The World's First 'Moveable City' Now Operational in Antarctica

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Call it this generation’s “Walking City.” Halley VI, the latest iteration of Britain’s Halley Antarctic research stations, is now fully operational—and it walks, sort of. Halley VI opened today on the centennial commemoration of the first British Antarctic expeditions on the Brunt Ice Shelf, which launched an entirely new and incredibly fertile avenue of scientific research exploring the Earth’s near-space atmosphere. Designed by Hugh Broughton Architects, the new “re-locatable”—i.e. “movable”—facility is the first of its kind in the world.

The station’s opening is the culmination of an 8-year long process that began with a 2004 international design competition sponsored by the Royal Institute of British Architects and the British Antarctic Suvey (BAS), and which was won by Hugh Broughton Architects with AECOM. The winning design, whose aesthetic affinity with early Archigram is undeniable, accounted for the Antarctic’s problematic buildings conditions, of which extreme temperatures, inhospitable geography, and stretches of unwieldy ice are just a few of the challenges that faced the construction crew. The team, headed up by Galliford Try for the BAS, was forced to carry out the project over four nine-week periods; in these brief windows of time, building materials and components had to be carefully transported across ice shelves and through numbing winds to the assembly site.

The facility consists of a linear train of seven interconnected modules containing laboratories, common areas, and bedrooms: the northern platform at the head of the line features a lounge space and observation deck with panoramic views looking out onto the bright white landscape; a two-story red unit at the middle of the caravan accommodates all of the party’s social activities, and even features a hydroponic salad garden and climbing wall; the rear southern platform is designated for summer guests.

The entire assemblage is mounted on hydraulic legs that lift it high above the snow floor. Skis attached to the bottom of the leg make it possible to tow the structure to prevent it from becoming stranded in any precarious situation, e.g. “stranded on an iceberg.” The £25.8 million station replaces the 20-year-old Halley V and will continue the “long-term research investigations carried out at Halley since the 1950s [that] have led to deeper understanding of our world.”

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Images courtesy of British Antarctic Survey