House “demolished by accident”

10.09.2020 - 15:26
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Úlfur Bjarni Tulinius - RÚV
The house at Skólavörðustígur 36 in central Reykjavík, which used to house Þorsteinn Bergmann’s famous homeware shop, collapsed mostly by itself yesterday during work to remove its roof and timber flooring, its owner says.

There is planning permission to increase the height of the old building by one floor but its owner tells RÚV today that controversial work there yesterday was not a demolition but rather an accident when it came to light that the front of the building lacked the proper structural support. 

The house was built slowly between 1920 and 1925 and is therefore covered by cultural heritage agency rules requiring formal review before any major renovations, relocation, or demolition on houses over 100 years old. 

There is active planning permission in place to add a storey to the house and extend its ground floor into the back garden. The house was constructed from hollow blocks and its load bearing capacity was therefore not high. 

Owner Birgir Örn Arnarson told RÚV that work to add the extra storey had already begun and that the roof was lifted off yesterday and the timber floor of the upper storey removed due to extensive water damage and mould. 

It appears that when widows were installed on the front of the house many years ago, load-bearing lintels were not installed below and Birgir Örn says the work yesterday led to parts of the front of the house around the long windows simply collapsing. The southern and western walls of the ground floor survived. 

Birgir Örn says it was an accident and that the house was not supposed to be demolished. The accident has been reported and meetings held with City of Reykjavík buildings inspectors and an architect this morning. It is clear at the very least that new planning permission will be needed before work continues. 

The news follows reports this morning that the house was demolished without a demolition licence. The initial reports generated widespread interest, as the preservation of old buildings in central Reykjavík is a hot topic as the city continues to develop quickly. 

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager
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