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

Day 2 by Jonathan Green

The start of our first full day of work, and temperatures reach a near disastrous +4 degrees C.

Although its more pleasant to work in, everything is starting to melt. The ‘Snice’ becomes wet and then re-freezes when the temperature drops, turning it more icy, and therefore harder to work with. It becomes rock hard, and starts to change colour to off-white.

This rise in temperature also stops any further building of the IceHotel structure, which puts a lot of pressure on the Building Team.

The mood within the team is definitely more sombre, but we all know the temperature will drop tomorrow, if the forecasts are correct.

For now, we’re marking out where the whale will be, and start to carve its outline. It’s incredibly hard physically, working over your head, and being so close to the subject that it’s impossible to see the form clearly.

We knew this part would be hard, but neither of us had quite foreseen just how demanding ceiling work would be. Digging out over your head, being showered with wet cold snow, and having to jump down from the tower every few minutes to see what you’d done. Quite exhausting.



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.