Guðjón Samúelsson – State Icelandic architect

Guðjón Samúelsson was born on 16th April 1887 in Iceland. He is an Icelandic native who is well known for his works in architecture. His notable works include the University of Iceland, Akureyrarkirkja, Hallgrímskirkja, National Theatre of Iceland, and so on. His death took place on 25th April 1950 in Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland.

Guðjón Samúelsson had been a State Architect of Iceland, and also the first Icelander to be educated in the field of architecture. He is well known as one of the most significant architects of Iceland. He designed the University of Iceland’s main structure, the Landakot Roman Catholic Cathedral in Reykjavík, the National Theatre of Iceland, and the Church of Akureyri. His last and most popular work is Hallgrímskirkja church that was commissioned in 1937.


There is not much knowledge regarding his early life except for the fact that he finished his studies in the year 1919. Pétur Ármannsson, an Icelandic architect, defines him as an influential figure in terms of Icelandic architecture. During the 1920s, Guðjón was instructed to plan the main buildings that were constructed by the Icelandic state. He played an important role in the urban plans of the capital city, Reykjavík. This was the time when Iceland had begun modernizing and urbanizing.

Guðjón made an effort to craft an Icelandic form of architecture. The natural geology of Iceland was believed to be his inspiration for a majority of his designs. Hallgrímskirkja was inspired by basalt columns that can be found at Svartifoss. He had designed the main structure of the University of Iceland in a brand-new and iconic Icelandic style. He had done so in order to contribute renewal of the Icelandic Commonwealth. At the time when the British had occupied Iceland in 1940, the British commander did not choose to seize the University of Iceland central-building as he found it very wonderful.

His rural creations were inspired by Icelandic turf houses, like the Héraðsskólinn schoolhouse. However, efforts to re-build turf house style buildings in rural regions had ended during the 1930s. This was because these forms of structures were not considered as cost-effective and useful. This is why Guðjón did not choose the turf house style while designing the schoolhouse at Reykholt.

Guðjón influenced numerous church designs in Iceland in order to combine naturalism with modernism. A demonstrative exhibition of his works was conducted at the Hafnarborg in Hafnarfjördur during 2019-2020. This was on the centenary of his graduation in 1919 and also his appointment as state architect (1920).

Other works

The house situated in the corner Austurstræti in Reykjavík was constructed in around 1916-1917 and was designed by Guðjón. It is also the first huge building in Iceland and was inspired by Art Nouveau and Danish Nationalist Romanticism and complex statues made by Einar Jónsson. There had been an agency Reykjavíkurapótek as well as Landsbankinn, that opened in the year 1930.

Landspítalinn Hótel Borg Héraðsskólinn is yet another one of Guðjón’s works that were constructed in 1928. Ever since then, the school had been transformed into a hostel. Guðjón opted for this particular location as it was close to the hot spring and also because of its lovely scenery.

Guðjón also made Landakotskirkja. It is the cathedral of the Catholic Church in Iceland. It is also referred to as Basilika Krists konungs (The Basilica of Christ the King).

Other major works by Guðjón Samúelsson include Sundhöll Keflavíkur, the Museum of local history in Kópasker, the Sundhöllin swimming pool and the Héraðsskólinn Schoolhouse.


Guðjón Samúelsson is very famous for his architecture work in Iceland. He has big names under his sleeve. His works have made a tremendous impact on Icelandic architecture. This is because he blended modernism with naturalism.

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