Drangar is a large estate on the northern shore of the Snæfellsnes peninsula that includes a handful of islands in the Breiðfjörður archipelago. Until recently the land was a farm with a collection of buildings built according to standard, state issue, blueprints in the early eighties. When the present owners acquired the property, the buildings were in a decrepit state of repair, some had even collapsed of their own accord.
The remaining structures were the farmhouse, tractorshed, hay-tower and cowshed and barn. Of the four the house was in the best condition and, sporting a dormer of absurd proportions, it is the most unique of the structures. Its renovation will be part of a later phase. The hay-tower is happily crumbling and will be allowed to continue doing so.
The tractorshed and cowshed and barn were generic, built for agricultural use with limited funds. It’s a building type that’s found on countless farms around the country serving farmers and their animals. However, when farms started to augment their income by modifying these structures into tourist accommodation the rustic charm was often lost in the process. This observation was one of the principle generators for the Drangar project.
The machine shed was uninsulated with an earth floor, a concrete sump pit and a tin roof. Its size was perfect for four guest rooms, two of which were equipped with micro-kitchenettes and a communal sitting/dining area. A door in the central corridor allows for the building to be split into two units or used as one. The materiality of the interior is anchored by the original rough-cast concrete and a new terrazzo floor. The interior walls of the communal spaces are white and the ceilings and fitments in fine oak carpentry. The guest rooms pay homage to the previous use with gloss painted walls and ceilings in the livery of Kubota, New Holland, John Deere and Massey Ferguson farm machinery. Their en-suite bathrooms are tiled in an aquatic blue mosaic. From the entrance lobby a concrete stair spirals down to a basement laundry and service room.
The shed is insulated externally and clad in corrugated copper that changes from brown through aubergine to Spanish green depending on the whims of the weather and sea spray. The fenestration mimics the original shed, but the tractor door has been replaced by a large sliding picture window connecting the communal area to a broad terrace.
The cowshed and barn were more challenging. Externally the concrete was brutally weathered in such a charming fashion that it demanded to be kept. Internally the cowshed was crudely insulated with expanded polystyrene that had preserved the odour of the previous occupants. More traces of its former use were in the undercroft that was full to the ceiling with fermenting manure.
The adjacent barn was more manageable but programmatically awkward as it was
split in two by a tall concrete wall and although the ceiling height was considerable it wasn’t enough to accommodate two storeys.
Three principle functions were planned. The undercroft was cleaned and the floor lowered to accommodate a communal kitchen and lavatories for campers.
Eight bovine coloured guestrooms were inserted in the cowshed with a communal room, kitchen and reception in the north end of the barn. The south end is a porte-cochère for the owner’s apartment that is located on a new upper floor beneath the raised roof. Some may speculate that the bridge was used to bring hay to the barn, but it is a new addition and its principal function is to get from the apartment to the Drangar promontory.
The material language of this cowshed and barn continues that of the machine shed but with a shift to expose the existing concrete externally. Where new concrete was used to either extend up, down or reinforce existing structure its method of construction was done in the same pragmatic manner as the original. Similarly, old openings were kept but adjusted in height to maintain the equilibrium of the facades. Corrugated copper is used on the roofs and the long façades of the barn and in a more sleek, flat-seamed form, on the house-within-a-house guestrooms. Again, oak carpentry warms the interiors but here it is counterpointed with stainless steel and monochromatic veined marble.
Although from a distance the remodeling of these building appears not to have happened, they are in fact completely rebuilt to modern standards. Furthermore, the project uses minimal energy with efficient insulation and a heat-pump system that garners heat from the surrounding fields. Pure water is obtained on-site from a bore-hole. The location may be remote, 30km from the nearest surfaced road, but Drangar is linked, via fiber-optic cable, to the global internet.