Chaos as many architects stranded after Iceland volcanic erupts halt air traffic
The volcano Eyjafjallajokul erupted in Iceland on 20th March this year, but only since its more vigorous eruptions in the last few days have we in the rest of Europe been disturbed by the force of this natural entity. Due to the huge ash clouds ejected from the volcano, a no-fly zone is currently in force across most of Europe, causing widespread disruption, not least for the constantly jet-setting architectural community. While holiday makers and recreational travellers revel in a few extra days vacationing in their chosen hot spots, those who must fly for a living have found their daily routine grinding to a halt, with many either unable to reach important business meetings or return home.
Chris Wilkinson, Director of Wilkinson Eyre Architects was in this very predicament this weekend, considering extreme lengths in order to get back to England. He commented: "I found myself stranded in Rome unable to take the Sunday night flight back to London after what was supposed to be a brief trip following two weeks at our house in Tuscany. Finding seats on a packed high-speed train to Florence, we then hired a car and drove back to Lucca. Here I am able to work, and already this morning I have managed to conduct a conference call with a client and contractor via my i-phone. I am now contemplating buying a car with which to drive back in. Although it may sound like a blessing to have an extended holiday, I have to admit I'm keen to get back to the office."
Wilkinson is not the only architect to be stranded on their travels. With the Milan Furniture Fair (Salone Internazionale del Mobile) being held in Italy this past weekend, many architects, including BFLS’s Associate Directors Vesna Aksentijevic and Robert Malcolm, and controversial starchitect Daniel Libeskind, have found themselves marooned on Italy’s shores. We may be attempting a rescue mission of our own if the flight embargo is lengthened much further, as Libeskind is set to appear at our Icons of Architecture event at the end of the month, (you can order tickets online by clicking here ). Our WAN chairman, Richard Coleman is currently stuck in sunny Spain, travelling home by a variety of methods, including hire car and ferry. It is easy to forget however, that the ash cloud is not only affecting those attempting to get home, but also those whose business affairs occur overseas and need to travel by air to attend meetings and conferences. Architecture firm 3XN currently have their principal, Kim Herforth Nielsen, and head of international markets, Jack Renteria on standby in Copenhagen, conducting video conference calls in an attempt to replace the face to face meetings that currently seem impossible.
Officials are split on the matter of whether the ban on commercial flights should have continued for such a protracted period, but the fact remains that we are still unsure of how long and how violent Eyjafjallajokul’s eruptions will be. In 1821-23, a lengthy, if indeed less powerful, eruption occurred from the same volcano. The initial activity caused the eruption of a neighbouring, much larger volcano, Katla. Should history repeat itself, or indeed if Eyjafjallajokul should continue to erupt at its current force, it seems we will be looking at weeks or even months worth of plane-less skies, causing untold economic damage to not only commercial airlines, but the architectural community.