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The First Icelandic Architect

Rögnvaldur Ágúst Ólafsson has been called the first Icelandic architect. He was born in Dýrafjörður in the Westfjords in 1874 and grew up in Ísafjörður. He graduated from the Learned School in 1901 and sailed to Copenhagen for his studies that same year. Rögnvaldur was the first Icelandic architect exclusively designing houses. He became the consultant for Government Public Buildings in 1906. Although he only was able to continue his work for 12 years, he designed 30 churches, some 30 houses in the capital and dozens of other buildings across the country. He designed many of the most impressive wooden buildings that were built in the capital in the first decade of the 20th century. Rögnvaldur‘s design for many houses was influenced by the Swiss chalet style and neoclassical architecture. One of Rögnvaldurs best known works is the Húsavík Church, inaugurated in 1907. Among other works were Vífilsstaðir Hospital, built in 1908, and the Church of Þingeyrar, a stone building in the Gothic style. Rögnvaldur died of tuberculosis in Vífilsstaðir Hospital at the age of 42. A book by designer Björn G. Björnsson commemorating Rognvaldur Olafsson and his work was published in the end of 2016.

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