Design Thinking on Ice

Could this be the oft-rumored winter under-ice exploration HQ of Team Zissou?  Or perhaps the Banzai Institute’s secret computational genomics R&D lab?

Nothing so cool.  But on the other hand, something designed with surviving the cool as a key consideration.  Or in this case, being in Antarctica and not getting buried by it.

For this is Haley VI, the latest in a series of Antarctic research stations created by the British Antarctic Survey.  Haley VI is an extremely clever answer to the question, "How should humans live in the cold?".  Among other things, it features:

  • A modular architecture which allows multiple units to be combined and recombined
  • Renewable energy supplies
  • A thoughtful approach to dealing with doo-doo
  • Ski stilts which enable the module to avoid burial by layers of snow by being towed away

It’s a good example of the holistic nature of design thinking at work.  A traditional, building-centric worldview would have responded to the challenge of snow burial with a "build it stronger and heavier" dictum, because buildings can’t move, right?.  But Haley VI shows us that sliding modules gather no ice, and that’s a breakthrough informed by a fundamentally optimistic view of the world: slide a building across the ground in the middle of nowhere, then snap it to another modular building?  Let’s build it!

And you just gotta love the clubhouse module – it’s enough to start an Antarctic housing bubble: