Polar Research Facilities: living in isolation



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46th International Conference on Environmental Systems


The author is the architect of three Polar Research Facilities: Halley VI for the British Antarctic Survey, the remodelling of the Juan Carlos 1 Spanish Antarctic Base and the Atmospheric Watch Observatory at Summit Station. He has also prepared designs for polar stations for India, Korea and Brazil as well as a hospital on Tristan da Cuhna, the world’s most remote island.

The British base is located on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf and has been fully operational since February 2012. Numerous design features have been included to help residents overcome the effects of seasonal affected disorder and sensory deprivations including daylight simulation lighting, colour psychology, quiet as well as communal space and careful choice of materials.

Juan Carlos 1 Spanish Antarctic Base is under construction on a raised beach of glacial deposits. The design minimises maintenance, maximises interior quality and allows opening and closing at the start and end of each season to be achieved as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The US Atmospheric Watch Observatory will be located at Summit Station at the top of the Greenland ice cap. The module is designed to provide year round state-of-the-art laboratory facilities for atmospheric and snow chemistry research. The energy efficient, aerodynamic design maximizes flexibility to suit the ever-changing needs of the scientific research.

The paper will describe the lessons learnt designing for isolated locations with particular reference to the aforementioned polar projects. It will investigate ways in which solutions for living in isolation on our planet could be relevant to the design of accommodation for astronauts on long duration missions in space, in particular citing one example of a collaboration between the author and NASA advising on net habitable volumes for astronauts on long duration missions.


United Kingdom
Hugh Broughton Architects
ICES502: Space Architecture
Vienna, Austria
Hugh Broughton, Hugh Broughton Architects, United Kingdom
The 46th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Vienna, Austria, USA on 10 July 2016 through 14 July 2016.


Polar, Architecture, Human Factors, Isolation, Terrestrial