Arctic-tecture for the Global Commons

MIT Master's Thesis [Advisor: Ana Miljacki]

Site: The South Pole, Antarctica
Program: Biological Storage Vault and Global Meeting Hall

Designing architecture for extreme environments is appealing, in part, because of the challenge of dealing with so many constraints. Climatic conditions are impossible to ignore, logistical realities must be confronted, issues of efficiency and environmental impact drive decision-making. There is an underlying sense of science in the design methodology: an alluring pretense of universal rules … and a feeling that somehow architectural decisions can made in a way that is less arbitrary.

Within the framework of "sustainability," a scientific (“efficient”) approach to building seems appropriate, even inevitable. Yet, architecture that rejoices in its own scientific-ness should be approached with skepticism. Measuring success in terms that are purely technical can obscure social and cultural aspects of a project, creating the illusion that architecture can exist outside of the complexities of a political situation.

This thesis documents a building system designed for Antarctica’s extreme climate and geopolitical context. It aims to illustrate how environmental issues are changing the practice of architecture, in part, by encouraging the use of scientific rhetoric as justification for design decisions.

Pdf: intro, context, strategy, drawings, bibliography.

InfraNet Lab article.

On the Fringe of Science. in Volume 25: Architecture on the Moon [2010].


South Pole Site Plan  

Interior View of  Biologial Storage Vault


Physical Model - Front View



Sectional Axon -  showing building system



Exterior View  

Skin System Detail  

Interior View  

Morpho Polar Pods [for sale in the Whole Earth Catalog]

Physical Model  [lit from inside]