Lightweight Structures in Antarctic.



Dwelling of a Southern Aonikenk family. Source: Dr. Elsa Barberia’s personal archives, undated (J.Fernandoy)

The Antarctic – one of the most extreme environments on earth. The environmental conditions are even more extreme as they are in the arctic and sub-arctic regions like Greenland. But also in the Antarctic researchers, engineers and architects investigate in built environments such as small settlements and e.g. research stations.  Jessica Fernandoy studied lightweight structures for remote areas in polar regions in her PhD. Her project was devoted to demonstrate both: the heritage and potential of lightweight structures in polar areas. First part of her research is a submitted collection of lightweight structures designed and built for the extreme South and the diversity of approaches attempted by ´Polar designers`.

Cases included vernacular tent systems employed by extinguished indigenous communities of the Subantarctic areas , pioneering efforts using modern lightweight systems in the 70’s decade (see below), as well as the latest attempts where highly constrained designs are benefited from parametric design methods to produce more geometrically complex systems.

The Admudnsen-Scott Antactic Station. Source: National Science Foundation, 1975 (J.Fernandoy)

The second part of the study contains the speculative design of a new research facility in Antarctica. A hybrid structure out of trussed Arches, tensile membrane sections and cables nets. The case was used to explore the possibility of conceiving a system for Polar purposes of a larger span and more complex configuration that currently seen, while still subject to the strict constraints imposed by the Antarctic context. This is achieved by a method defined as ‘partial structural optimisation, by which FEM, parametric CAD and form-finding tools were integrated in a single platform.

The relevant paper of her work you will find here:


Could it be a possible concept for the arctic and sub-arctic regions? One design concept from theopenworkshop by Neeraj Bhatia is a prototype house in Canada, ´The Drift House`.  A lightweight structure that indicates to interact with the dynamics of snowdrift by changing its structure. Also this project is dissociated from the permanent architecture in form of prefabricated housing in a traditional way, imported from temperate climates.

The concept of climate adaptation is not a new issue in architecture. Especially extreme climates have an increasing demand for implementing the climate conditions in the early design process. Snowdrift and snow accumulation integrated in the design process of architecture is an investigation in my PhD Project. Lightweight structures could extent possibilities for the architectural design in arctic regions to integrate snowdrift and minimise construction- and transport cost.


Literature: Possible Greenland

Possible Greenland is a magazine of the official danish contribution to the 13th international architecture exhibition La Biennale Di Venezia. For everyone which would like to get an general impression about architecture and urban transformation in Greenland. Additionally, a view of the future Greenland and planning.

You can buy the magazine at the Danish Architecture Center DAC .

Exhibition in Paris

Postcard of the exhibition of HÉLÈNE TOULOUSE

At a visit to Paris, in the heart of the artistically dense Marais neighborhood of Paris, I discovered an exhibition of Hélène Toulouse. She showed in the Noëlle Aleyne gallery from 2 June to 19 June some of her paintings.  Her paintings showed a certain type of traveling contain all things visual, landscape, sky, season and even the colours. I could recognise something familiar and ask herself if it might be Greenland she was traveling to. Those who have been to Greenland will recognise.

Arctic, Snow and Housing

Today some book recommendations in regard to the Arctic. A more general theme is a book named Arctic, which was published beside a major exhibition from the Lousiana Museum of Modern Art (Denmark 2013). A number of artists and their contribution of art works with impressions of the arctic are collected. But it also summarises the history as short reports in collaboration with geologists, historians, archaeologists and glaciologists.

Snow. The phenomenon of snow in the Arctic and its physics can be read in a more technical way of the  Handbook of Snow by D.M. Gray and D.H. Male. The combined collection of scientific papers gives is a good reference book about snow in a wider perspective. The collection book is separated in four main parts: snow and the environment, snowfall and snow cover, snow and engineering, snow and recreation. If you always have been fascinated by the snow phenomenon that book is a ´must have`.

Blok P a residential block house built 1966 in Nuuk was the biggest housing project in Greenland at that time and a symbol of a new ´modern`building type. Blok P – en Boligblok i Nuuk, 1966-2012, is a documentation of the house and of its inhabitants. The house was considered as an architectural disaster and was demolished in 2012. But in fact, the house had a history and many stories to tell about the inhabitants and their relation of living in the community in Blok P. The project of Martin Hilker and Rikke Diemer shows a sensitive photo documentation of the history of Blok P.

Nuuk`s New Town

Nuuk new side view Harbor
New site in Nuuk, November 2015 (Photo: Jennifer Fiebig)
Nuuk new side Block houses
Block Housing, November 2015 (Photo: Jennifer Fiebig)
Nuuk new town
Block Housing, November 2015 (Photo: Jennifer Fiebig)
New side by night
New site by night, November 2015 (Photo: Jennifer Fiebig)
Nuuk school
New school at the site, November 2015 (Photo: Jennifer Fiebig)
Nuuk playground
Playground between block houses, November 2015 (Photo: Jennifer Fiebig)