17.05.17

Bringing audio to the world’s first 365-day Ice Hotel

ice hotel 365 'you are my type' suite, sweden

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.

ice hotel 365 entrance covered in snow exterior shot

“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.

view from bottom of ice staircase inside ice hotel 365 in sweden

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.

audac speaker in ice hotel 365 chandelier

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.”

single bed and ice sculpture in room at ice hotel 365, sweden

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.

people stand at ice hotel 365 bar with audac speakers

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.

Tech-Spec

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