Lonely Planet Writer

After two years in the making, the largest ever ice sculpture in the world has been unveiled

The largest ever ice sculpture in the world has been unveiled in the Chinese city of Harbin.

The Flamenco Ice Tower in Harbin. Image by Eindhoven University of Technology and Harbin Institute of Technology

The city is well known for its international ice and snow sculpture festival and the giant new sculpture beat the previous height record by fully ten metres. The Flamenco Ice Tower stands 31 metres tall and was two years in the making.

It was built by an international team of Dutch and Chinese students and lecturers from colleges in Eindhoven in the Netherlands and from Harbin in China. They said: “The design of the tower is based on the shape of traditional Chinese towers and the flamenco dress. The thin shell structure of 31 metres is made with an average thickness of 25 centimetres of fibre-reinforced ice sprayed on a huge inflatable.”

Workers spray water onto the structure of the Flamenco Ice Tower. Image by Eindhoven University of Technology and Harbin Institute of Technology

The record-breaking height was only possible by reinforcing the ice with natural fibres like wood fibres. The team said: “These fibres make the ice much stronger and create a reliable building material.” The sculpture is not only for show however, and some of the technology used could also be valuable for construction in incredibly cold climates.

It is hoped that the fully recyclable building material could be used in places like Antarctica for building temporary dwellings and workspaces, or even on missions to Mars. The two colleges involved – Eindhoven University of Technology and Harbin Institute of Technology – are already working on their next cocreation, enormous ice sculptures for the Winter Olympic Games in China in 2022.

The Flamenco Ice Tower lights up in a display at night. Image by Eindhoven University of Technology and Harbin Institute of Technology

You can find out more about how they built the giant ice tower at their website. Details of some of their other projects, including the world’s largest ice dome and another structure modelled on Barcelona’s famous Sagrada Familia church, are also available.