Every year, they rebuild the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, a small village in northern Sweden. 100 people are involved in the construction, half of whom are teams of artists who work on the rooms (there are 47 rooms in all). With a continually built and demolished structure, Ice Hotel can become a laboratory for architecture and design.
Ice Hotel is apparently the world’s oldest hotel made of ice, and they’ve used the time wisely–perfecting a nearly industrial method of hotel making which knows how to work with a very particular material in a very particular environment. If you squint your eyes and forget that we’re dealing with frozen water, you end up seeing a very cool and futuristic construction process.
The main construction component is called “snice.” It’s a carefully calibrated mixture of air and water, frozen together as a concrete-like material that’s denser than regular snow (which means it melts more slowly than regular snow). The opaque white nature of the substance means that it reflects the sun’s rays, protecting the interior ice, which is made of clear, solid blocks.
Construction generally begins in November. The snice is created by spraying large metal molds. After it has sufficiently frozen and packed into place, the molds are removed and the rooms are formed by adding walls made of blocks of ice. The blocks come from ice harvested from the river in March or April of the previous year. These are also the raw materials that visiting artists will form into custom rooms.
The room depicted here was conceived by designer Roland Toupet and architect Antoine Weygand. On one end, they’ve carved the wall to look like diamonds. The ceiling has been carved to look like stars.
The entire hotel is a fascinating mixture of pre-fabrication and custom construction. The materials are extremely malleable and versatile, and perfectly recyclable (the waste product is water). Altogether, this feels like elements of a regime of architecture based around science-fiction dreaming of rapidly prototyped personal housing. All we need is to invent materials that let us do this in a non-frigid environment. Maybe they can try Pykrete.