Bringing audio to the world’s first 365-day Ice Hotel
Located under a blanket of snow in the small, riverside village of Jukkasjärvi in Lapland, Sweden sits a hotel with a difference. Charlotte Ashley explores.
“The environment in an ice hotel is white, cold, transparent and very fragile,” explains Matti Eklund, owner of local integration company Matti Eklund AB (MEAB). “Obviously most technical equipment has the opposite characteristics, so this was a signiﬁcant challenge for us.” The world’s ﬁrst ice hotel attracts between 50,000 and 60,000 visitors to the village of Jukkasjärvi, with a little over 700 inhabitants, found 200km north of the Arctic Circle. Yet the site melting each spring meant revenue could only previously be seasonal. Its new extension, the 2,100-sq-metre ‘Icehotel 365’ is the world’s ﬁrst hotel made of ice and snow to be open throughout the year – thanks to a newly developed solar-powered cooling system.
“Icehotel AB and I have a long relationship that goes back to 2003 when they built the ﬁrst Ice Globe Theatre; a replica of The Globe in London using snow and ice,” says Eklund, on how he got involved with the hotel’s latest audio upgrade. “Since then I've been doing AV support for the company and its partners.”
Beyond the illuminated blue arches of the entrance to Jukkasjärvi’s sole hotel, guests enter a unique environment, blending decorative, handcarved ice structures and permanent structures, including 20 guest suites constructed from ice blocks, a gallery and a bar – connected by a staircase made of pure ice.
Tasked with deciding on the best audio solution for the hotel without knowledge of the rooms’ ﬁnal design or function in detail, Eklund pitched a digital sound matrix system from Audac, scalable to four different zones that could be controlled individually by the hotel’s technical lead. This was to be divided into the internal entrance, bar, event area and the background music system. Two additional zones (the external entrance area and corridor) were added, alongside control panels in each of the main hall zones. “We now have unlimited potential to expand the system in the future with the Audac M2 Matrix system,” comments Eklund. He chose Audac for its suitability for the environment – both in terms of temperature conditions and energy consumption of the EPA series D class ampliﬁer (suited to the hotel’s strict sustainability policy) powering the system. A wireless Sennheiser microphone system is deployed for tour guides, events and concerts, in addition to external input in the event area.
An art hub as well as a dining, drinking and recreational space, over 40 specially selected artists, designers and architects from nine different countries travelled to Sweden to work on the project. Each hotel suite has a special light design accompanied by particular music (triggered by a sensor) composed by the ice artist that created the space, to enrich how guests experience their work.
“One of the most difﬁcult parts of the installation was that the hotel was being constructed during the process.”
Delivering the equipment in the -5°C environment was, however, a signiﬁcant undertaking. “One of the most difﬁcult parts of the installation was that the hotel was being constructed during the process,” recalls Eklund. “It was a bit like an ‘extreme home makeover’- project where everyone was working at the same time, in the same area, but with different issues. We all had the same deadline, and we were short of time.” He adds: “Then there’s the problem outside of everyone’s control: the weather. The cold prevented the skylifts and other machines from working and this far up north in Sweden the daylight isn’t very long in winter.”
Delays to construction (involving around 30,000 litres of water in total) meant the project had to be split into two phases, pushing back the original plan to complete the installation in two weeks. Phase one involved preparing the ampliﬁer and processor rack (placed in the warm part of the hotel) and completing around 500 metres of cabling. Ekland then had to wait for construction to ﬁnish and hotel’s walls and ceiling to be covered with snow to complete the technical installation – comprised of mounting speakers, making cables discreet and making ﬁnishing touches to programming and the hotel’s visual equipment.
“Almost every day a decision had to be revised,” says Eklund. Quick changes to original plans – such as hanging speakers from the ceiling instead of mounting on the wall of the ice bar when plug sockets ended up covered by ice walls – was necessary to deliver the project. Another creative rethink post-construction meant the PA system ended up placed in the ice chandelier instead of in the bar.
The project was completed just ahead of its opening in November 2016, and connects to the large IceHotel site each winter. 130,000 kWh of energy conserved from Sweden’s midnight sun 100 days of the year, powers the hotel’s facilities throughout the year. “Guests of Icehotel 365 have commented both on the good sound and how invisible the equipment is in the ice and snow environment,” says Eklund, who will continue to support and maintain the system as it grows in the future.
Audac digital audio mixer, ampliﬁers, media player, digital paging microphone, wall panel controller, surface mount box, bass reﬂex cabinets and outdoor & ceiling speakers
Hill Audio LPA 3000 ampliﬁer
Sennheiser EW 500 microphone system