The original Icehotel, the ephemeral destination that can best be described as the sheepskin-swaddled lovechild of the Kimpton Group and the Planet Hoth, has an open call out for unique designs for the hotel's suites. Anyone can submit a design proposal, and the winners will be involved in the ice construction from beginning to end.
"Ice has an interesting effect on creativity. Since it’s not a permanent material, people aren’t afraid of trying ideas they otherwise wouldn’t dare to test," said Creative Director Arne Bergh on the hotel's website.
As always, the annual reopening of the Icehotel is a big deal. Each winter, visionary Swedish entrepreneur Yngve Bergqvist’s nippy and never-the-same hostelry reemerges from the frozen tundra more than 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle in a completely unique form. And with each passing spring, the hotel slowly melts away and returns to nature only to be constructed again using massive hunks of ice harvested from the Torne River the following winter.
As is custom, the 29th incarnation of Icehotel will, in addition to standard "snice"-bound guest rooms and suites, feature a collection of “art suites” designed by a small army of international artists selected from the competition.
In 2016, the art suites included digs from sculptor AnnaSofia Mååg featuring "a three meter tall African elephant overlooking the ice framed bed;" Petros Dermatas and Ellie Souti’s "adoption" of the 1920 silent German horror film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" in frozen hotel room form; and the Eye Suite, a room crafted with a "myriad of crystal-like, sharp cut angles" by former Icehotel guest, French artist Nicolas Triboulot. Here’s hoping guests who opt to hunker down in that last one took care when getting out of bed for a glass of water (or Absolut) during the middle of the night.
'The Icehotel's new addition would benefit "the entire region and attract international visitors in the warmer months, too,' says Annika Fredericksson of the Swedish Lapland Visitors Board. (Rendering: PinPin Studio/Icehotel)
And while there’s plenty of buzz about the featured suites for the upcoming Icehotel season. The tiny outpost of Jukkasjärvi (population 500) also garners a whole lot of attention.
A lodging complex featuring 20 suites, a bar and art gallery opened in 2016. However, unlike the transient Icehotel (now with smoke detectors!) that thousands upon thousands of travelers from across the globe have crossed off their bucket lists over the past two decades, this addition doesn’t melt away when spring arrives in the Swedish Lapland. In fact, the new addition, described as a “permanent sub-zero ice experience,” will stick around for the long-haul.
In lieu of a very limited (December through April) run, Icehotel’s feature will be an all-seasons, 365-day-a-year affair that targets guests looking to taken advantage of warm-ish weather outdoor activities — biking, hiking, fishing, summertime sauna-hopping and more — in this remote stretch of wilderness located in Sweden’s northernmost municipality. (From Stockholm, it’s about a 90-minute flight or a scenic 14-hour drive along the Gulf of Bothnia.)
Slated to be unveiled concurrent with the launch of the winter 2016 season, Icehotel's solar-powered all-seasons structure would include a bar, art gallery and 20 guest suites. (Rendering: PinPin Studio/Icehotel)
“This groundbreaking initiative lets our guests decide whether they want to combine Icehotel with dog sledding and northern lights, or hiking under the midnight sun. It just lets us meet the desires of our clients in a way whole new way,” said Bergqvist in a 2015 press statement.
And as for that never-setting midnight sun, it plays a key role in the environmentally sustainable new addition, which will fully rely on solar power during the summer months.
A weeks-long span of glorious — and disorienting — nonstop daylight and a photovoltaic panel-equipped hotel property?
Seems like a match made in heaven if there ever was one.
Leading Swedish solar firm Solkompaniet oversaw the sleek new building’s renewable energy systems. "It’s inspiring and fun to be part of an initiative that takes place well above the Arctic Circle. The midnight sun offers unique conditions for producing electricity using solar power, as it allows us to generate power throughout the night," said advisor general Jon Malmsten
Gothenburg-based PinPin Studio released early conceptual renderings of the building, which in addition to being of the non-melting variety, would sport a significantly smaller footprint (roughly 13,000 square feet) than its nearly 60,000-square-foot big sibling of certain impermanence.
Best known for their work designing in-store play facilities for IKEA, Christian Strömqvist and Karl-Johan Ekeroth of PinPin Studio previously collaborated with Icehotel’s artistic team. In 2013, the duo conceived "It’s Alive," an interactive art suite for the 2013 season modeled after Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory complete with a ceiling hatch and Tesla coils sculpted from ice.
The bunker-esque structure features a rooftop observation deck that's perfect for basking under the midnight sun during the warm-ish months and marveling at the northern lights while guzzling hot lingonberry juice during the cold ones. When not taking in one of Mother Nature's spectacular light shows, visitors would be able to sled from the roof down the sloping, snow-covered sides of the structure. During the snow-free months, the building, its organic form rising gently from the earth, would be covered with grass.
From the sounds of it, the interior of the building will maintain a walk-in freezer-like atmosphere year-round and "have a life cycle whereby it changes guise on a yearly basis." (Rooms at the Icehotel are kept at 21 degrees Fahrenheit.)
"Ice has an interesting effect on creativity — since it’s not permanent it makes you dare trying ideas that you wouldn’t otherwise — it’s very liberating. The idea of a project that marries this transient tradition with a semi-permanent, year-round element is even more exciting," said Bergh.
"We’ve created many temporary ice experiences in the past, and we’ve seen an increasing interest for visiting Icehotel not just in winter," added Bergqvist, who founded Icehotel in 1989. "Every summer we have international visitors who arrive in Jukkasjärvi and ask us where they can see Icehotel — I look forward to being able to point it out to them!"
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in November 2015.