by Manu SharmaApr 25, 2021
Ulf Mejergren Architects has built a temporary hut made of 5,000 snowballs, inspired by Swedish snow lanterns. Located in Stockholm, the structure is the first entry in the firm's planned series of installations dubbed 'Primitive Huts'. The idea of the ‘Primitive Hut’ was first put forward by Marc-Antoine Laugier in his publication Essay on Architecture in the 1750s. While the term seems to be descriptive, it was a conceptual idea that speculated the bare necessities of architecture. In a way the concept of the ‘Primitive Hut’ was an attempt to identify the first architectural idea. One of the central themes of the primitive is who is that of simplicity, and its reliance on its surroundings. It suggested that the materials of this hut would have to be easily and abundantly available, which can be constructed with the skills of a primitive human. Ulf Mejergren Architects made use of a material abundantly available to them, snow. A warm glow emanates from the Snowball Hut when lit up from the inside, as small openings in its shell allow light to permeate and illuminate the surroundings, giving it the appearance of a tranquil, outdoor shelter during snowy winters.
Sweden is often subject to harsh, frigid winters with extended periods of darkness and biting cold winds. Consequently, over the years, its people have developed innovative methods to build shelters in the region's testing weather conditions with naturally available materials such as stone and timber.
Scandinavian wintertime traditions also form part of the nation's rich culture that is heavily influenced by the region's cold climate. Among these is the snow lantern or 'snölykta' - commonly built by Swedish children from an early age by stacking snowballs into cone-shaped mounds, with glowing tea lights placed at the centre that provide illumination.
In keeping with the concept of the ‘Primitive Hut' as a representation of how interactions between humans and nature inform the basic principles of architecture, the Stockholm-based practice drew from 'snölykta' - reimagining it on a larger scale as a snow hut where people could sit inside and take refuge from the elements.
The studio noted that the ideal temperature for the hut's construction ranged between two to three degrees celsius. Colder conditions prevent snowballs from sticking to one another, while warmer weather would cause the structure to melt away. They also stated, "During the day of creation, the conditions were optimal, but when the evening came it became warmer”. In a manner, this benefitted the project as the snowballs melted together well, and the hollowed openings in its shell became more well-defined. According to Ulf Mejergren Architects, "It also became easier to create the entrance by gently removing the desired snowballs”. The result is a snug cone-shaped mound, ideal for children to huddle up in and peek at their surroundings through the many illuminated pockets between the snowballs forming its shell.
Ulf Mejergren Architects is an award-winning practice founded in 2010 by Ulf Mejergren and currently based in Stockholm. The firm has a distinguished body of work varying widely in scale from skyscrapers to pavilions and sheds - providing custom-made, functional, and economically sound solutions for each project. Future installations within the studio’s 'Primitive Huts' series will consist of sheds or huts built of a single material, ideally, one that is naturally available. Their current aim is to roll out one such structure each year.
(Text by Jerry Joe Elengical, intern at STIRworld.com)