Arctic Architecture

Iceland architecture competition series Iceland has a vast, wild landscape, with some of the most unique and incredible natural views in the world. Appropriately known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland’s volcanic fields blend seamlessly into gigantic glaciers and tumbling waterfalls. Iceland is also an ideal location to view the iconic Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. Explore our Iceland architecture competition series and dream up new and exciting ways in which architecture can enhance the Iceland experience.

Freezing temperatures and desolate landscapes make arctic environments some of the most inhospitable on the planet, while at the same time creating mysterious and breathtaking landscapes that are made all the more appealing for their remoteness. Hotels and retreats provide visitors to the northernmost tip of the planet, access to some of the most spectacular scenery they will see in their lives. Architecture in the arctic can range from grand to humble, but will always require ingenuity beyond the typical levels of design.

Arctic TreeHouse Hotel, Finland

The Arctic Treehouse Hotel in Rovaniemi, Finland, was designed by Studio Puisto, and took its inspiration from Nordic nature and culture. Small, individual accommodation buildings are covered in pine cone cows, and seem to grow out of the snow, standing atop black stilts.

Studio Puisto designed the Arctic Treehouse Hotel in Rovaniemi, Finland. Image source: Marc Goodwin

The timber structures are covered in wood and are carefully designed to be comfortable in even the harshest winter months. Dining areas and bedrooms feature full length windows to allow guests to take in the stunning arctic views while eating, or while cozied up in bed, creating a contrast between wild nature and a safe, nest-like space.

The hotel makes full use of the incredible views with large windows in the bedrooms. Image source: Marc Goodwin

In order to lessen the impact on the local environment, all of the structures were fully constructed indoors, right down to the internal surfaces and fixtures. They were then transported by truck to the site and lifted onto the support pillars.

Each unit was constructed off-site before being affixed to support stilts in order to lessen environmental impact. Image source: Marc Goodwin

Fordypningsrommet - Arctic Artists Retreat, Norway

Designed by the TYIN Tegnestue Architects and their mentor Sami Rintala, this collection of nine cabins set amongst the rocky landscape of Norway’s Fleinvær archipelago serves as an artists retreat. It allows visitors the chance to return to nature, and the opportunity for some creative solitude.

The nine cabin retreat was designed by TYIN Tegnestue Architects. Image source: Kathrine Sørgård and Pasi Aalto

It’s name - Fordypningsrommet - is Norwegian for “deeper studies” — something that the archipelago, which encompasses between 200 and 300 islands, offers in abundance.

The retreat is named for the Norwegian word for deeper studies, ideal for an artists retreat. Image source: Kathrine Sørgård and Pasi Aalto

The nine structures were designed to jut out from the land, while their interiors are clad in sustainable hardwood and are separated by function with each serving a different purpose. There are sleeping quarters, a kitchen house, an inspiration house, a studio house, a bathhouse, and of course, a sauna house which is situated on the pier.

Each unit serves a different purpose, from residences to a sauna on the pier. Image source: Kathrine Sørgård and Pasi Aalto

A creation of the composer Håvard Lund, Fordypningsrommet is the world’s most northern artist residency. “The objective of our retreat is that visitors are able to experience an undisturbed stay out here amongst nature, finding the inspiration to embark on a new creative journey,” Lund has said.

Svart Hotel, Norway

Still in its theoretical stage, the Svart Hotel is planned to be constructed at the base of Norway’s Almlifjellet mountain. Designed by international architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design firm Snøhetta, the Svart Hotel gets its name from the nearby Svartisen glacier.

The Svart Hotel project is the world’s first energy positive hotel concept above the arctic circle. Image source

The Norwegian hotel is being planned as a miracle of modern sustainable architecture, with extensive research having gone into energy-efficient construction and operation. Snøhetta even claims that the ring-shaped hotel will in-fact be energy positive - meaning it will produce more energy than it consumes. By mapping the movement of the sun’s ray, the circular structure design includes solar panels that would provide optimum levels of light throughout the day all year long.

The building extends from the shoreline by the foot of norway’s almlifjellet mountain. Image source

Designs for the hotel claim that its consumption rates will be 85 per cent lower than contemporary hotels, while its solar panels will produce energy, something the architects believe is an "absolute must in the precious arctic environment" - all in the hopes of keeping environmental impact on the mountain region as low as possible.

The hotel’s construction references the region’s vernacular architecture. Image source

Recessed terraces have been integrated along the hotel's facade that shade rooms during the summer, replacing the presence of artificial cooling systems. Fronted by a large window, rooms can also exploit the sun's thermal energy during the colder weather.

"Building in such a precious environment comes with clear obligations in terms of preserving the natural beauty and the fauna and flora of the site," said Snøhetta's founding partner, Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, in a statement. "It was important for us to design a sustainable building that will leave a minimal environmental footprint on this beautiful northern nature." 

Iceland architecture competition series

Iceland has a vast, wild landscape, with some of the most unique and incredible natural views in the world. Appropriately known as the land of fire and ice, Iceland’s volcanic fields blend seamlessly into gigantic glaciers and tumbling waterfalls. Iceland is also an ideal location to view the iconic Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights.

Explore our Iceland architecture competition series and dream up new and exciting ways in which architecture can enhance the Iceland experience.

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