Robert Mechielsen is an imposing man in stature, vision and design accomplishments. The Topanga resident is about to embark on one of his greatest challenges – to create a frozen suite in Sweden’s world-famous ICEHOTEL. Created annually for the last seventeen years on the shore of the Torne River in the small village of Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, where temperatures plummet to -40?F in winter and the Northern Lights fill the darkness until the midnight sun at the end of May.
One of only fourteen designers in the world selected by the ICEHOTEL Art & Design group to create one of its amazing suites, internationally known Mechielsen, along with team member Jennifer Fulmer, will be leaving on November 21 armed with his design, sculpting tools and a full set of thermal underwear to protect “valuable assets.” The ICEHOTEL supplies the rest of the Arctic thermal clothing, which includes overalls, hats, mittens and special gloves.
Known for his international inspirations, eco-conscious designs and unique blending of art and architecture, Robert Mechielsen has named his suite Cyclic Vortex. “As one moves through the suite, there is a moment when all the design elements line up like the planets, resulting in an explosion of light transmitted through translucent ice. The most fascinating and, perhaps, important part of Green-Eco design is that we construct habitats and structures with the very building blocks of life itself.”
Mechielsen and Fulmer, whose background is set design for theater and film, are excited about the use of natural elements to frame nature in a way that is new, intriguing and beautiful. Fulmer said, “We are both apprehensive about the cold, but it is going to be such a great experience working with so many internationally-known artists and in such a unique context. It almost feels like going to winter camp for artists.”
The 5,000-square meter ICEHOTEL opens on December 8, 2006 and stays open through late May when the frozen palace melts and becomes a puddle. There are 82 rooms, and accommodations run $700 per night. Each suite is 23’ x 15’ with a height of 11’, and the only materials allowed in the design are ice, snow, reindeer hides and lighting. All the furniture – beds, tables and chairs – are designed and built out of solid blocks of ice harvested from the Thorne River, which freezes over in a few days every November. The building materials consist of 30,000 tons of snow and 4,000 tons of ice.
The ICEHOTEL houses an Absolut Vodka Ice Bar, and yes, the glasses are made of ice. Last year the hotel housed 14,000 guests who slept on beds insulated with reindeer skins. The dishes and cutlery used in the restaurant are also made of ice and the hot food is served over leaves that insulate the plate. Natural ingredients from Lapland’s forests and clean rivers provide the basis for the hotel’s cuisine.
Mechielsen describes his suite design: “Overlapping sheets of translucent ice are backlit and layered around a keyhole viewing wall. The illusion of centrifugal motion is their goal as they create a vortex shape. Spotlights will transmit light-beams through the polished ice shapes into the vortex design. This composition is fully clear and visible when passing by the keyhole in the helix wall and looking through. If the elements of this design were thought of as planets within a solar system, then upon entering this room and looking through the keyhole is when the planets align to exert their full influence on existence.”
Robert Mechielsen was born in Breda, Holland in 1955. He studied architecture and engineering in Delft, Holland and later at the Beaux Arts in Paris. He started his European studio in 1980, and immigrated to America in 1985. “Blending the art of architecture with our environment” is what Mechielsen is known for. His inventive sustainable projects span the globe and include the Amsterdam Opera House; Sher House, Point Dume, Malibu; Medley House, Topanga; WestPort Eco Ranch, Mendocino Coast; Artos Hotel Suites, Brazil; Ecologically Aware Resort Development, Brazil; Spa Hotel in the Desert, Palm Springs; Z-Pizza, Orange County; and the Hi’ilani House, Hawaii. He speaks seven languages and is nicknamed the “Flying Dutchman” due to his extensive travels, jubilant personality and limitless vision.
Says Mechielsen, “Perhaps through beautiful art we can unite in a vision that allows us to see a particular aspect which connects us as humans.”