Exhibition about the first Icelandic Landscape Architect Jón Hallgrímur Björnsson in Reykjavik

Exhibition about the first Icelandic Landscape Architect Jón Hallgrímur Björnsson in Reykjavik

In the spring of 1952 a young man returned home to Iceland, after completing a master´s degree in horticulture and landscape architecture from Cornell University in the United States. The young man was Jón Hallgrímur Björnsson, the first Icelander to pursue the discipline of landscape design, then a blank page among the professions in his native land.

Björnsson was an innovator and a pioneer. Scouring the extreme latitudes for the hardiest plant species, he travelled to the North American Arctic and distant Tierra del Fuego. The seeds and specimens he brought back would become the precious stock for his experimental nursery, Alaska. He therefore not only laid the foundation, and set the standard, for Icelandic garden design and construction, but equipped the profession with its first palette of hard-won raw materials. The Alaska Nursery also became an important centre of learning for young people entering the field.

Björnsson was as audacious an entrepreneur as he was designer, globe-trotter, and exploratory plantsman. His business acumen, coupled with an unshakeable commitment to his mission of mitigating the harshness of the home environment, meant he was ideally equipped to forge, assemble, and draw funding for the building blocks of the fledging profession.

One of the first tasks Björnsson undertook, on graduating from Cornell, was the design and establishment of Hallargarðurinn, (1954), in the heart of Reykjavík, a limb of the city´s principal public open space flanking the lakeside. It is now considered a milestone in Icelandic garden history.

A hundred years on from Björnsson’s birth, the Icelandic Landscape Institute honours his memory, and salutes the fundamental role he played in bringing the profession into being. This exhibition is a tribute to his dedication, energy and vision.

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