The Making Of Icehotel

Every winter artists from around the world gather in Jukkasjärvi, Swedish Lapland, for an unusual art project that has become known as Icehotel.  Whether you’ve already stayed at this place or have yet to experience it in person, there is a captivating story to be told behind the history and construction of this unique project.

It all began in the 1980s when Yngve Bergqvist, the founder of Icehotel, invited two sculptors from Hokkaido, Japan, to instruct an ice sculpting workshop in Jukkasjärvi. Yngve hoped to attract visitors to the north of Sweden during the winter months and build an igloo in the Inuit style, but much bigger than ever created before.  The first ice sculptures on the shores of the River Torne were soon followed by an igloo – a specially designed structure of ice and snow, built using a mould-forming technique.  The project evolved from a 60m² igloo to a 250m² structure housing church services, film showings and even a bar.  The construction technique was patented in Sweden and Norway and it wasn’t long before the first parties of guests arrived to stay overnight.

ICEHOTEL is the world’s first and largest hotel built of snow and ice.  It covers 5,500m² and is constructed from 1,000 tonnes of river ice and 30,000 tonnes of ‘snice’, a mixture of snow and ice that strengthens the structure. The construction of the hotel is a year-round process.  In March and April, 4,000 tonnes of ice is pulled from the River Torne and kept in cold storage over the summer.  In mid-November, snice is sprayed over metal moulds.  Once the snice freezes (this takes a couple of days), the moulds are removed, leaving behind a maze of individual corridors.  To separate the rooms and suites from each other, walls are then built into the corridors.  Lastly, the blocks of ice that were harvested earlier in the year are transported into the hotel, and artists from around the world use them to create decorative areas of the Icehotel.

Each year, Icehotel is reborn with a new style and structure.  Approximately 100 people are involved in the build, half of them artists.  Construction takes place during the final two months of the year, and the entire ICEHOTEL opens between December and mid-April, when the structure slowly begins to melt.

Everyone seems curious to know the secret behind Icehotel. Well, the secret is that the ice is made of pure water from the River Torne, so pure you can drink it unfiltered directly from the river.  This year – 2012 – sees the creation of the 23rd Icehotel.  Preparations started a few weeks ago and the first artists arrive in November.

Provided in partnership with Discover The World. Original content from Discover the World.

Photo by napdsp on Flickr.

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