Norway's grassy roofs

Here's a nice little collection of rural Norwegian homes whose roofs have been given over to the traditional turf -- and even small forests.
Turf roofs in Norway are a tradition and you will see them everywhere. Roofs in Scandinavia have probably been covered with birch bark and sod since prehistory. During the Viking and Middle Ages most houses had sod roofs. In rural areas sod roofs were almost universal until the beginning of the 18th century. Tile roofs, which appeared much earlier in towns and on rural manors, gradually superseded sod roofs except in remote inland areas during the 19th century. Corrugated iron and other industrial materials also became a threat to ancient traditions. But just before extinction, the national romantics proclaimed a revival of vernacular traditions, including sod roofs. A new market was opened by the demand for mountain lodges and holiday homes. At the same time, open air museums and the preservation movement created a reservation for ancient building traditions. From these reservations, sod roofs have begun to reappear as an alternative to modern materials.

Every year, since 2000, an award is also given to the best green roof proje

The Grass Roofs of Norway (via Geisha Asobi)



  1. My wife and I just returned from our third holiday in Norway in the last five years – it is one of our favourite places on Earth to visit.

    Not only are there many sod/earthen roofs but there are also roofs that are composed of large squares (not blocks) of what looks like shale.

    The same sort of stones as seen here: (a photo from the most recent journey) but as a roof, rather than the walls.

    It really is a beautiful country. I would encourage anyone to visit but the people:land ratio is fine as-is.

    1. More like dwarfs, given the ever increasing number of tunnels and such that are dug into the mountains.

  2. @ #8: Nice photo, it shows the setting a little better.

    The house with the trees looks un-lived in, or as if they aren’t taking care of the house.

    Other ones look to be in pretty good shape. Cool series.

  3. Some of these photos look like they might have been taken at the fabulous Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo, where they have collected buildings from throughout Norway’s history.

    1. My wife took me there a few years ago. Just the coolest thing ever. As is the Fram museum. Soon I will take my kids there. Just amazing stuff.

      1. I’m not saying that the Fram museum isn’t cool, but on the way there, you may have missed something even more impressive. Located on Bygdøy (like the Fram museum) is the Vikingship museum housing the Oseberg and Gokstad viking longboats – both of them in absolutely amazing condition and well worth a trip to Oslo in their own rights if you are into that kind of thing.

        Just saying in case you might wanted to stop there on the way with the kids and expand on the history line of a nautical theme – and it’s even on the same bus line! :-)

  4. I could live there pretty happily, long as the roof don’t leak or collapse. I’m wondering, based on the evident sag, how many more heavy snowfalls those poor joists can take.

  5. Come to Western Washington State or BC, most roofs here are covered in moss as well as other greenery.

    1. I live in Seattle. Some roofs do have moss on them but with a few exceptions, it’s hardly intentional, nothing like what’s in these pictures.

  6. i think that it is very interesting to learn about other country’s traditions and background and seeing how other people keep them around after so many years.
    it is very nice to see that some countries keep their traditions alive and its strange how all these things just grow no the roof of a house but it dose seem a little dangerous for the people who live inside these houses the trees look like they could just fall through the roof.
    some day i would like to go see one of these houses in person in a photo its one thing but to see something like this with your own eyes must be really cool.
    it would be nice if other countries kept there traditions alive maybe there would be more tourism.

    1. @naty2101:
      The trees are … nonstandard. A house in use would limit the vegetation to lighter smaller plants, but that one seems to be abandoned.

  7. As a resident of Norway, I can say that it’s not completely uncommon to have grass on your roof, especially on cabins etc. The cabins on picures three and five are typical “for rent” cabins.

    The roofs are made to accomodate this, and some even allow sheep to eat of the roofs.

  8. I remember being sent up to the roof of our mountaincabin as a kid to uproot the tree shoots. You want stuff to grow on your roof for all the reasons mentioned in a million eco-blogs, but trees are bad news as the roots can fuck up your ceiling. I.e. the house in the picture is owned by someone who has given up on it or is actively hoping for it to collapse so that they can get a new building permit.

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