Svart Glacier Hotel
Snøhetta creates an Arctic jewel in harmony with nature
By the time winter sets in, most travelers long for soft sandy beaches, where thermometers reach a steady 85 degrees Fahrenheit. So, you may wonder why I am writing about the Svart Glacier Hotel, in Meløy, Norway, which sits above the Arctic Circle. Here, the temperature can drop well below zero in winter and bounce between a balmy 14 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit in July.
This hotel is a project of Norway’s innovative Snøhetta architectural firm. With an eye to sustainability, the hotel is planned to be “energy positive.” The Global Buildings Performance Network (gbpn.org) defines this as “a building (or a group of buildings) that produces more on-site energy from renewable sources than it consumes”—and the Svart Glacier Hotel will be the first building above the Arctic Circle to do so.
As with so many of the projects that Snøhetta is involved in, this was done in partnership with MIRIS (miris.no), a Norwegian company focused on comprehensive sustainability. On their company website, they state their vision for “a world in which everyone lives and works in buildings that produce more energy than they use.” For MIRIS, “it all started with SVART,” as they worked to develop new technologies their to reach our goals of 85% energy reduction, from construction to operation, for the hotel project.
Not only is the hotel’s location and energy production unique, so is its design. When the sky darkens, it looks like an elegant platinum ring encircled by diamonds. Sparkling, it floats upon pure water, a perfect mirror for its majestic surroundings, including a glacier, mountain, and fjord: Svartisen, Almlifjellet, and Holandsfjorden. It is both sublime and epic.
With its circular shape, the architectural masterpiece offers a 360-degree view of nature. The architecture is inspired by local coastal building traditions. It stands on wooden piles dissolving the boundary between land and fjords. These piles resemble the wooden racks used to hang and dry out fish.
Since the structure is immersed in water, you can kayak right outside your bedroom. This stupendous site is a perfect place for gazing and gaping at the northern lights that fill the surrounding skies.
The design was created in collaboration with three distinct entities: Arctic Adventures of Norway, a travel consortium; Asplan Viakand, engineering and architectural consultants; and Skanska, an international construction and project development organization.
To have had a travel organization with a track record in this distinctive environment working from the hotel’s inception is a major bonus. Tour groups in the area offer one-of-a-kind experiences, including whale safaris, aurora borealis and photography tours, glacier hikes, and visits to a moose farm.
Svart is expected to open its doors to the public in 2021, and no shortage of visitors is expected, taking into consideration the success of Snøhetta’s Under. An underwater restaurant in Lindesnes, Under is booked several years out, and the waiting list just keeps getting longer. Like the restaurant, Svart will also transform the relationship between humans and the sea. Without a doubt, the Svart Glacier Hotel will definitely be a must-see on every adventurer’s bucket list; I know it’s on mine.
This article originally appeared in the March 6, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.