Interior Design in the 21st Century: Sustainability
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Interior Design in the 21st Century: Sustainability

This series examines interior design in the 21st century, surveying contemporary trends and asking what are the key themes in interior design today?

This series examines interior design in the 21st century, surveying contemporary trends and asking what are the key themes in interior design today?

A major trend in interior design is sustainability. This has led to a shift in emphasis from fashionability to responsibility. Interior designers are beginning to use woods from sustainable sources. Art Deco had used exotic woods like ebony. These are now banned in order to halt deforestation. Bamboo is recommended for use in flooring, wall decoration and furniture because it grows quickly and replenishes itself.

The Eco House in Cambridgeshire was designed by Kelly and Masoko Neville for their own occupation. The focus of the house is an 800 year old oak tree and the staircase was made from wood taken from the tree. The design was inspired by Bag End, Bilbo Baggins's house in The Hobbit. The house has a lantern roof, which lets natural light into the interior and saves energy. It’s insulated with straw.

Sustainability is also an issue in commercial design. A number of sustainable hotels have been designed. One of the strangest is the Icehotel in Jukkasjarvi in Sweden. An ice hotel is a temporary building sculpted from blocks of ice and reinforced with a steel frame. The walls, fixtures and fittings are made entirely of ice and held together using a substance known as snice, which takes the place of mortar. The concept isn’t as outlandish as it seems; it’s derived from igloos, which are the vernacular dwellings of Eskimos.

Ice hotels are obviously dependent on sub-aero temperatures and as a result they have to be reconstructed every year. The Icehotel at Jukkasjärvi was the first ice hotel in the world. This is the exterior. The superstructure is carved out of ice, with a wall of ice bricks. The interiors are illuminated to create translucent effects, emphasising the nature of the raw material.

The hotel melts every spring, so it has to be redesigned every year. An annual competition is held to find designs for the interiors. This is the lobby, with pillars of ice supporting a vaulted ceiling. There is a glass chandelier that echoes the fabric of the building. Much of the furniture is carved from ice too. Overall, this interior has a shimmering, prismatic effect.

This is a bedroom designed by Doug Meerdink and David E. Scott. Many of the rooms are carved in organic, uterine forms, echoing igloos and ice caves. Of course, ice is cold and hard, so it doesn’t provide much comfort. Mattresses and fur blankets are provided as a concession to the human need for warmth and comfort.

This is another bedroom. The bed is surrounded by ice obelisks, almost like the Fortress of Solitude in Superman movies. Of course, there aren’t many electrical facilities because they would be dangerous in a building made of frozen water.

This is a dormitory with multiple beds and an ice sculpture at the end. The roof structure is interesting. This is in the Gothic style of architecture. The Gothic vault with cross-ribs was invented in the Middle Ages and used in great cathedrals. It’s a structure of immense strength. Building with ice is analogous to building with stone, so even in a modern building the Gothic vault represents the best structural form.

This is the bar, called the Absolute Isobar, designed by Mikael Nille Nilsson. Ice columns support the vaulted ceiling. In an ice hotel, the food and drink have to be specially chosen for the circumstances.

An ice hotel is featured in the James Bond film Die Another Day, which indicates that the trend has been noticed by the mainstream. The idea is spreading around the world, even to countries below the Artic Circle.

Ice hotels are sustainable because they are made from a renewable material. However, they are not a practical solution to the ecological crisis because they are dependent on the weather and have to be rebuilt every year.

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Comments (4)

in these green times sustainability is found everywhere

Informative one! Voted!

I love this! I'd never heard of ice hotels before.

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Abdel-moniem El-Shorbagy has written an excellent article on ice hotels.