Driving back to Reykjavík from Hella, we noticed an odd-looking house on the side of the Ring Road. It is not unusual to see a geodesic dome here in Iceland, but something about this one made us stop to have a look. It turned out to be a wise decision.
The house is called “Auðkúla,” and the charming woman living there by herself is Gerður Jónasdóttir. Architect Einar Þórsteinn, renowned for this type of building, designed Auðkúla. Nevertheless, it’s Gerður’s personal taste that has made it into the house it is today.
After a heartwarming welcome, she tells me how she had the inspiration for her home. “It was more than 22 years ago, a month after my husband died. I was working late one evening. I was alone, and about to go home, when it hit me: You have to build a kúluhús—a bowl house. The idea came in such a way that I couldn’t question it.”
When Gerður then told her son, his first reaction was to ask if she was crazy. “And I said: I might just be,” she laughs. “As soon as someone wants to do something a little bit different, they are considered strange. But you shouldn’t let others decide on what you want to do. And I don’t mind being a bit strange.”
Every object in the house has a story behind it. Some were made by friends, some by her mother, and some by Gerður herself. “I cut the wood,” she says, modestly, when I compliment her work as I walk up the stairs.
Today, she enjoys having people over, which I could feel from her warm welcome. She’s now on her fourth guestbook keeping track of all the people—mostly tourists—that stop by. The walls crammed with pictures of smiling faces show that she’s very proud of her big family. She has lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she says: “It’s surprising how many I have, with just two sons. I am so rich.”
It has been 29 years since her husband passed away. I assume she must have been very young when it happened, but she laughs: “I am 87 years old now.” Living in this peaceful house seems to do her very well—I wouldn’t have guessed she was a day over 65.
When I was about to leave she smiled, told me: “Now you have some tips for when you live alone.” I certainly do, and I also know I’ll stop by her place whenever I’m going that direction to hear more of her remarkable stories.