Making Better Places: Nine Lessons From Iceland

Using a set of mid-February photographs from Iceland, Chuck Wolfe describes scaled expressions of urban settlement and transport in Iceland and derives principles for building better places.
February 25, 2013, 6am PST | crwolfelaw
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In his latest visually-focused Atlantic Cities piece, Wolfe describes urban and rural Iceland from the perspectives of visual inspiration, and as fodder for professional practice regarding settlements and cities. He explains how, "[i]n Icelandic landscapes, in small towns, and in the resurgent capital city of Reykjavik, are scenes and stories that transcend nature, culture and the built environment."

Wolfe provides a nine-point, image-oriented summary of lessons learned from Iceland’s interplay of the natural and built environments, "including human capacity to adapt to the opportunities and constraints of place".  Examples include clarity of the night sky, building minimalism that blends with surrounding nature, climate-sensitive use of building color and materials, as well as sensitive interaction of the built environment with water bodies, landscape and sky.

He concludes:

To fully understand cites, I believe we should return to places where human settlement still stands in awe of larger forces, and to view the nascent built environment with discernment and care... [l]ast week’s journey to Iceland was a primer on the very underpinnings of human movement, settlement and consequent urbanization.

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Published on Sunday, February 24, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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