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Could you design the coolest hotel in the world?

Wednesday, 18th September 2019

Nichol Callaghan

Ice sculpting hotel design

Many people believe that a hotel is more than a place to sleep. The right hotel makes up a big part of the travel experience more than the destination itself. The lure of a quirky hotel experience has never been more prevalent in today’s travel market. One of our favourites is the world-famous ICEHOTEL which is rebuilt every winter.

We sat down to speak with the new Creative Director, Luca Roncoroni to find out what makes this hotel so unique.

What does it mean to you to now head up such an iconic institution?

ICEHOTEL has a fantastic history and legacy, so the first goal is to respect and honour that. We want to use it’s past as a “springboard” to the future. Developing a sustainable project that gives our guest life-enriching moments.

We will also work to continue to give art and design a unique platform, where creativity and inspiration can thrive. And where ice will play the main role. I see my role as a “facilitator” for such a process.

Since your first job in 2001, you’ve built multiple art suites for the Icehotel over the years- what was your first design?

My first design was a minimalist ice cube with a bed surrounded by small organic sculptures. The contrast between the strong, geometrical shapes among the smaller “figures” was something I liked.

And do you have any favourite hotel suite designs?

The project that is closest to my heart is the Ice Church I built back in 2003 with Mark Szulgit (architect and artist from the USA). He passed away last year, and this makes my relationship with our project even stronger. As one of the pioneers of ICEHOTEl, he had a big impact on many of us.

It must be tricky working with snow and ice! Can you tell us about the type of tools you use and what makes it so difficult?

Well, what many would define as difficult is for me the most exciting part! I see ice and snow as being alive, changing all the time, meaning we do not have total control over them. Designers and architects like to have full control over the material. You can’t do that with ice and snow, you need to be flexible and able to improvise. The material is the “boss”, not the designer. I like that the “power-balance” inverts.

We use a lot of tools and machines, ranging from big loaders and tractors, chainsaws, routers, CNC-machines. We can sometimes make custom tools for specific projects. Tool development is a big part of this job, which adds another interesting dimension to my role.

You have also been involved in the Icehotel’s Suite Jury, deciding which artists are chosen to design at Icehotel. How do you go about selecting winning design proposals from hundreds of applications?

I’ve been a part of the jury for the past couple of years, and it never gets easier to choose only 15 concepts. We could build three ICEHOTELs from the great ideas we receive!

The jury is 5-8 people all with ICEHOTEL experience. To ensure we pick the best, we need to make sure we have different eyes scrutinizing the proposals. We agree on which are the best 30-40 concepts to start. Then the real discussions start to whittle them down to 15. It can get heated.  be a heated discussion, but with such good people on the jury, we are always confident that we made the right choice.

We take into account the feasibility, longevity, and practicality of the concepts. They need to work as a room for overnight guests, not only as beautiful art pieces! We also focus on the relationship between each design, to give good variation.

Designs have changed so much over the past 30 years at the Icehotel. Which are the most memorable for you?

This is pretty much an impossible question to answer! Designs change so much every year, which makes it impossible to compare them. What I remember the most is the collaboration between artists, builders, the light designer, and production. It is the sum of all this knowledge and hard work that leaves traces in my mind and keeps me motivated each year. This synergy becomes a “game-changer” in years when the weather is not on our sides.

Can you give us any clues about what’s in store for the 30th anniversary this winter season? Have you got any new exciting plans, features, activities?

We want to keep most of it as a surprise, but I’ll let you into a few secrets ahead of our 30th anniversary.  There will be a new layout of ICEHOTEL, bringing a whole new experience for guests. A brand new outdoor area, new ICEBAR and something special for the Ceremony Hall.

What’s your vision for the future of Icehotel?

I want to reinforce ICEHOTEL as the best place to experience the combination of art and design in.

Discover more from ICEHOTEL

For an unusual place to stay, be sure to check out our Icehotel holidays, offering you a snowy retreat that will get you into the winter spirit. One a three-day break, you can also visit the Aurora Sky Station, one of the best places to spot the Northern Lights. Between December and March, we operate the UK’s only direct flight getting you to Kiruna in only 3½ hours, which is faster than any other route.

Icehotel Northern Lights