Arrival by Jonathan Green

And the Making of the Icehotel 29

The day of departure for Sweden has finally arrived. After a flight from London to Stockholm, and then Stockholm to Kiruna, we are driven to the IceHotel in Jukkasjärvi.

We see the building site for the first time, and take in the enormity of the project ahead of us.

In April 2018, our design was selected for the IceHotel 29. I am travelling with my 19 year old daughter Marnie, an art student, to Jukkasjärvi, where we will single-handedly create our vision out of ice and snow.


Our Art Suite by Jonathan Green

Day 1

We finally get to see our room. It’s a bespoke casting, with 1m thicker walls than normal to allow us to carve the elements out of the ceiling and walls.

This means a ton of snow removal before we can even start to find the forms. Its very physical work, made all the more harder by the unusually warm conditions of +4 degrees, which impacts heavily on the building project, as snow and ice begins to melt.

These are potentially disastrous conditions for the Hotel, so late in the season.

A normal sized room casting

A normal sized room casting

Our room

Our room

Some days we worked all day and felt like we'd achieved nothing by Jonathan Green

The mid-build slump was a very real thing for us.

There were days (particularly when it was -22) when we’d feel like we had worked continuously, but had nothing to show for it.

It was pretty demoralising, especially in the brutal cold, but you had to dig deep, and push forward, knowing the deadline was moving ever closer.

The changing conditions brought about subtle changes in the ice and snow and snice, or snis (pronounced ‘sneess’ if you’re from Sweden). It’s incredible how the materials change their quality when the temperature drops. Ice blocks can literally shatter when you work on them because the point at which you’re chiselling or chain-sawing has a greater temperature difference than the surrounding ice and air. The colder it gets, the more things change, and the harder it is to work, especially if your gloves or clothes get wet.

Ice is the most glorious material to work with. We both fell in love with it, to the point where we still both miss touching it and working with it. For a sculptor, it is the ultimate material. Strong, but soft, with sharp tools.

Gliding a sharp chisel over an ice block is one of the most satisfying feelings ever. And the ice from the Torne River is as clear as glass.

Nearing completion by Jonathan Green

The deadline approaches, and we put in a few days that finish around 2am.

On our penultimate day, we get a bit of extra help from the amazing support team, which ensures we’ll be done in time without too much stress. Although we planned on doing the entire room alone, we were hugely grateful for the extra help to save us having to work through the night.

The Support Team are invaluable, especially for first timers like us. They are an amazing bunch of skilled, artistic people and the IceHotel would not happen without them. Shout out to the incredible Luca Roncoroni, Elisabeth Kristensen, Dave Ruane, Vytautus Musteikis and Henrik Spett.

We also spend our final 2 days working alongside the Lighting Team, (Olaf, Haennes and Helena) who literally bring the room to life. Having spent two weeks looking at the room under the un-flattering working light, our room is transformed by their masterful placing of LED lights and coloured gels. All the cables get buried in the walls, and covered over with snice, so it all looks invisible.

Finally, the IceHotel official photographer Asaf Kliger, creates a masterpiece for all the world to see.

It’s a huge team effort that is a delight to behold. Everybody helps each other in our joint goal to create the best Ice Hotel suites possible.

On the final day, at 6pm, we all take part in an emotional Vernissage, where each artist speaks to the group about their room before we all walk around and look at people’s work. Everybody has put their heart and soul into their rooms, and it shows. We are all cold and exhausted, but it has been the most incredible privilege, to work alongside such talented and wonderful people from all around the world, creating art in the most magical place.

All of this is down to the vision of the legendary Arne Bergh, who has been in charge of the IceHotel for almost all of it's 29 year life.

The photos don’t quite do it justice, so if you ever get the chance to head to Northern Sweden, try to spend a couple of days at the IceHotel, Jukkasjärvi. It is truly magical.

The Living Ocean Suite 217 from start to finish in 13 days