Poland’s new Polar ice station set to take shape in Antarctica
Five years after the conceptual design was first unveiled by the prestigious Kuryłowicz & Associates architectural practice, two Poznań studios are racing against time to complete the final executive design for the Polish Academy of Sciences research station in Antarctica.
Located on the inhospitable island of King George in the South Shetland Islands, the station –named after the meteorologist Henryk Arctowski – will take the place of an existing base first built in the 1970s. Though fully renovated in 1990s, it has since fallen into decline necessitating the need for a new state-of-the-art compound fit for the 21st century.
Shortlisted last year for the World Architecture Awards, the blueprints coined by Kuryłowicz & Associates have already won blanket praise and envision a nine-metre tall, triple-winged structure housing accommodation, research facilities and storage space.
Covering a total floorplan of 1,300 square metres, and capable of catering for 100 people, the streamlined structure has been specifically designed to cope with the region’s brutal winds and heavy snows with its prefabricated panels offering maximum resistance against the elements.
Perched three metres off the ground, other features will include a common room facing Admiralty Bay and a greenhouse with an area of 100 square metres.
Yet while the design has been fully approved, the most difficult stage of the undertaking – its actual construction – is about to begin. Charged with that are two Poznań firms, DEMIURG Project and Home of Houses, with teams from both companies dashing against the clock as while completion isn’t scheduled until 2023 / 2024, the harsh climate has meant only a small window exists during which building work can actually take place.
“There’s very little time,” says Łukasz Klekotko, president of DEMIURG Project, “especially given that you can only build in the summer, which in the South Pole only lasts three months from December to February.”
With the building materials first tested and analysed in Poland, the plan will see prefabricated panels and modules shipped 14,000 kilometres to their final destination.
“These ready-made modules will be fitted into the transport containers,” says Klekotko. “What we will do is assemble the station in advance before disassembling it and then packing it into 100 containers with a capacity of 30 square metres. This way we will minimize the risk of running out of materials on site while also reducing the number of people needed on the construction site.”
With each container weighing up to 10 tons, and shipping time estimated at anything between 30 to 40 days depending on the wind, the logistics promise to provide ample challenges, not least seeing that the Polish base does not have a port.
Despite the issues being immediately faced, the excitement is palpable as this state of the art facility comes closer to realization – and not least due to its wider redevelopment. Beyond just the construction of the main unit, the two Poznań firms also find themselves tasked with the creation of a helicopter landing pad, a technical access road, as well as the expansion and modernization of existing warehouses and garages.