New visitor centre opens at Greenland

8. October 2021

The new Kangiata Illorsua – Ilulissat Icefjord Centre welcomes its first visitors on 3 July. The visitor centre was designed by the award-winning architect Dorte Mandrup and created in a Danish-Greenlandic partnership between the philanthropic association Realdania, the Government of Greenland and Avannaata Municipality. The purpose of the centre is to promote the development of tourism in Greenland and to tell the visitors the story of ice, nature and climate change.

Surrounded by icebergs and overlooking Ilulissat Icefjord, Kangiata Illorsua – Ilulissat Icefjord Centre opens on 3 July, ready to treat locals and tourists alike to a world-class experience. Visitors of the centre can learn about the unique natural and cultural history of the UNESCO-protected site and the impact of climate change on the area – while taking in the views of the magnificent fjord and its mighty icebergs, which glide by way close to land.

Palle Jerimiassen, mayor of Avannaata Municipality, which is home to Ilulissat, says:

‘The opening of the new Kangiata Illorsua – Ilulissat Icefjord Centre is an important event. The centre gives Ilulissat a new gathering place for both locals and visitors. The centre also promotes positive local development by bringing in new jobs and making Ilulissat an even more attractive destination than it already is.’ 

Promoting tourism in Greenland – and offering a front-row seat to nature’s splendour

The idea for the Icefjord Centre was conceived when Ilulissat Icefjord was officially named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. With the distinguished designation came an obligation to raise awareness of this unique location. 

To address this task, the Government of Greenland, Avannaata Municipality and the philanthropic association Realdania in 2015 established a partnership dedicated to building a world-class visitor centre that would tell the story of the area’s exceptional nature and culture. That project has now been realized, at a total budget of approximately DKK 152 million (approximately EUR 20,5 million or USD 24,8 million). 

With its learning and storytelling activities, Ilulissat Icefjord Centre also aims to promote Greenland’s growing tourism. The Icefjord Centre is the first of six regional visitor centres that the Government of Greenland plans to establish over the coming years. 

Ilulissat is Greenland’s leading tourist destination, welcoming about 30,000 tourists in an average year. The Icefjord Centre offers additional experiences by providing insights into nature, culture and the impact of climate change as well as an exceptional architectural attraction. 

Jesper Nygård, CEO of the philanthropic association Realdania, says:

‘The Icefjord and the area around Ilulissat are absolutely unique. Now, visitors can experience this exceptional place, its nature and history and the story of ice in a visitor centre that is itself a spectacular work of architecture with a front-row seat to views of the Icefjord and a fascinating exhibition inside. Visitors will also be able to learn about climate change in a place where it is leaving very clear marks. In this way, the centre brings even more experiences to this unique location and aims to promote a positive development in Ilulissat and in Greenland at large.’

The centre is not Realdania’s first engagement with the area around Ilulissat Icefjord. In a previous Danish-Greenlandic partnership, the association’s subsidiary Realdania By & Byg restored two historical buildings from the 18th century in the village of Ilimanaq. Here, too, the purpose was, in part, to create a sustainable local basis for tourism and business development by bringing the architectural heritage to life and promoting the area as a destination.

Poetic architecture framing the story of ice 
The new Icefjord Centre was designed by the Danish architect Dorte Mandrup. Mandrup’s firm was chosen after an international architecture competition, where it presented the jury with a poetic and forward-looking project with an architectural expression that beautifully frames and supports the larger vision for the Icefjord Centre. 

This is Dorte Mandrup’s fifth project at a UNESCO-protected site, and the design of the building was driven by respect for the surrounding nature. The centre lies in extension of the walking trails in the area, and with its unique, twisted construction, the building offers free access to the roof with spectacular views of the magnificent landscape. 

Inside the centre, visitors can go on a journey through time in the 400-m2 exhibition ‘Sermeq pillugu Oqaluttuaq – The Story of Ice’ which was created by the award-winning Danish architecture and design practice JAC studios. Here visitors can make their way through a landscape of ice floes where ice prisms made of glass showcase archaeological artifacts and films. Authentic ice core samples collected from the inland ice are at the centre of the exhibition. They tell a story of culture and climate today and back to 124.000 B.C. In addition, there are the two art installations “Eleven movements in the ice landscape” by Louise Foo and “Inside the inland ice of Greenland” by Anna Domnick. 

Local and global school service 

The exhibition is funded by Nordea-fonden (DKK 16.45 million, approximately EUR 2,21 million or USD 2,69 million), Augustinus Foundation (DKK 3.8 million, approximately EUR 510,843 or USD 622,360), Bloomberg Philanthropies (DKK 750,000, approximately EUR 100,854 or USD 122,768) and OAK Foundation (DKK 370,000, approximately EUR 49,754 or USD 60,556). Part of the grant from Nordea-fonden is earmarked for a future physical and online school service for schools all over the world.

Henrik Lehmann Andersen, the CEO of Nordea-fonden, which promotes good living, says:

‘The Icefjord is a natural site that is unique in the world, and we are proud of our contribution to enabling all citizens of the world to experience and appreciate its grandeur.’

Frank Rechendorff Møller, CEO of the Augustinus Foundation, says: 

‘Ilulissat Icefjord Centre provides competent and engaging communication in a beautiful setting. This is a natural site that holds universal value to us all, and we hope to help bring awareness of the value and necessity of protecting our natural heritage to a national as well as an international audience.’



About Avannaata Municipality

Avanaata is the northernmost municipality in Greenland and consists of 4 towns and 23 villages. It covers an area the size of Spain and is home to about 10,600 people.

About the Government of Greenland

In 2009, Greenland Self-Government replaced Greenland Home Rule, which was established in 1979. Naalakkersuisut is the Government of Greenland, elected by Inatsisartut (Greenland’s legislative body). The current Naalakkersuisut consists of nine members, led by the Premier.

About Realdania
Realdania is a Danish philanthropic association with about 170,000 members. The association’s goal is to improve the quality of life through the built environment – the physical settings of our everyday life. Its focus includes urban development, construction and the conservation of important cultural environments. Since 2000, Realdania has donated more than DKK 20 billion in total to approximately 4,300 projects. 

Budget and contributors:

  • The total budget for the project is approximately DKK 152 million (approximately EUR 20,5 million or USD 24,8 million).
  • Realdania has contributed with DKK 108 million (approximately EUR 14,5 million or USD 17,6 million)
  • The Government of Greenland and Avannaata Municipality have contributed with a total of DKK 23 million (approximately EUR 3,08 million or USD 3,7 million)
  • The centre’s exhibition, ‘The Story of Ice’, and its school service were created with funding from Nordea-fonden (DKK 16.4 million, approximately EUR 2,21 million or USD 2,69 million), Augustinus Foundation (DKK 3.8 million, approximately EUR 510,843 or USD 622,360), Bloomberg Philanthropies (DKK 750,000, approximately EUR 100,854 or USD 122,768) and OAK Foundation (DKK 350,000, approximately EUR 49,754 or USD 60,556)

Operation and strategy:

  • The operation of the Icefjord Centre is the responsibility of Greenland Visitor Center, an independent organization under the Government of Greenland. Day-to-day management is handled by Elisabeth Momme, director of The Icefjord Centre.
  • In an average year, the centre is expected to welcome 25,000–27,000 visitors.
  • The centre has a total floor space of 1,500 m2, of which 900 m2 are heated, and approximately 400 m2 are dedicated to the exhibition.
    See more at www.isfjordscentret.gl