Kristín Thorleifsdóttir

Position title: Assistant Professor


Phone: (608) 265.8093

12 Agricultural Hall

Photograph of Kristin sitting outside of a bakery


Dr. Kristín Thorleifsdóttir joined the University of Wisconsin in Fall 2014.  She holds a joint position with the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture and the Department of Design Studies.

Dr. Thorleifsdóttir’s primary research, teaching and design interests span a wide variety of topics including Environment and Behavior Studies (EBS) and Environmental Psychology; community health and wellbeing; biophilic design; small towns and villages; healing environments; sustainable communities; and children’s environments. She is particularly interested in the influence environmental design and planning have on people’s behavior, attitudes, use, function, as well as health and well-being. Her research (Living Space, design research lab) focuses on health promotion through community planning and design, particularly small rural towns and villages.

Besides her native home, Iceland, Dr. Thorleifsdóttir draws on her experience of living and/or working in other countries including the United States, England, Germany, Bulgaria, and Turkey in her teaching, research, and designs. After eight years of work and study in the U.S. she returned to Iceland in the fall of 2002 where she taught in the Department of Environmental Planning at the Agricultural University of Iceland (2003-2005), was a lecturer at the Department of Design and Architecture for the Iceland Academy of the Arts (2005-2014) and practiced landscape architecture at a leading architecture and landscape architecture firm in Reykjavik (2005-2008). In 2008 she opened up her own design and research practice Vist & Vera. Dr. Thorleifsdóttir has also worked part time as a project manager at the Association of Icelandic Architects where she led an EU project on sustainable architecture (2010-2013). She has been an active member of the Icelandic Federation of Landscape Architects (FILA) and served on the Board of Education and the Board of Editors for the journal Arkitektúr issued by FILA and the Association of Icelandic Architects (co-editor in chief 2012-2014).

Outside of work she enjoys time with her friends and family, hiking in nature, and exploring urban open spaces and events. On the more artistic side, Kristín paints, works on community sculptures, and has practiced classical singing.


Selected publications and editorial work

Thorleifsdottir, K. (in prep). Visual approach to 52 towns in Iceland. Target journal: Landscape Research

Thorleifsdottir, K. (in prep). Active Travel in small rural towns: Assessing the built environment (working title). Target journal: Landscape Research.

Thorleifsdottir, K. and Stushek, K. (in prep). Active travel in small rural towns: Literature review and conceptual model (working title). Target journal: Landscape and Urban Planning.

Thorleifsdottir, K., Kristmannsdottir, K. and Stefansdottir, H. (in prep). Environmental Influence on Walking in Small Towns in Northern Climates. A Case Study in Iceland. Target journal: Landscape Research.

Editor of three handbooks on sustainability in the built environment in Iceland (draft manuscripts in English submitted to the EU-Leonardo da Vinci Lifelong Learnig Programme in November 2013):

  • Gudbrandsson, B., Snorrason, A., and Gudmundsson, E. (2014). Selecting Green Building Materials. In K. Thorleifsdottir (Series Ed.): Vol.2. Sustainable Built Environment in Iceland (1 ed.). Reykjavik: Vistmennt and the Association of Icelandic Architects
  • Jonsson, M. & Hardarsson, S. (2014) Weather, Climate and the Built Environment. In K. Thorleifsdottir (Series Ed.): Vol.3. Sustainable Built Environment in Iceland (1 ed.). Reykjavik: Vistmennt and the Association of Icelandic Architects.
  • Johannsdottir, A. S. (2014). Daylight as an Environmentally Friendly Source of Light. In K. Thorleifsdottir (Series Ed.): Vol.4. Sustainable Built Environment in Iceland (1 ed.). Reykjavik: Vistmennt and the Association of Icelandic Architects.

Refshauge, A. D., Lamm, B., Stigsdotter, U. K., and Thorleifsdottir, K., Landscape Research (2013): Evidence-based Playground Design: Lessons Learned from Theory to Practice; Landscape Research, DOI: 10.1080/01426397.2013.824073. Available here.

Journal article (in Icelandic). Visiting public market places (Icel.: Á flakki um markaði). Arkitektúr, 1.2012. Journal of the Association of Icelandic Architects and the Federation of Icelandic Landscape Architects, Reykjavik.

Journal article (in Icelandic). Paradigms for Planning Sustainable Communities (Icel.: Viðmið fyrir skipulag sjálfbærra samfélaga). Arkitektúr, 1.2010 p.22-25. Journal of the Association of Icelandic Architects and the Federation of Icelandic Landscape Architects, Reykjavik.

Edited book chapter (in Icelandic). 2010. Designing Physical Activity Stimulating School Environments, in Guidelines for Physical Activity Encouraging Schools (Icel.: Leiðbeiningar fyrir hreyfihvetjandi skólaumhverfi), Icelandic Public Health Institute. Available here.

Journal article (in Icelandic). An ecological approach to the site planning of recreational homes (Icel.: Vistvænt skipulag frístundalóða). The annual publication of the Horticultural Society of Iceland. 2009. Available at:

Board of editors, Arkitektúr, a professional architecture magazine published by the Federation of Landscape Architects in Iceland and the Association of Icelandic Architects. Editor in chief from 2012-2014.

On-line journal article (in Icelandic). Thoughts about Children’s’ Needs for Nature Connection (Icel.: Hugleiðing um þarfir barna fyrir náttúrutengingu). Available at:

Doctoral dissertation. Neighborhood Design: Associations between Suburban Neighborhood Morphology and Children’s Outdoor, Out-of-school, Physical Activities. Available here.

Research report. Design of Sound Barriers: a Study of Visual Perception (Icel.: Hönnun hljóðvarna í þéttbýli: viðhorf til sjónrænnar upplifunar). Funded by the Icelandic State Department of Transportation (draft research report).

Article (in Icelandic). The Importance of Nature in Urban Environments (Icel.: Mikilvægi náttúrusvæða í þéttbýli). Skógartíðindi, official newsletter of the Reykjavik Forestry Society.

Research report. Quality Assessment of Preschool Yards (Icel.: Ástand leikskólalóða). Co-author with Einari E. Sæmundsson landscape architect. Funded in partial by the City of Reykjavik Office of Preschools.

Master’s thesis, Conservation Areas: New Criteria for a Historic District in the Town of Stykkishólmur, Iceland. Available at:


Current research projects:

  1. Active travel in small rural towns in Wisconsin
  2. Walkability in a small rural town in Iceland
  3. Documenting the approach to 52 small rural towns in Iceland


Currently, Dr. Thorleifsdottir teaches three courses: DS 221 Person-Environment Interactions, LA 321 Health Promoting Environments Studio and LA 699 Designing Healthy Communities.