Extreme Architecture - Built to Endure The Planet’s Severest Environments

Humankind's interest in colonising the most desolate and extreme conditions on earth have brought with it fantastic stories of discovery and technological advancement. Research facilities based in Antarctica or Russia once occupied the accolade for the hardiest semi-permanent residences on the planet; however, over the recent years structures have been built, or are in development, to withstand even greater extremes. Journey to the extremes of architecture in this following article...

Some hold the most advanced survival equipment ever produced; others are capable of turning the extreme into complete normality via heated shower units or capable of hosting a helicopter to bring in supplies, while a select few are more modest. People have learned to survive in these difficult places.

Extreme Architecture - Built to Endure The Planet’s Severest EnvironmentsThe Italian side of Monte Rosa Massif. It's the second highest mountain in the Alps and western Europe. At the top of the central peak is visible the Margherita Hut, the highest building in Europe.


Monte Rosa Hut: 

The architects Bearth & Deplazes created a five-story wooden structure, inspired by glacial forms and an "Alpine-hat," which is ideally suited to it's intended environment and provides a fantastic base of operations for environmental research agencies to study climate changes and weather patterns in the region.


MEMU Meadows Laboratory Building Hokkaido: 

Architect Kumar Yin designed the "MEMU Meadow" to test the limits of Japanese construction in extremely cold conditions. The building is based on a traditional Ainu houses a modern twist. The building uses a bamboo fence to hold the central fireplace. The "Kuma" version replaces the natural grass elements with man-made insulation and poly-carbonate shielding, which makes the house look like a lamp after dark when it is lit.

Halley VI Research Station Antarctica: 

Architect Hugh Broughton's "Halley VI" hosts some of the most advanced construction materials ever created for extreme conditions of the planet. Since being transferred to the base of Antarctic expeditions, the building now sits on the floating Brandt Ice Shelf, having been transported there utilising it's unique under-structure "skis." Seven interconnected blue modules provide offices, bedrooms, laboratories and a power plant, and the central two-story red module contains a social space for 16-32 crew members.


Arctic Adaptations: 

Reflecting the traditional concepts of indigenous peoples of Canada, and first exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2014, architect Yokohama demonstrated his view of future Arctic structures; entitled "Nunavut at 15: Arctic Adaptations". The building's concept outlines how the world around us is changing rapidly, and proposes that we look for inspiration from aboriginal cultures who have proven the capabilities of man's survival in these environments.


Trollstigen Tourism Centre, Norway: 

Installed to mirror the epic landscape in which the national hiking routes of Norway pass through, the Visitor Center and "Regeldagh", have been created by renowned architects Reiulf Ramstad. Positioned with a unique, awe-inspiring view of the summer sun rising in the valleys, as well as providing a haven during Autumn and the deepest of winter.


North of the Arctic Circle there are only two seasons—this winter and last winter. Who would ever want to live there? Being human, we can’t help ourselves. Putting it all together in a system that works and that is constructible is not easy. Even in our winters, frankly tame in comparison to those outlined above, the need for advanced planning, ongoing maintenance and structural repair ensures the capability of a building to withstand meteorological factors. Summed up well in a recent article by FX Scaffolding Hire Essex, on the need for project managers to act with vigor upon inspection of defects and fixing damage caused during the icy months and sever storms, before critical risk occurs.

The physics are straightforward, but the engineering is not. Moisture flow by air leakage and vapor diffusion from the inside to the outside is a huge concern. Even tiny gaps leaking air can lead to substantial icicles and frost boles. There is no argument that an actual air barrier is essential. The vapor drive when it is 40 degrees below zero outside is formidable. The arctic is one climate that needs a real vapor barrier, not a vapor retarder. Seemingly insignificant thermal bridges that would be laughable in other climates are a big deal. Triple glazing is not an option; it is essential. There is little room for error.

Thanks for reading.