October 29, 2021

Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter Completes New Climate Change Research and Visitor Centre in Greenland

Meghan Grech
Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter Completes New Climate Change Research and Visitor Centre in Greenland
Overlooking the UNESCO-protected Arctic wilderness, the Icefjord Centre in Ilulissat, Greenland showcases the intertwined histories of humanity, climate, and ice.

250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, along the western coast of Greenland, the new Icefjord Centre provides a panoramic view of the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier and its surrounding area. The building will allow locals, tourists, politicians, and climate researchers to come together to see and explore the consequences of climate change at both a local and global level.

Designed by Danish firm Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter, the Icefjord Centre is a hub for people interested in understanding the relationship between climate change and the Arctic. Research facilities provide climate scientists with easier access to one of the world’s most studied glaciers, while exhibition spaces, a film theatre, and well-protected outdoor gathering spaces educate visitors about the millennia-old connection between humankind and ice. ‘The Story of Ice’, the centre’s permanent exhibition designed by JAC Studios, combines important cultural and scientific knowledge with the aesthetic beauty of the region. Archaeological artefacts are encased in glass stands modelled after real ice blocks that were 3D-scanned from the Kangia Ice Fjord, giving the appearance of icebergs floating across the exhibition, while an authentic ice core drilling explains how the area’s ice sheet tells a story about climate and culture stretching from 124,000 BCE to the present.

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...
DORTE MANDRUP, FOUNDER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF DORTE MANDRUP ARKITEKTER.

Embodying the centre’s role in climate research, the building was designed with thought towards minimising its own environmental impact. The fifty skeletal frames that form the centre’s exposed supports are made from steel rather than the more standard concrete, avoiding the more carbon-intensive material and creating a lighter structure that hovers just over the bedrock. This elevation allows natural flora and fauna to continue living beneath the building and leaves room for melted snow to follow its original path back into the Sermermiut Lake in the spring.

The building is also carefully adapted to the extreme conditions. The windows filter and adapt to all sorts of light conditions, including the dramatic reflections on the snow experienced during the six-week period of winter when Greenland gets no direct sunlight. The tilting rooftop, which connects to the ground in a seamless extension of the area’s hiking trail, creates a viewing platform that protects visitors from strong winds and prevents snow build up. Beyond providing practical insulation, the rooftop’s curving shape also resembles the wingspan of a snowy owl in flight, creating a beautiful shape that seems to levitate over the rugged site.

The Icefjord Centre respects the natural environment that surrounds it, both by adapting its design to suit the existing ecosystems and by inviting visitors to understand the consequences of humanity’s wider mistreatment of the planet. Yet it doesn’t get caught in the doom and gloom, instead also exploring the positive relationship between humans and the Arctic while highlighting the beauty that we all seek to protect.

If you liked this article, you might want to check out our feature on the Klimatorium, a new climate research centre in Denmark.

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