Space-age architecture in the coldest place on earth   Leave a comment

The Antarctic explorers of the heroic era will be turning in their graves: Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton had to make do with wooden huts. And they were the lucky ones. Others survived the brutal polar winter with only upturned boats for shelter. Now, a century later a touring exhibition opening in Glasgow, UK, this week shows just how different conditions are today.

British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI

Halley VI, a British research station which opened in February this year, is built on skis, making it the first polar research station that can be relocated. It is sited on a floating ice shelf on the Weddell Sea, from where the ozone hole was discovered. This is the research station’s sixth incarnation, and it includes hydraulic legs, with good reason: the first four bases were engulfed by ice. Halley III, for example, was 12 metres under the ice when it was abandoned in 1983. The eight modules comprising the new base are built to withstand temperatures of -55° C, and can be towed to a new location – a wise feature given that the ice shelf it is built on is moving at a rate of 700 metres per year.


Princess Elisabeth Antarctica

The Belgian base Princess ElisabethAntarctica is the continent’s first zero-emission station, powered by wind and solar energy, and with a smart grid to maximise energy efficiency. Amazingly, clever insulation does away with the need for any internal heating. This is all in sharp contrast to the living conditions experienced by the Belgian explorerAdrien de Gerlache, who overwintered in Antarctica in 1898 when his boat became trapped in sea ice off the coast. Conditions were so dire that several of his party lost their minds.


The Bharati research station
The newly built Bharati research stationis India’s third Antarctic base. It is made up of 134 shipping containers sitting on rock, situated close to the coast so that it can be used for oceanographic studies. Like some of the other new stations, it is designed to avoid being buried by accumulating snow – a fate that befell the country’s first research base, Dakshin Gangotri.


Jang Bogo
South Korea’s futuristic Jang Bogostation is, paradoxically, named after a 9th-century maritime hero. Resembling a spaceship, its elevated triple-arm design will reduce snow build-up. When completed in 2014, it will house 60 people.


Iceberg Living Station
One of the ironies of Antarctica is that the ferocious winds make it more hospitable under the ice than on top of it. So this speculative design by MAP Architects in Copenhagen, Denmark, for a future research station carved into an iceberg makes a lot of sense. Other cunning aspects of this design are that it needs no imported building materials, and will melt away at the end of its life (buildings in Antarctica must be removed when no longer in use). Quite how appealing it will be for future researchers to live in a floating base is another matter.




Posted September 9, 2013 by kitokinimi in Uncategorized

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