dorte mandrup's sinuous icefjord centre takes root in greenland

Sep 09, 2021

dorte mandrup has completed a twisting visitor centre overlooking a UNESCO-listed icefjord on the west coast of greenland. blending into the rugged terrain, ilulissat icefjord centre integrates a walkable roof for unobstructed views of the surroundings and to bring attention to the impact of climate change on the arctic landscape.

open all year and free to the public, ilulissat icefjord centre comprises exhibition space, a film theatre, a café and shop as well as research and educational facilities. the newly completed building is envisioned as a meeting place for local residents, companies, politicians, climate researchers and tourists.

the architecture is characterised by its light, sinuous shape, which seamlessly connects with an existing hiking path. founder and creative director, dorte mandrup likens it to ‘a snowy owl’s flight through the landscape’.

mandrup continues,‘the icefjord centre offers a refuge in the dramatic landscape and aims to become a natural gathering point from which you can experience the infinite, non-human scale of the arctic wilderness, the transition between darkness and light, the midnight sun, and the northern lights dancing across the sky.’

in a bid to be more sustainable, ilulissat icefjord centre is designed around a steel frame with minimal use of concrete. the steel structure also affords a lighter construction, reducing the impact on greenland’s ancient bedrock and its fragile flora and fauna minimal.

the inclination of the walkable roof protects from snow and prevailing winds and prevents snow build-up on the structure. it’s also the architect’s hope that the roof will become the site for an important community gathering in january. after six weeks of darkness, the community gathers in this area to celebrate the sun coming up for 40 minutes before leaving again.

inside, visitors can learn more about greenland’s nature and culture. they can experience the journey of ice from the birth of the ice crystal in greenland’s cold cloud layer, to when it becomes part of the inland ice and finally moves towards the glacier and breaks off in icebergs. also, how different inuit cultures lived under these harsh conditions and how climate change manifests itself in the arctic landscape.

designed by JAC studios, the exhibition consists of a landscape of mouth-blown glass sculptures created by 3D scanning ice blocks collected from the icefjord. archeological objects and films are exhibited in these ice prisms of glass. central to the exhibition are authentic ice core drillings taken from the ice sheet, they tell the story about our culture and climate from 124,000 years BC to the present

the icefjord centre is funded by a partnership between the danish philanthropical foundation realdania, avannaata kommunia and naalakkersuisut – the government of greenland. the exhibition was furthermore funded by nordea foundation, augustinus foundation, bloomberg philatropies and oak foundation.

see designboom’s previous coverage of ilulissat icefjord centre here.

project info:

name: ilulissat icefjord centre

location: greenland

architecture: dorte mandrup

photography: adam mørk | @adammørk