The Ilulissat Icefjord Centre designed by the studio guided by the architect Dorte Mandrup blends harmoniously with the beautiful and rugged Arctic landscape, on the edges of an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Overlooking the Kangia frozen fjord and surrounded by ice and snow for most of the year, the centre is located near the Ilulissat village and ancient glacier of Sermeq Kujalleq. It can stage exhibitions and in addition to the areas dedicated to research and training, it also features a cinema, café and shop. The centre is designed to be a meeting place for local residents, companies, politicians, tourists and climate researchers. The whole area, in fact, has been studied for over 250 years, and the information we have today on glaciology and the climate changes currently in progress is linked to the research conducted on the ancient glacier of Sermeq Kujalleq.
From its special position in the powerful but delicate scenario of the glaciers, the building allows visitors to understand the dramatic consequences of climate change in person. The light, streamlined structure of the building is inspired by the flight of the snow owl, a typical bird from the Arctic Circle.
The shape of the roof is a natural extension of the local hiking trails, and the wooden gangway that covers it is the starting point of the World Heritage Path. The slightly curved design of the Ilulissat Icefjord Centre recalls the shape of a boomerang, while its volume is like a tent made up of around 50 triangular steel frames with an open, covered space at both ends.
The structure is made of steel, approximately 80% of which is recycled, and concrete, which is the main contributor to its carbon footprint.
The floors, ceilings and roofs are in ecologically certified oak. The roof and floor are clad with heavy insulating panels and the triple glass façade helps to contain heat and insulate the building perfectly. The energy used is also supplied from a local hydroelectric plant. The steep incline of the sides offers a safe shelter from the snow and icy Arctic winds, allowing researchers and tourists to enjoy a unique view over the Kangia fjord, from which 10% of Greenland icebergs come. In spring when the snow melts, the water can flow under the building and along its original path into Lake Sermermiut.
JAC Studios has designed a permanent exhibition for the centre entitled “The Story of Ice”, which narrates the meaning of ice in both a local and global context. Visitors are invited to explore the enormous scale of this phenomenon in 400 m2 that ranges from an ice crystal to the vast Inland Ice sheet and its impact on the world.
The archaeological finds discovered in this area are preserved in showcases made of blown glass based on 3D scans of the real frozen blocks from the Kangia fjord that originally contained them. At the centre of the exhibition route are a number of authentic ice cores that recount the history of humanity and climate from 124,000 BC up until today. These show the first traces of pollution that date back to the period of the industrial revolution in Great Britain.
The artificial lighting takes into account the natural light that remains constant for many long months. Just like natural light fills the building’s transparent architecture, the artificial lighting, obtained mainly with projectors, escapes into the nature of the surrounding landscape in a gentle and non-invasive manner. In the exhibition zone, 56 mm diameter View projectors were used. These are DALI devices with a black finish, mounted on black tracks, parallel to the windows, to reproduce the way natural light enters the building. The entire range of optics has been used (SS 4° - M 16° - F 28° - WF 46°) to create accent lighting effects on the exhibits and combine with the general lighting obtained from the wider optics. In the library area, on the other hand, the lighting is produced by Palco main Voltage projectors (Ø102mm) and a range of optics from spot to wide flood.
In the “cinema” area where the story of ice is recounted through a series of audiovisual media, the artificial lighting is provided by Laser Blade L Adjustable luminaire with a 30° optic is focused on the blown glass sculptures. The colour temperature for all the environments is 3000K.
Working on a similar project?
Need more information?