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Chill factor.

A rare example of an architectural competition for a small building making national headlines in the UK is this design by Hugh Broughton Architects for a new research station in Antarctica. The building is the sixth in a series commissioned by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS); the first four ended their lives covered in snow, while the current one is likely to vanish as a result of a 'calving event', ie the ice cracking up.

The international competition for the Halley VI Research Station, as it is formally known, attracted 86 entries, and included one proposal that envisaged a 'walking building' on giant legs. The Broughton design, with engineer Faber Maunsell, takes a more pragmatic attitude to movement: the demountable structure stands on legs with skis beneath, allowing the whole or parts of the station to be moved at some future date as required. Hugh Broughton could not resist using the 'i' word in relation to the scheme: 'From the outset we researched the processes involved at Halley, and used this knowledge to inform our thinking. The iconic architecture grew from the function of the building ...'

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The station comprises a north and south platform, each with six interconnected modules; the southern platform provides extra accommodation in summer. Assembly of the station involves shipping the lightweight steel sub-frame of each module to site, offloading each 9.5 tonne structure as complete units with legs and skis attached. They will be towed to the ice shelf and skied to the research site. Prefabricated floors will be added, then cladding panels (lightweight plywood sandwich with cell foam insulation and aluminium cover) slotted in. Completed modules weight about 60 tonnes, and a standard unit contains eight bedrooms including built-in sofa and long bed, storage and shelving.

The special central module provides the main social space, with dining room, recreational areas, and a double-height climbing wall. A gym, sauna, hydrotherapy bath and music room are located in adjacent modules, while an upper deck, reached via a helical stair rising through an atrium, has a tv lounge, library and office. A hydroponics installation in the centre of the atrium will provide fresh salads.

For the first time the research station, which monitors climate and the environment (it discovered the hole in the ozone layer) will use renewable energy in its own structure, via evacuated-tube solar/thermal collectors. Future use of photovoltaics and wind turbines has been allowed for in the services design for the station, which will house 16 people during the winter and 52 during summer. The 16 will be hardy souls; the temperature can go down to minus 56 degrees Celsius and the sun does not rise above the horizon for three months, while wind speeds reach 90 miles per hour.
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Title Annotation:Architectural services
Author:Finch, Paul
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
Words:459
Previous Article:The Beetle has landed.
Next Article:Submission looms for AR Awards.
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