February 3, 2003
Here, the drinks are served on ice, “on the rocks”, in the true sense of the word, because the Audi Ice Lounge, at the heart of St. Moritz, is built completely from ice. A work of art, illuminated in blue-turquoise light against the backdrop of the Engadin evening sky during the Alpine Ski World Championship from 1st to 16th February – spectacular, fascinating, unique: The walls of ice, décor and interior also manufactured completely from ice, vaulted by a roof of cool gleaming steel, floodlights recessed in the ice allow the lounge to sparkle from its heart. At the entrance an over sized Audi logo carved in ice gives the visitors a clue about the builder: The four rings are 8 metres long, 2.60 metres high and weigh 9 tonnes. This combination of ice, steel and light turns the “Audi Ice Lounge” into a unique art object without comparison in modern architecture.
The “Audi Ice Lounge” on the Plazza da Ceremonia in St. Moritz-Dorf measures 22 metres in diameter and is almost five metres high. A total of one hundred and eighty tonnes of clear and smoked ice were used. Building preparations started in November last year, the “Audi Ice Lounge” was assembled over the course of 16 days from 1850 ice blocks each weighing 100 kilos in the now wintry St. Moritz. An enormous jigsaw puzzle of ice – every ice block was cut exactly to size beforehand, so becoming a unique piece planned for a pre-assigned position. The assembly followed in St. Moritz without a yardstick and exactly according to plan.
“The construction process of the Audi Ice Lounge resembled that of a well planed and organised house construction, it is however prepared in even more detail than the building of a prefab”, explained designer Christian Funk, who, with his company Funk Ice Carving, built the Ice Lounge. To begin with, the raw material had to be manufactured. In November last year the ice was frozen at the company headquarters in Beselich near Limburg/Lahn. In a cooling bath, at 11 degrees below zero, 48 ice ashlars grew simultaneously in open topped stainless steel containers. Each block was frozen to the core in 36 hours. “We couldn’t freeze the ice any quicker, otherwise too much tension would have built up in the ice and they could have cracked during the curing process”, explained Christian Funk. Funk used clear and smoked ice to build the Lounge: To keep the ice crystal clear, air was blown in during the freezing process. The ice ashlars were cut exactly to size in Germany. Up to eight blocks were pre-sorted on pallets and then loaded into the cold store ready for transport to Switzerland.
The German company, Funk Ice Carving has been building with ice for 17 years and has become one of the most influential exponents of ice architecture. However, the Audi Ice Lounge surpassed all previous orders. “The construction of the Audi Ice Lounge was a logistical masterpiece”, said Funk. Twelve low loaders were sent on the journey to Engadin. No truck, as stipulated by Swiss Highway Code, was allowed to weigh more than 38 tonnes. The freight had to be sent on its journey in the correct sequence – first the base, then the ice ashlars for the load bearing walls, then the roof construction, which alone weighs 25 tonnes, and finally all the small ice works of art for the interior and ice bar. A team of 25 people built the Audi Ice Lounge in St. Moritz in 16 days from these pieces.
The work in Engadin began at minus 18 degrees. Ice cold weather, ice cold material: “At least we didn’t have to worry about whether the ice would thaw”, accepted Christian Funk with humour after completion of the building. Ice, as raw material, posed unusual problems for the builders. The numbered ice blocks were assembled accordingly and then doused with water so that they froze together. The walls grew in height layer by layer. Nothing could be permanently mounted in the ice or fixed in any other common way. The roof had to be clamped to the ice walls with 112 steel ropes. “As the roof was raised in position it finally began to snow, so we had to sweep out the Audi Ice Lounge afterwards before we could start the interior”, said Christian Funk. A great deal of attention was paid to the interior details. Visitors will not see any electric cables – they were all fitted beforehand and laid invisibly. No spotlights, no lamps hanging from the ceiling or mounted to the wall – the Audi Ice Lounge appears to be self-illuminating. “We fitted 70 underwater spot lights in the ice and laid 280 fluorescent tubes that diffuse light indirectly”, explained Funk.
Regarding the safety of the Audi Ice Lounge, when compared to the building of a normal house, no short cuts were taken. Even temperatures above zero during the 14-day World Championships cannot endanger the buildings statics. The exterior walls will only thaw a miniscule amount. “As with the ice skating rink in St. Moritz, we will also care for the Audi Ice Lounge”, says Christian Funk. During the night water will be sprayed over the ice that will then freeze. The possible loss, caused by solar radiation during the day, will be compensated for in this way.