Greetings and welcome to Dinosaur Bear!
This post features special guest consultants Pigsten and Broli. I bring in these two to offer up their expertise on a certain construction site that we used to live next to. Unless you’re a newcomer to Dinosaur Bear then you’ll probably know that I’m referring to the site directly across the street from our residence in Iceland. Yes, that construction site was essentially ubiquitous with our time in Reykjavík – so much so, in fact, that I mentioned potentially writing a post about it in my very first post about Iceland.
The story of our Sæmundargata construction site is one of enjoyment, frustration, and even surprise. See, when we moved into our Reykjavík apartment we had no idea we were going to be living right across the street from a large construction site. We knew about the (further away) domestic airport, but not the construction site which was less than a stone’s throw distance from us. So, when we first walked into our apartment back in August of 2017 we saw it.. right there across the street.. a giant gaping mud pit with a fence around it. I clearly remember that my first thought was “Oh boy, here we go.” Turns out that the construction site would pale in comparison to my loud arse neighbors, but I didn’t know that at the time as all the children around me had yet to move in yet.
Still, we also knew that the construction site was going to be a constant part of our Icelandic existence – after having lived in what was by most accounts a construction site back in Boston (major facade repair to our building that blocked off our windows for months and continuously filled our apartment with brick and mortar dust) – but we also knew that there wasn’t much we could do about it, so we just accepted that we were now neighbors to a construction site. In fact, some of the very first photos we took in Iceland prominently feature the construction site.
It didn’t take long for a certain little dinosaur to take to the construction site – and by “take to” I mean “assume control of.” Clifford apparently pulled strings – as Clifford is wont to do – and secured a position for Pigsten as a foreman on the site as part of his “school.” We had all ventured to Iceland for school in varying forms so Pigsten was no exception!
Pigsten would later be joined by quite a few assistants and friends, but at the start it was just him and his trusty machine – gifted long ago by a one Grandma Meem. Oddly enough, shortly after starting his project Pigsten found one last ancient piece of gum in the innards of his manly-machine – he ate it, gross, but totally not surprising.
Anyways, in this post what I would like to do is a share a “picture book” of the Sæmundargata construction site. The photos will be, by and large, chronological. They are also mostly from yours truly – with a few photos provided by the property manager that I found online thrown in as well. I had a lot of source material to work with, as believe it or not we ended up taking just shy of 400 photos of the site. Now, don’t get me wrong, a lot of those photos were us just taking photos from our windows or balcony, and weren’t specifically of the construction site (e.g., if we wanted to take a photo of the outdoors, the site was in it 90%+ of the time just because of its size and proximity to us). However, we did take a lot of photos with the focus being the site itself.
I am not a construction expert and while I have worked briefly on construction sites in the past, I can’t claim to know most of the ins-and-outs of the process. I am, however, now quite versed in the state of living next to a construction site – and this post will chronicle some of that experience. In many ways the construction site was as much a part of our living in Iceland as was our time at Háskóli Íslands, which is fitting considering that the university owned the site. Given the university ownership it probably isn’t surprising that the site was destined to be (much needed) student housing, but it was also part of a larger science/research area expansion. For example, this next photo you can see a second hole further in the background – that was going to be one of the research buildings.
But, for the most part, SB and I chose not to look into the specifics of the project (though they are available online – in Icelandic of course) because we liked the element of surprise – very, very slow surprise, but surprise nonetheless. So, when we first moved in we got to watch them digging a giant pit in the ground, and that’s when Pigsten took command.
On the whole progress seemed fairly slow around that point, though there were a lot of rainbows around that time of year so maybe they were distracted with the gold hunt.
Still, we hadn’t yet hit that totally depressing part of the year yet, so there were some sunny days intermittently through that period of work.
At that point the weather wasn’t quite yet a ongoing setback, and the biggest disturbances to the work were the dreaded street-cleaners (Pigsten seems to have inherited Clifford’s utter disdain for them).
Here’s the thing though, it didn’t really bother me. I think there are two reasons for this, first – it was sort of a constant and rhythmic noise. As such, over time my brain was able to tune it out – if only somewhat. Second, and more important, it pissed my neighbors off. This brought me great joy as my neighbors were largely late-teen and early-twenty somethings who would have parties until 3-4am and blare music. Basically, they had determined that it was OK to scream (yes scream) constantly and to play ludicrously loud music (and then lie to the landlord about it, and the landlord of course believed them over the foreigners) until 4am, BUT because poor-little-baby partied until 6am it was NOT ok in their minds for the construction site to start making noise at 7am.
How do I know it pissed them off? Well, for one they fumed about it on Facebook. They also fumed about it in class (I don’t think any of my direct neighbors were in any of my classes, but one classmate was in a building adjacent to us and he bitched about it). They complained to the construction company (ISTAK). They complained to the city. They also wrote a letter to the landlord claiming the rent should be lowered because of the noise. They were utterly denied on all fronts (much to my pleasure, though cheaper rent would have been nice). Basically, I received great joy at the babies getting woke up in the morning after keeping the few people in the building who had some semblance of responsibility in their lives from sleeping soundly.
Pigsten, for his part, responded to the noise by bringing in even more equipment.
Then, early the next morning, the hammering returned.
Valentino’s presence (with his Alaska training) was enough to ensure the site kept going, even on snowy nights.
Also, just as the next wave of work was starting, Broli came to live with us!
That brought the site to a standstill, but fortunately it didn’t last too long. The bad news is that because the snow-capable weather didn’t last long, it also melted very quickly. That created its own problems.
However, it was right around that time that we took our trip to Greenland, and so Pigsten tasked his grew with having the site cleaned up by his return. Fortunately (for them) they achieved their task by the time we got back.
As things warmed up the snow gave way to ever-increasing amounts of rain (record breaking, in fact) which meant crummy work conditions, but generally nothing that shut the site down.
Iceland did have one last wrench to try to throw into the machine though, with a late season snow.
The next big transition was when they started moving to the “ground level” – as up until that point that had been doing mostly foundational work and work in the basement/parking garage (which would be under the building – a nice feature considering the limited parking in the area).
Still, this period of construction lasted for quite a while – though as you can see in the next photo they simultaneously began working on the ground floor units while still installing the lower floor/ceiling.
Still, as mentioned, Pigsten wasn’t too bad of a boss. He paid them lots of money and let them have at least one day on the weekend (sometimes 😛 ) he also didn’t make them work much later than normal, even with all the daylight hours we had.
Heck, on the longest day of the year Pigsten didn’t make his crew work a anymore more than normal.
As I have discussed before, spring and summer were very rainy the year we were in Iceland – even worse than normal. So if Pigsten had any hopes of clear summer weather for his site, those days didn’t really come.
Much of our lack of enthusiasm stemmed from the fact that once they’d completed that side, the workers would be much closer to level with our windows – meaning that our privacy was effectively gone unless we kept the curtains closed all the time.
The good news about that is that we left for mainland Europe right around the time that was about to happen. In the interim while we were gone, Pigsten continued to remotely monitor the site’s progress, though to his credit he still mostly went into vacation mode.
However, with our final days in Iceland being so hectic we probably wouldn’t have noticed too much even if they were right outside our windows. Speaking of those final days, Pigsten was a dutiful foreman right up to the very end – and in fact as soon as we woke up on our last day in Iceland he went straight to his foreman’s spot as if it was a normal day.
But, being the good boy he is (though he is like Tristen and very ornery sometimes), he came along when we called for him. Plus, it’s not like he was abandoning the site – nope, he simply moved onto the next phase of his coursework: “Remote Site Management.” Now he continues to work on the site, he just does so from our new home. While Pigsten does take his work very seriously, he also likes sharing it with us (but not too many details, he likes his secrets 😛 ) and so he does pass along photos of the site from time to time. As of me writing this (10/8/18) this is the most recent photo of the project that Pigsten has sent me:
You might be thinking, “All that and it’s not even finished!?” well – I did consider waiting until the building was done and then doing a post about it, but I decided that the period of construction when we lived there was the most important to, you know, our experiences there. I will, however, come back and update this post with a final, completed, shot of Pigsten’s site once it has been passed along to me by Mr. Foreman. I obviously can’t say when that will be, as such details are beyond my Pigsten Security Clearance level.
In the end, living across from the construction site was far less annoying than living with children who had nothing expected of them aside from blaring music each night. Oddly enough, the one time the construction site did piss SB and I off was when they (they being one particular guy who I bet I could still pick out) insisted on BLARING horrible club music all. day. long. It started with decent music on Saturdays, but then progressed to crap club music 6 days a week. Whoever made the boom-box he was using should be proud of themselves, as that thing had obscenely “good” bass. Let’s put it this way, I was seriously considering breaking into the construction site at night and destroying it – fortunately it didn’t come to that as we took our complaints to the police when the manager didn’t listen. Pigsten of course had “bigger fish to fry” than dealing with noise complaints, so he conveniently ignored us. But, other than that week or so of blaring crap music, I can’t think of any point during the year where I despised the construction site more than I did my neighbors or a certain one of my professors.
In truth, watching the construction site grow – under Pigsten’s dutiful eye no less – was one of the defining experiences of our time in Iceland, and so it was kind of neat to retrace its progress over the course of the year. From that first moment we entered our apartment and saw the huge muddy pit, to the final moments of cement-mixer noise as we drove to the airport to leave Iceland – it was, in all, just as much a part of our time there as anything else.
So, much like Ser-ree-ohs, the site will always be one of those quirky things I think of when I think of our time abroad. Pigsten, of course, agrees.