors, I can see why the people of Iceland have gravitated towards such a unique material to build with! Very interesting read.

  8. I, too, usually thought of metal cladding as something to be left for industrial buildings and modern homes. However, the pictures you showed demonstrate that that is not the case! I wouldn’t even have guessed that some of those roofs are made of metal. It just goes to show that color can go a long way for making even metal-clad roofs look more homey. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I can now understand why steel buildings are so heavily used in Iceland. I had no idea that it was because the Vikings had cleared out so much of the timber and razed the forests, thus leaving a limited amount of timber to to be used for homes. It makes sense that steel buildings would be the next option and it’s cool to see that they are being used and built in a way that makes them strong and solid buildings.

  10. Your surprise about corrugated steel building capability is completely understandable. Most people would be surprised to know that these could be made to look Victorian.

  11. Really beautiful! extreme weather coupled with lack of timber led to the use of metal and Icelanders did not disappoint at all, like true blue Europeans, by applying a riot of colors and style on them to give a distinct character to their homes and cities.

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