Atmos’ radical room design for Sweden’s Icehotel 365 employs additive and subtractive construction processes using only plywood, snow and ice


Asaf Kliger, Alex Haw

Dreamscape by Atmos is a striking installation at Icehotel 365 in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. Constructed predominantly from ice and snow, the project comprises a curving ice staircase leading to a raised sleeping platform. The former gradually widens and is imprinted with an intricate, unfurling pattern of radiating ‘grip’ grooves, while the latter is held aloft by sculptural ice ‘tentacles’ that extend outwards to the floor, walls and ceiling.

‘We realised that the thrilling austerity of the room’s furnishings (there is only a bed) would allow us to focus on that great unspoken and unrevealed experience that we all share each night – the journey into our psyche’, explains Atmos director Alex Haw. ‘Our design visualises the drama of that nocturnal voyage, which is wrapped in neural pathways and can lead to magical spaces we’ve never before experienced.’


The construction process began by levelling the floor and inserting an intricate plywood baseplate, writes Atmos. Following the dimensions of the space, the baseplate ensured that each ice building block was perfectly positioned, avoiding incremental errors.

The stair is carved from slabs of 200mm-thick ice weighing up to 400kg. Sawn from larger blocks by a pair of conveyor-belt chainsaws, the slabs were incised with grooves by a CNC machine before being transported to site. The incisions provided a guide for hand-carving the treads using a special chainsaw with a 90-degree cutting angle.


Chamfered 320mm-thick vertical blocks (rising in height incrementally) were laid behind each overlapping tread, ensuring the top surface was completely flat and ready to receive the next one. Each successive vertical block was strapped to its predecessor and the deep slot between them carefully sawn straight using long curved-tooth knives. This allowed them to be pushed cleanly and precisely together. Water was subsequently dripped into the gaps, freezing upon contact with the ice and forming a strong bond.

Short curved ice blocks were added to the front tips of each tread and then carved using a chainsaw to create a continuous, smooth, sloping stringer. A pair of ice trims connect the base of each stringer to the door, from which the journey into the space begins. The finished stair is supported only along its front face and sides, with the rear edge appearing to hover like a beam in space.


The next stage of the process was to construct a pair of 320mm- thick ice support walls extending from the top of the stair to the adjacent wall, and forming thestructure for the raised sleeping platform above. A 22mm-thick plywood sheet was laid across the top of the walls, with two, short, vertical plywood planes fixed perpendicularly to its longest sides. Plywood formers describing cross-sections through the ice tentacles were then fixed perpendicularly to the vertical plywood planes, ready to receive a covering of snice – a carefully controlled mixture of ice and snow.

At this point, the dimensions of the room were re-measured and compared to the virtual model. This allowed the team to tweak the dimensions of the tentacle beams, ensuring a precise fit. The outline shapes of the tentacles were hand-drawn onto large plywood sheets before being cut out using a jigsaw.


A series of long, faceted 150mm-wide plywood cross-beams were then attached to the primary tentacle beams to provide structural stability and prevent warping. The inner ends of the beams (closest to the bed) were connected to slots in the tentacle cross-section formers (mounted on the sides of the platform), while the outer ends were fixed to either the wall or ceiling.

Following construction of the formwork, the plywood structure was covered with snice. Mixed to achieve the right consistency of stickiness and smoothness, the snice was finished with a layer of virgin white snow, before being rubbed and sanded smooth.

The mattress was then placed on the platform and the gaps between it and the tentacles infilled with ice trims.

Finally, a colonnade of columns was drawn on the two ice walls, supporting the sleeping platform and tentacles. Initially, large holes were cut into the walls with a chainsaw and the ice removed. The sharp 90-degree incisions were softened – again using a chainsaw – before the organic-shaped columns were sculpted by hand using chisels. After careful honing and polishing, the column surfaces were exposed to a hot air gun in order to maximise their luminous transparency.

Download Drawings


Atmos Studio

Structural formers, bed base, backrest
Swedish birch plywood
Locally sourced from the Torne River