Villa Aurora | Architect magazine

Project description

The Aurora Villa is a boutique hotel located outside of Fairbanks, Alaska on a secluded site known internationally as one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights. The resort has been specifically designed as a luxury getaway allowing visitors to get a rare glimpse of this natural phenomenon from the comfort of the interiors of the lodge. Fleeting and enchanting, the Northern Lights have fascinated and haunted people with their spectral presence for millennia. Over the past decade, there has been an increase in international tourism to remote, frozen locations in Alaska, where the Northern Lights can best be seen and photographed.

The project was designed according to best practices to maintain and support access to the dark sky. These design principles minimize light emission from the small complex. No artificial lighting is directed upwards and lighting within the site is minimized and dimmed. By carefully considering the lighting strategy, the night sky and wildlife habitats in the area are protected and unobstructed stargazing is possible.

The lodge is oriented within its site to provide a clear view of the Northern Lights. It offers private suites and public gathering spaces for lounging in anticipation of the lights, with opportunities to socialize and share a meal in the communal dining area. The architecture’s large glass openings point to unobstructed floor-to-ceiling views from key spaces.

The architecture creates an environment designed to be experienced at night. During the day, the locals go out – dog sledding, wildlife viewing and sightseeing in Fairbanks. At night, guests return to the Villa in anticipation of capturing glimpses of the Northern Lights. The lodge offers this unique nighttime experience in darkened rooms with carefully positioned LED lighting. This low-voltage light provides optimal conditions for photographers capturing images of the night sky.

The Villa’s wooden exterior, consisting of cedar wood siding and soffits, is contextually integrated into the wooded landscape. Extreme weather conditions and a short construction season were primary considerations in developing the design, which incorporates a highly insulated building envelope and high-performance, low-energy systems.

Outdoor spaces include photography decks, a spa, and an entry courtyard. Landscape concepts focused on reducing the impact of architecture on the site with minimal tree removal and restoring the original context. Due to the hilly topography of the site and the positioning of the building on the top of the slope, few trees were removed and the architects were able to design spaces with optimal access to panoramic views. The interior spaces present these views of the landscape and the sky as the main visual “work of art”.

The clientele is mainly made up of international tourists in search of adventure in the heart of the American wilderness. The design reflects this spirit with its pure architectural forms and sophisticated interior design.