Arctic Hotel with an area up to 3,200 m2 and a height up to 8 m will replace an old existing structure.
Register: JUL/11/2021, Submit: JUL/14/2021, Eligibility: Students, graduated, freelance architects, designers; individually, teams (any number of members, which can be from different countries and universities; at least one member aged 18 to 35), Fee: 65 EUR (APR/12 – MAY/16/2021), 85 EUR (MAY/17 – JUN/13/2021), 115 EUR (JUN/14 – JUL/11/2021); +22% VAT, Awards: 1st Prize: 8,000 EUR, 2nd Prize: 4,000 EUR, 3rd Prize: 2,000 EUR, 2 Gold Mentions: 500 EUR each, 10 Honorable Mentions, 30 Finalists
Some places may seem straight out of a fairy tale, but they exist in the real world. In some places, a blend of legends, landscapes, memories, creates something that cannot be described in words: something humans perceive but cannot express, something science explains but does not own. Rovaniemi is one of those places. Capital of Finnish Lapland, Rovaniemi is one of the few cities in the world located at a few kilometres from the Arctic Circle: legacy of people with colourful clothes and special traditions, reindeer farmers and sleigh builders. Rovaniemi is a place made of snow, perpetual dawns and dusks, and it is home to the dancing lights that shine in the sky during cold winter nights – the Aurora Borealis.
Home to Santa Claus – the Scandinavian myth that conquered the world through tales and folklore, the town of Rovaniemi had been considered inaccessible and remote for most of its history. Until last century, when it became the destination for visitors and tourists, who wanted to feel its magic and see the fascinating Northern Lights.
Today Rovaniemi is no longer a prerogative of expert travellers and explorers, and new hospitality models are necessary in order to protect the remote identity of this land. An identity that is characterized by primitive beauty and harmony, and inaccessibility and the absence of humans greatly contributed to its shaping.
How can we make places like this accessible, as inaccessibility is a key part of ther charm? What kind of accommodation facilities can combine hospitality and unspoilt nature?
This is the challenge of Arctic Hotel, the competition organized by YAC and Rovaniemi to create a place where people can experience the most authentic North, respecting its isolation and magic.
On Ounasvaara Hill, overlooking one of the most remote bases ever built, architects will have the opportunity to imagine a structure that blends with the forest, the snow and the sky. A place where visitors can find shelter from the freezing temperatures of the Arctic Circle, gather around a fire, and enjoy the rarest and most mysterious spectacle of nature: the Aurora Borealis.
A sun that rises a few minutes after it set. An unpredictable, enchanted sky, where veils of light illuminate 200 nights a year with blue and emerald glows. An ancient, ever-present forest covered in soft snow during the long winters; green, rust and golden during ruska-the Finnish autumn, with sounds and colours that have no equal in any other parts of the world. Words are not enough, pictures do not do justice to one of the last natural sanctuaries of Europe. Here, at the outermost bounds of the Earth, every expression of nature becomes extreme: cold, night, day, fear, and beauty appear extreme and extremely expanded. Snow appears in October and lazily disappears in May. The night can last up to 2 month, depending on the latitude, and the same is true for the bright daylight. For these reasons, Finland is among the most evocative locations architecture can find. Here follow some factual information that can be useful to inspire architects in designing a place to enjoy the multifaceted culture and natural marvels of Finland.
1. Finland and Lapland: one of the most sparsely populated nations of Europe, Finland is a land of snow, water and forests. Historically disputed between the bordering nations (special mention should be made to the Swedish, Russian and, most recently, German influences), Finland developed a unique culture and society, with characteristic features that make it popular around the world. Firstly, Finland is about its connection with nature, in particular with the forest, which is considered a natural right of every citizen, place of leisure, and a source of livelihood. Every Finn has, at least once in their life, looked for wild fruit or mushrooms in the forest, every Finn knows their taste in the local dishes of this land. The society of Finland is welcoming and friendly, and the inhabitants’ favourite places of aggregation are the birch smelling saunas and the open-air baths–both part of a cycle of psycho-physical wellbeing, in a mix of folklore and medical knowledge. Finland has always been, and still is, about snow, ice fishing, skiing (practiced since 1500 b.C.), sleighs and reindeers, which in the past were the only source of livelihood for indigenous populations. The reindeers were used for their meat, their milk, their leather (for houses and clothes), their antlers were carved to create objects and tools for everyday use.
2. Rovaniemi: Rovaniemi is one of the most visited places of Finland and its second most international city, it represents the values and lifestyle of the country. Masterpieces by Alvar Aalto are present in several areas of the city. Rivers run through the centre, embroidering it with a huge quantity of water, which is frozen for a good part of the year, making the Kemijoki and the Ounasjoki rivers streets of ice. Ounasvaara hill overlooks the city, with its forest of spruces, and birches. The hill is a day trip destination for the population, as it is full of paths, viewpoints and ski slopes. The city airport is located at a few kilometres from the centre. Rovaniemi is renowned for being the city of Santa Klaus: according to tradition, the village of the old toymaker is not far from the centre, and letters from millions of children from all around the world arrive here every year.
3. Sami culture: The study of Finland must include the analysis of one of the most singular and ancient cultures of Europe. Sami people are the ancient inhabitants of the Scandinavian Peninsula: a strong population, able to adapt to one of the most inhospitable and extreme areas of the world and at the same time develop time a positive attitude towards life, expressed in the creative and colourful traditional clothes. Nomads and reindeer farmers, Samis are the embodiment of the most authentic Scandinavian spirit of nature and forest, whose expressions are deified, and whose good spirits (the halde) are venerated and respected in the Sami religion. The halde used to live in the sieidi, monumental rocks that are still visible near lakes, rivers, or trees. But nature is not the only important component of the Sami religion: the emotional attachment to animals was so strong that when they were killed, part of them (especially bears) was buried, in a ritual that was aimed at asking for forgiveness and give back part of what had been taken from Mother Nature. Today in Finland, still live almost 10,000 Samis of the total 80,000 registered all over the Scandinavian Peninsula. Modern Samis are not nomad nor do they live in tents anymore, but they are still proud of their traditions, of their history, language, and identity.
For such reasons, the Sami ethnic group is protected in the different nations as it is considered a precious heritage, legacy of ancient times, with deep, ancient roots in Northern European history.
Northern lights: Finland can offer many spectacular views, but special mention must be made to Northern Lights. Aurora Borealis is a phenomenon that has always existed, under many different aspects, and it has always charmed and terrified people coming from all over the world. For the Finns, Northern Lights were fires provoked by the tail of a mythological fox; for the Sami people, the Lights had to do with the dead, in line with an idea of holiness that is shared by all Finnish people. Still today, Samis don’t like to talk in presence of Northern Lights, because they believe – just like their ancestors – that the best way to show respect to the “dancing souls” is silence. Modern science, starting with the studies of Richard Cristopher, can explain the nature and the reasons for this phenomenon: reaction of gases in the atmosphere to solar plasma “winds”. However, Northern Lights are still complex to understand, and many aspects are very evocative and fascinating: an example is the “auroral chorus” phenomenon, a melody that can be recorded with a low frequency system during Aurora Borealis.
Constraints: located on the summit of the hill overlooking Rovaniemi – Ounasvaara – the Arctic Hotel will replace an old pre-existing structure. Any kind of intervention will be accepted, provided that:
- does not exceed 8m height;
- does not exceed 3,000 m2;
- is contained in the area object of the competition;
- is in harmony with the surroundings.
Moreover, participants must consider that:
- materials used must interact with the surroundings: they can be compatible or distonic, traditional or high-tech, but architects must guarantee that the overall design is aimed at enhancing the natural context;
- the complex must be available for visits, also by persons with reduced mobility;
- the complex must be sustainable;
- the pre-existing buildings must be demolished;
- excavations and the creation of underground constructions are allowed.
Geoids, observatory houses, glass domes. There have been many architectural attempts to establish a dialogue between Lapland visitors and Northern Lights. Despite this, the challenge of finding a connection between nature and contemporary architecture is still one of the most controversial topics of contemporary Finland. It’s as if the Finnish landscape had two souls, the ancient and the modern, struggling to prevail, opening to the world while defending itself, in order to safeguard the characteristics of a place that is normally isolated. It is necessary to find a language, a method, a solution, in order to make one of the most charming places of the world accessible, without jeopardising its identity. The goal is to allow visitors to enjoy the marvels of nature, without sacrificing the sense of solitude and meditation that characterizes the experience of Northern Lights. The Finnish people have a strong connection with their land, architects must find a solution to open the forest to visitors while protecting its spirit at the same time. Only going beyond traditional tourist accommodation models and aiming at creating nature sanctuaries, architecture can establish an effective dialogue with such mystic places in an authentic way. The Arctic Hotel can be interpreted in many different ways – shelter, getaway, retreat immersed in the Finnish ruska – and it can become anything spanning from a niche destination, for hard-to-please tourists, to a “social” destination, rooted in the concepts of adventure and nature. Thus here follows a list of different functional possibilities; however, the choice of one scenario over the other, the modifications or adjustments made, the composition of such scenarios, are up to the participants, and are object of the competition.
1. Arctic Sky Resort: the hotel will be interpreted as the centre of a network of services aimed at guaranteeing a holiday experience with every comfort, where Northern Lights and the location inside the forest are part of an exclusive tourism. Elegant suites concealed in the surroundings, a classy restaurant, and sophisticated open air pools to enjoy the Aurora Borealis from the water: these are just some possible ideas in line with this vision. Consistently, the area must guarantee access to the territory and be independent and self-sufficient at the same time.
2. Arctic Landscape Hotel: the hotel will be nterpreted as a point of reference for a less exclusive tourism, for those who love nature, winter sports, and naturalistic excursions. Thus, the hotel will be a starting point, a platform to discover the area. A simple place, with essential services, in which the rattling of the wind, the warmth of the fire, and the combination between architecture and landscape are the main source of entertainment for the tourists.
3. Arctic Sky Centre: the hotel will be interpreted as a point of reference for those who want to live a relaxing, entertaining, and educational experience in which the sky and the forest are absolute protagonists. A school of winter sports and a research centre to study and protect the Finnish natural heritage, an accommodation facility with educational functions and contents, in line with an idea of protection and promotion of the territory, proposing intellectual, educational, or sports activities.
4. Arctic Art Hotel: the hotel will be interpreted as a hybrid structure, somewhere between hotel and museum. A place where visitors can rest and enjoy art at the same time. Equipped with conference halls, amphitheatres, permanent and temporary exhibitions, artist ateliers, thematic rooms, the structure will be unique, located in the perfect context of Finland, under the sky of Northern Lights.
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