Taking FREESPACE to an Arctic extreme

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For human beings, the freedom of infinite space is daunting. Environments like the Arctic offer the experience of being surrounded by endless space. Conditions here are tough. Extreme cold, wind, snow and ice are all normal features of daily life and if not prepared, existence is harsh. These extreme conditions are what we are faced with when working on the upcoming Icefjord Centre project in Greenland. It is this challenging climate and magnitude of space in the Arctic which has informed Dorte Mandrup’s interpretation of the over-all theme for the Biennale Architettura 2018, FREESPACE.

The project entitled CONDITIONS will feature an abstract 1:12 model of the Icefjord Centre located within an immersive light and sound installation. Visitors are invited to enter the 200 square meter exhibit to experience the unique conditions of Greenland.

“The infinity and the scale of the landscape combined with the light and darkness of the arctic climate will be the focal point of our installation. The theme of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition is FREESPACE, and our interpretation is concerned with the creation of an infinite space, which the surroundings of the future Icefjord Centre very much exemplify. The understanding of architecture is a 1:1 experience – here more than anywhere else”, Dorte Mandrup elaborates.


The Icefjord Centre will be located at one of the world’s most active glaciers in Ilulissat on the western coast of Greenland, 250 km from the Arctic Circle. As a direct result of global warming, over recent years the Icefjord has continually withdrawn several kilometers. This is why the Icefjord is a gathering point for climate scientists and head of states, who wish to give attention to climate change. In 2004 the Icefjord was appointed to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to the state of the glacier and its surrounding striking nature.

The curators of the Biennale Architettura 2018 are Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. Their motivation for inviting Dorte Mandrup is rooted in the remarkable project of the Icefjord Centre -

“This is a project that deals with the most extreme challenges imaginable in terms of climate. It is also a highly charged building in terms of its ambition and function. The historic significance of the location where ‘the Inuit people and Europeans (Norse) met’, combined with the making of a habitable place for social interaction within the ‘superpower of nature’ has produced a project robust enough to sit lightly on the earth and to exert a singularly poetic presence”, the curators state.

Regardless of the harshness of the Arctic climate and the many practical challenges that come with an architectural endeavor such as the Icefjord Centre in Greenland, Dorte Mandrup is choosing to convey the extreme conditions not with facts but with an immersive physical interpretation.

“Our ambition has been to create a sensuous installation for the 16th Exhibition, which expresses the extreme natural conditions which have defined the building - more than a mere presentation of the building itself”, Dorte Mandrup explains.

CONDITIONS provides the opportunity to experience Dorte Mandrup’s interpretation of the extreme conditions that define the unique Arctic climate.

The 16th International Architecture Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia is open to the public from May 26th to November 25th 2018.


Click here for more information on Dorte Mandrup at the Biennale Architettura 2018

Photography credit - Adam Mørk

Lighting design - Jesper Kongshaug

Sound design - Robert Kongshaug

Photo exhibit - Henrik Saxgreen

Construction - Odico

Sound and light installation - Kasper Stouenborg


A special thanks for their support to Realdania, Knud Højgaards Fond, Dreyers Fond, Statens Kunstfond and Nationalbankens Jubilæumsfond.