Exploration

Nice lab: Antarctic scientific research station designs

Throw out whatever preconceptions you have about research only taking place in modest, worn-out facilities held together by duct tape. Last week, South Korea reminded the polar science community that they don’t have to sacrifice good, functional design just because they’re spending their days battling the elements.

Jang Bogo Research Station

The Jang Bogo Research Station is South Korea’s second permanent base in the Antarctic, an impressive futuristic monument to science near the South Pole. But all that design has a practical significance as well.

The aerodynamic shape of the Jang Bogo structures and the materials used to build them allow the station to withstand “temperatures as cold as minus 40 Celsius and strong winds that blow at speeds of up to 65 meters per second” according to the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI).  

When fully operational, Jang Bogo will accommodate 60 people in a 16 building compound residing on a 4.5 sq km plot in Terra Nova Bay, Victoria Land.

Jang Bogo Antarctic research station concept rendering. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Jang Bogo Antarctic research station concept rendering. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Jang Bogo Antarctic research station nearing construction completion. Image: Korea Polar Research Institute
Jang Bogo Antarctic research station nearing construction completion. Image: Korea Polar Research Institute
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Haley VI Research Station

But Jang Bogo isn’t the only ice base garnering attention for looking dapper. Other countries have stepped up their field station design game as well.

In 2013, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) spun up its Halley VI Research Station.  Designed by Hugh Broughton Architects, Halley VI represents the “world’s first fully relocatable research station on the Antarctic continent.”

After years of Britain’s Halley-series stations being destroyed by the elements, the BAS desired a more mobile approach for conducting its research and thus the intriguing, caterpillar-like Halley VI was born.

Halley VI features seven, interlinked blue segments (reminiscent of  Achigram’s Walking City, perhaps) containing living quarters, laboratories, and energy plants.  At the center is a large, double-height red structure enclosing the crew’s social commons for use during periods of downtime.

Should the snow get too high, the station’s hydraulic skis ensure that it remains above the level of snowfall. The design has been so successful that Spain is jumping on the Hugh Broughton bandwagon and has selected the firm to design its new Juan Carlos 1 station.

Halley VI Antarctic research station aerial view. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Halley VI Antarctic research station aerial view. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Viewing the Halley VI Antarctic research station head-on. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Viewing the Halley VI Antarctic research station head-on. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Halley VI Antarctic research station for BAS. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Halley VI Antarctic research station for BAS. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Halley VI Antarctic research station cross-sections. Concept rendering. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Halley VI Antarctic research station cross-sections. Concept rendering. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Juan Carlos 1 concept rendering. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Juan Carlos 1 concept rendering. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Juan Carlos 1 concept rendering. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
Juan Carlos 1 concept rendering. Image: Hugh Broughton Architects
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Princess Elisabeth Antarctica

So who else is playing the stylish science game in the deep south? Belgium.

Conceived, designed, and operated by the International Polar Foundation, Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Antarctica sits atop a rocky outcrop in the western Sør Rondane Mountains.

Princess Elisabeth Station against the sunlight. Image: René Robert (International Polar Foundation)
Princess Elisabeth Station against the sunlight. Image: René Robert (International Polar Foundation)
Princess Elisabeth Antarctic research station. Image: International Polar Foundation
Princess Elisabeth Antarctic research station. Image: International Polar Foundation
Princess Elisabeth Antarctic research station. Image: International Polar Foundation
Princess Elisabeth Antarctic research station. Image: International Polar Foundation

The location was selected after a November 2004 expedition determined that it would provide an ideal area to establish a base. It has coastal access, protection from snow accumulation, and ample wind for a wind power station.

After several years of preparatory work and construction, the much-awaited station became operational in February 2009 and was billed as the world’s first zero-emission research facility.

You can read more about how that is accomplished here.

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Other Notable Antarctic Stations

The previous stations are just a few of the structures making an aesthetic impact on the Antarctic research community.  

Other notable stations include India’s Bharati Research Station and Brazil’s Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Research Station (in development).

Bharati Research Station. Image: National Center for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR)
Bharati Research Station. Image: National Center for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR)
Bharati Research Antarctic research station.
Bharati Research Station. Image: National Center for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR)
Comandante Ferraz Antarctic research station. Image: Estudio 41
Comandante Ferraz Antarctic research station. Image: Estudio 41
Comandante Ferraz Antarctic research station. Image: Estudio 41
Comandante Ferraz Antarctic research station. Image: Estudio 41
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