• Polar Ants

    Polar Ants: Arctic Research Facility

    suckerPUNCH: Describe your project.

    lukasz SZLACHCIC, anais MIKAELIAN, laila SELIM, & bita MOHAMADI: Architecture defines, articulates and mediates the relationship between a physical environment and inhabitation. The primary investigation of this project is to balance this relationship through a dynamic study of material behavior. This project therefore proposes a living architecture, and challenges the classical modernist notions of permanence and stability. The theme of this proposal necessitates an equally responsive environment. As such, the project is located on the ice cap of the Arctic Ocean; an environment which exhibits harsh climatic conditions for human survival as well as constantly fluctuating physical surroundings.

    As ice makes up the entire physical environment of the Arctic cap, different times of the year present vastly different ground conditions; namely various ice thicknesses, hardness and layering of the ice, topographical features and overall ice coverage. As these factors change over the course of the year so do all architectural and formal qualities associated with them.

    This project proposes an adaptable, mutable and contextual scientific research facility on the Arctic ice cap. The model for this research centre is based on the nature of exploratory and cinematographic expeditions, the kind exemplified by a BBC series Human Planet. The duality of needs (investigation and documentation) necessitates an architecture which can accommodate two distinct working environments: one exterior and dynamic; and one interior and stable and controlled. Any architectural intervention has to act as a bridge between these environments: facilitate in dangerous explorations while making habitation of the Arctic more feasible. The intervention challenges the basic assumptions of what an architectural demand for an Arctic expedition normally implies: a static and formally simplistic structure. In contrast, the resulting architecture is self-regulating, self-contained and autonomous.

    This project challenges vernacular ice architecture as non-adaptable and unresponsive to the landscape and environmental forces. Upon the decision of purely using on-site materials and at the same time challenging the igloo, this project aims to produce an architecture which has more than an additive logic. As such, this project proposes the idea of “burrowing architecture”, which is a subtractive methodology.

    sP: What or who influenced this project?
    lS, aM, lS, & bM: The initial inspiration is a development of a model of dynamic urbanism and continuous re-organization from natural formations. Although it is useful to investigate ant colonies and crab network patterning, it is perhaps more useful to study a “local” species. The ideal object for this investigation for this project was the polar bear. We wanted to learn from local natural examples how to organize oneself and survive in a very harsh climate. We also felt that Arctic exploration habits have not developed much in the past century.

    We were also influenced by Grey Walter ( a pioneer in mobile autonomous robotics) and John Fraser.

    sP: What were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
    lS, aM, lS, & bM: In reverse order. We watched many documentaries on the Arctic and the receding ice cap, especially the BBC series Human Planet; and videos of prototypical robotic systems. We listened to ourselves (however inspirational that was), but with headphones in, anything from Cairokee to Arcade Fire.
    Daytime reading consisted of research into depthX and endurance robots, and night time remedy reading was anything and everything Borges to Hemingway.

    sP: Whose work is currently on your radar?
    lS, aM, lS, & bM: Everyone who challenges stigmas, pushes design and research to a new level, is innovate and doesn’t adhere to stylistic conformity.

    Additional credits and links:

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  • WP_Modern_Notepad
    • Lim Berg Says:

      Seriously… where is the design in this proposal?


    • Tom Wiscombe Says:

      “Everyone who challenges stigmas, pushes design and research to a new level, is innovate and doesn’t adhere to stylistic conformity.” LOL

    • David Smith Says:

      Its a network of burrows Lim, that’s where the architecture is. There is quality in temporary spaces.