A New Habi­tat at the Bot­tom of the World

Fast Company - - Innovation By Design - —KCD

Out­side, winds can howl at 115 miles per hour and win­ter tem­per­a­tures dip to –30 de­grees Fahrenheit. Yet in­side Antarc­tica’s Mcmurdo Sta­tion is a bustling hub for re­search. Mcmurdo would be a big city by Antarc­tic stan­dards, if the con­ti­nent had any ac­tual cities or towns: Hun­dreds of sci­en­tists from around the world live here to study every­thing from cli­mate change to as­tro­physics. “It’s a com­mu­nity that’s de­voted to one thing,” says Rick Petersen, prin­ci­pal at the Colorado-based firm OZ Ar­chi­tec­ture. The Na­tional Sci­ence Foun­da­tion, which funds the re­search hub, and con­trac­tor Lock­heed Martin com­mis­sioned Petersen and his team six years ago to re­think the sta­tion’s in­ef­fi­cient de­sign—a hodge­podge of build­ings, some dat­ing back to the 1950s, that need to be heated pri­mar­ily by fuel de­liv­ered by tanker once a year. “For every dol­lar we’re us­ing to heat a build­ing down there, that’s a dol­lar that could oth­er­wise go to sci­ence,” Petersen says. Af­ter two trips to Mcmurdo and months of co­or­di­nat­ing be­tween dozens of stake­holder groups, the ar­chi­tects pro­posed con- sol­i­dat­ing Mcmurdo’s 105 build­ings into just 17, in­clud­ing 12 brand-new struc­tures, each op­ti­mized to con­serve Mcmurdo’s pre­cious en­ergy and con­structed out of struc­turally in­su­lated pan­els spe­cially de­signed to fit into ship­ping con­tain­ers, al­low­ing for quick as­sem­bly upon ar­rival in the un­for­giv­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Ef­fi­ciency wasn’t the only goal, though—the ar­chi­tects also wanted to in­crease the well-be­ing of Mcmurdo’s res­i­dents, a pop­u­la­tion that fluc­tu­ates from 250 in the win­ter to 850 in the sum­mer. “We’re ad­dress­ing that in a bunch of dif­fer­ent ways, from in­creas­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties and the ex­change of ideas be­tween peo­ple to more pri­vacy and ways peo­ple can get away and re­flect on their work or make a dif­fi­cult phone call,” Petersen ex­plains. The new plan, which will be im­ple­mented in phases be­gin­ning in Fe­bru­ary 2019, calls for a light-drenched lec­ture hall, shared so­cial spa­ces, and in­di­vid­ual bed­rooms. The goal is for ar­chi­tec­ture to fa­cil­i­tate sci­ence— and make life bet­ter for the peo­ple who re­lo­cate to the ends of the earth to do it.

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