In a remote area north of the Arctic Circle at the foot of the Svartisen glacier, one of the world’s most exciting sustainable hotel projects is underway. Slated to open in 2021 south of Bodø in Northern Norway, the Svart hotel will operate with 85 percent less energy consumption compared to modern hotels, will harvest its own energy, and will implement numerous energy-positive initiatives that will set a new standard in sustainable travel.
Designed by international architecture and design firm Snøhetta (of Oslo Opera House fame), Svart’s unique circular facade is more than just eye-catching, as it works to maximize insulation and energy harvesting as much as to capitalize on pristine glacier and fjord views.
We chatted with Snøhetta senior interior architect, Elin Vatn, to learn more about what is perhaps the most progressive sustainable hotel project of modern times.
How will Svart change the way people think about travel?
A project like Svart allows us to show it’s possible to develop a hotel, even in a remote location, that is more or less self-sufficient in terms of energy and other resources. It’s possible to design a building that produces its own energy, handles its own waste, and has its own boat transportation powered by renewable energy to explore farther afield in this spectacular part of Norway. In this way, we can avoid constructing new roads, sewers, and other types of infrastructure. The building is gentle on its surroundings since it stands on pilings, allowing sunlight to filter through to the plants and wildlife in the water and on land.
How does Svart speak to the luxury traveler?
Tomorrow’s luxury, we believe, will not be measured in terms of glitter and gold. We believe that it will instead entail the experience of being in raw and pure nature; enjoying the silence of the woods, the mountains, and the sea. And along with that comes the experience of feeling awe-inspired—taking in the beauty of all those sensations while enjoying it together with other people.
How will Svart produce its own energy?
Solar panels on the roof and heat pumps in the sea will make the building self-sufficient with electricity, heat, and cooling. In fact, the building will produce more clean and renewable energy throughout its lifespan than what it will consume during the production of the building materials, construction, and operation of the hotel and, ultimately, demolition.
Although Norwegian energy is generally very clean and renewable, building-integrated energy production can reduce the need for power plants that cause wounds in the landscape and adversely affect nature. When the hotel is in operation, all energy consumption will be controlled by sensors and based on activity, temperature, and daylight. We will have the possibility to shut off electricity to the hotel rooms in sectors within the circular design when they are not occupied, so they will not be heated when it isn’t necessary.
“Tomorrow’s luxury, we believe,
will not be measured in terms of glitter and gold…it will instead entail the
experience of being in raw and pure nature;
enjoying the silence of the woods, the mountains, and the sea.”
Why is Svart located near the Svartisen glacier instead of a more popular tourist area such as Lofoten to the north?
As glaciers become more and more vulnerable to eradication, they also paradoxically become more popular as tourist attractions. The Svartisen glacier is so deep that it will likely exist for a long time, and therefore become even more attractive to visitors. The nature of the Engabreen area here is magnificent, offering many great ways to experience nature through activities such as glacier hikes. Through the hotel’s boat transportation, it will be able to offer day trips and tours that visit a larger area of the coast, even all the way up to the popular Lofoten Islands. By traveling by boat and staying on board, too, we can allow people to experience Lofoten without putting further strain on this area and others that are on the brink of what they can handle in terms of tourism.
What is a Powerhouse building, and did you look to any other for inspiration? Or is Svart pioneering a league of its own when it comes to design?
A Powerhouse building produces more clean and renewable energy throughout its lifespan than what it will consume during the production of the building materials, construction, and operation of the hotel and, eventually, demolition. All Powerhouses are based on a parametric design, where the environmental initiatives implemented have a strong influence on the shape of the building and technical solutions. So, there are similarities in terms of the processes and solutions we work with. The design of Powerhouse buildings reflects the function they have as well as their unique adaptions to local environments, so that makes each Powerhouse project unique.
Svart is unique in that the building stands on poles and is partially on land and partially in the water. The design is inspired by local construction practices in this part of Norway, namely the traditional fishermen’s cabins called rorbuer. There’s even a nod to the traditional fish-drying racks in the design of the poles. Together with the extensive use of local wood and stone and the simplicity of the form, this makes the project typically Nordic