An ice shelter in Greenland


icefjord centre Foto adam mork
© Adam Mork


The Icefjord Center stands 250km north of the Arctic Circle, just on the edge of the UNESCO-protected Greenland wilderness. This is an impressive building that serves as a shelter, study and research center for ice, human history, and evolution on a local and global scale.


Seated on the dramatic landscape of the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, the Icefjord Center has an incredible structure reminiscent of an owl’s wings as they brush the earth. Conceived as a research point for the large ice production of the glacier where it is located, it’s considered by the scientific community as the ideal place for the observation of climate change and its effects.


The flight of the owl

The architect Dorte Mandrup won the competition for the development of the project, inspired by the geography of the site, to design a unique building that seems to float on top of the glacier. Thus, the structure offers visitors an unforgettable view.


Designed as a year-round space open to a variety of audiences (residents, businesses, politicians, climate researchers, and tourists), the center houses exhibitions, a cinema, café, and store, as well as educational and research facilities. Through these, visitors can learn about the history of ice, the history of humanity and how both relate to the history of time, which sits lightly on Greenland’s bedrock, which is the oldest in the world.


Also, since its opening in 2016, the site has served as a convention center, library, place of study and observation, not only of glaciers, but of the midnight sun and weather phenomena in the region.


icefjord centre 2 Foto 10 adam mork min
© Adam Mork


A sustainable space

As anyone could expect, the building is fully sustainable and environmentally friendly. The center gets its power supply by a local hydroelectric plant, uses solar panels to supplement its energy consumption and has triple-glazed windows to keep the building warm. As if that wasn’t enough, it has eco-certified flooring, roofs, and floors, all nestled in an 80% steel structure combined with eco-certified oak wood.


The design of the roofs and walkways prevents the accumulation of snow and favors the entry of light; therefore, the complex can be used all year round.


The whole building is a delight for its visitors. The reason? It interacts with its surroundings according to the seasons.


The boomerang-shaped structure, which includes 50 steel porticoes, allows the wind to carry the snow away from the porticoes in winter, thus protecting their entrance. In the spring, water from melting ice flows down the mountain in its natural channel, thanks to the building’s layout.


The social function of this center is fulfilled by serving as a refuge and meeting place. At the same time, its trails expand the hiking circuits in the area providing spectacular views and safe spaces to enjoy the difficult surroundings.


The Icefjord Center is another example of how, with an ecological and utilitarian approach, architecture can be used to enhance natural beauty and bring it closer to human use.


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