Adam Mørk’s photograph of Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter’s visitor centre at Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland needed a husky to a sense of scale in a stark landscape
Apparently, the only sound one hears in the night in the remote town of Ilulissat (population 4670) in western Greenland is the baying of huskies – who outnumber residents by two to one – and the distant, uncanny crack of giant slabs of ice as they calve off the enormous retreating Sermeq Kujalleq glacier to float free into the Ilulissat Icefjord and out to sea.
While towns might be small 350km north of the Arctic Circle, the landscape is big – really big. One of the most active glaciers in the world, annually calving over 35 km³ of ice, it is also one of the oldest, a remnant of the continental ice sheet from the Quaternary Ice Age and over a quarter of a million years old.
Danish photographer Adam Mørk, sent out by Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter to photograph its recently completed visitor centre looking out to the icefjord, experienced the polarities of both familiarity – Danish is universally understood here – and utter alienness. It’s only when you sail silently between the glaciers on the still waters of the fjord that you comprehend how massive they are, he says. But even looking landward, ‘there are no trees, so you’re missing the elements you might use to gain a sense of distance or perspective; there is a strange scalelessness to the landscape.’
Perhaps to redress this, Mørk turned his camera away from the icy distance to concentrate on the building and its immediate context. The view made him think that the structure was growing out of the rock; and as he stood there to take the shot, a husky puppy walked into frame and stood there a while before sloping away. At that moment, he recalls, ‘In their brownness, it felt like they all belonged together; the dog, the landscape and the building.’