Every year, when Torne River turns to ice, a new Icehotel is created in the small village of Jukkasjärvi in the north of Sweden.
The ice of the river transforms to design and architecture at Icehotel, an art project and the world’s first, and largest hotel built of snow and ice. Where the midnight sun blazes for 100 days and nights during summer and doesn’t rise above the horizon during two weeks in winter, you find the small village of Jukkasjärvi. Here, 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, the nature is untouched with about 6000 lakes and six grand rivers. One of the rivers is the Torne River, that every year supply Icehotel with ice enough ice to build an entire hotel. The truth is that ten seconds water flow in Torne River is equivalent of 4000 tons of ice, ice enough to build four ice hotels.
Here in Jukkasjärvi we live with Torne River as a natural part of everyday life. The river has created a gathering place – the name Jukkasjärvi derives from a Sámi word that means “meeting place by the lake”. The river was also the core when the idea to Icehotel was born. The summers in Jukkasjärvi were popular among tourists and a variety of activities such as river rafting and other wilderness activities were arranged, but the winters were long and cold. But Yngve Bergqvist, that later founded Icehotel, got an idea. Inspired by the Japanese ice sculpting tradition and with the help of two professional ice sculptors from Japan as instructors; he invited artists to attend a workshop in Jukkasjärvi in 1989. This marked the start of a 26 year long journey with the Torne River- the worlds first Icehotel. Inspired by the workshop, the following winter saw the first ever ice structure - an especially designed igloo built using mold technique was constructed on the frozen Torne River. The 60 m² igloo was intended to as an art gallery and was named ARTic Hall. The following winters, ARTic Hall attracted considerable attention. It was used not only to display art, but also for church services and film show cases. Bergqvist and his associates also opened a bar inside the hall, and even tried sleeping in sub-zero temperatures. The igloo had grown to measure 250 m² in size; the building technique was refined and patented in Sweden and Norway.
One night, a party of guests asked if they could stay in ARTic Hall. They were equipped with reindeer skins and sleeping bags, and woke up enthralled by the experience. It was never intended for ARTic Hall to become a hotel, but after this experience the idea to Icehotel was born. When winter is at its darkest and coldest hour, artists from all over the world arrive to the village of Jukkasjärvi. They come to take part in the shaping of the art exhibition in snow, ice and light that constitutes Icehotel. The makers? Well, it changes from year to year but graphic designers, architects, industrial engineers, artists – the list goes on. The principal aim for the creative team at Icehotel is to seek out truly original ideas for new suites and art work for each reincarnation of the hotel. Every year Icehotel goes out with an open call for new ideas.
Every year about 50 000 guests, from all over the world, are experiencing Icehotel. There are two ways of spending the night, in the hotel rooms made of ice and snow or in the warm cabins. Most of the people who visit Icehotel stay one night in “cold” accommodation and the other nights in the warm hotel accommodation. The temperature in the “cold” rooms never drops below – 5 Celsius (23 Fahrenheit).