Vostok Station: Antarctic Research Base
Vostok Station was completed as my thesis project for my Masters of Architecture degree at Monash University, Melbourne. The project seeks to redesign and improve the living conditions at the coldest, driest and most geographically isolated place on our planet: The Vostok Antarctic Research Station in the heart of Antarctica.
The project focuses on ways to deal with the effects of prolonged social isolation through intelligent design and treats Vostok Station as a means to the study the ways in which future colonisation and inhabitation of Mars and other far off planets may be possible. The project explores the role of architecture not as an aesthetic art form but as a practical means of survival and psychological wellbeing.
How can architecture improve the lives of those dealing with extreme isolation and weather conditions?
The site of Vostok Station is a fascinating one. A decaying russian research base that rests above Antarctica's largest subglacial lake, separated by 4 vertical kilometers of ice. Not only does the site happen to have the coldest recorded temperature in history -89 Degrees C (-128 F) and be considered the driest place on earth, the lake itself has been sealed off from the external environment for millions of years, which means that if any life still exists in the lake, it has evolved separately to anything on earth today. Scientists what to know lurks in the depths, NASA does too, so to do so there are currently 2 ice-core drills that burrow deep into the ice sheet above the lake in an attempt to break through the surface.
All things considered Vostok Station is a prime research ground in all respects for testing colonisation and design for life on other planets.
Interesting note: Since this project was completed. Scientists have successfully bored several holes into the lake and determined through that the lake is teeming with 3500+ species.
Existing Condition & Infrastructure
Inuit & Native Construction Techniques
Inuit natives have developed building techniques over thousands of years in order to survive and thrive in the unforgiving wilderness of the polar arctic. Any well designed research station in a similar environment will benefit from learning the secrets of inuit survival and adapting them for their required use.
Design Brief Overview
25 people in summer
13 people in winter
Additionally east camp (USA) to join with Vostok station
Recycling or repurpose of existing infrastructure
2 x Doctors/Psychologists
15 (Summer)/ 10 (Winter) x scientists/researchers
2 (Summer)/ 1 (Winter) x Chef
2 x Maintenance engineers
4 x Other personnel (Summer ONLY)
Comandante Ferraz Research Base
Halley VI Research Station
Concordia Research Station
Vostok Research Station
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
SMELL: Scent (materials) - cedar panelling to mitigate sensory deprivation in Haley VI - herbs in hydroponics farm (basil, mint, etc)
SOUND: Sound beacon to allow researchers to find base in poor visibility.
SIGHT: Natural light, aurora, colour, contrast in low visibility
TASTE: Hydroponics, food supplies, cooking facilities, chef (creative food)
TOUCH: Materials (carpet, wood), conductive heating, varying temperature profiles, dynamic spaces
Psychological & Physical Considerations:
Low oxygen Levels
Low moisture Levels
Joint and muscle soreness
Overwintering isolation, darkness and whiteouts
Social isolation and antisocial behaviour
Men & women proportions
Doctors (2 minimum in event of one doctor needing medical attention)
Sheltered vehicle storage
Storage facility, subterranean
Dark colours to contrast against snow (especially in the case of whiteouts and heavy ice fogs)
Fresh food (hydroponics)
Physical fitness (gym)
Circadian chamber/lighting (sleep cycle)
Communal spaces (cafeteria, library, lounge, bar, games room, internet, cinema, instruments)
Health - infirmary (2 or more doctors)
Homely private space
Sheltered/mobile ice-core drill + storage (subterranean - 55 degrees constant)
Radio communications room/receiver
Human effluent incinerator
Satellite communication (internet etc)
Station wireless network