On the Shoulders of Sheep

Advanced Design Studio | Spring 2018
Sheep Compound | Hofsos, Iceland
The University of Texas at Austin
Professor: Kevin Alter

Winner of 2018 UT School of Architecture Design Excellence Award

The Icelanders’ survival over centuries falls onto the shoulders of sheep; their meat has provided nourishment and their wool has provided warmth. The Icelandic sheep is one of the oldest purest breeds of sheep; arriving to the Island of Iceland in 840 AD and never crossing with another breed of sheep to this day.          Every year come May, the sheep are released to roam free up into the highlands, surviving on moss and herbs until September when farmers find them on horseback and herd them back for sorting. This rugged lifestyle drove the sheep to develop a special dual-coated fleece to withstand the wind and rain, and the meat takes on flavorful taste from their herbaceous diet. The sheep are a source of deep cultural pride in Iceland.


This design brings together sheep husbandry, butchery, and textile work to establish a butchery and weaving residency program to share the knowledge and craft of working with these animals. Formally the design is composed of bars and beacons; the bars for production-based uses - barn, wool mill, and small scale slaughterhouse - and the beacons for the pinnacles of craft with sheep products: gallery, loom room, and restaurant. Located on a sublime site between mountains and sea, thebars oat along the barren landscape while the beacons act as guides,pulling the visitor out to the rugged coastline, overlooking the basalt- carved soaking pools below.

Three Plans and Sections: Beacon, Bar, and Cabin

The Three Beacons