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Based on the experience gained with existing habitational modules, ARQZE proposes the development of a new capsule optimized for use in the Union Glacier area with a capacity to house four scientific researchers. The shape is the product of a synthesis of the limitations of antarctic transport in terms of weight and volume, and the climatic conditions at Glaciar Union, with winds of 200km/h and temperatures that can reach -50 ° C.


This module has have a rigid shell made up of the assembly of 48 12mm thick marine plywood, developed by parametric design systems, and cut by cnc with a system of teeth on its perimeter that allows them to be interconnected in a highly resistant fuselage. Once the panels are assembled, a ratchet sling system will keep the fuselage in compression, ensuring its structural integrity. The comparative advantages of this system are its lightness, and its flat pack logic which allows the entire capsule to be stacked on a standard pallet, thus minimizes volume for shipping,


The subdivision pattern of the shell is produced by means of a script that allows control over the generic geometry of the toroid, permitting the study of different variations in panel sizes and numbers, as well as toothing alternatives that produce for their interlacing. The marine plywood plates are cut by a three-axis numerical control machine directly from the digital model. The interlocking teeth allow cohesion in the longitudinal direction of the fuselage, which are subsequently compressed in the transverse direction with a series of nylon slings that produce concentric forces like a barrel. The compressed shape of the capsule is internally corrected by three diaphragms, one in the low nose facing the wind, one that separates the working area from the sleeping area and finally the access surface.


Internally there are two different habitational zones, one for sleeping and the other for working. The sleeping area is in turn subdivided into four dark cells that produce an intimate low light context that counteracts the constant daylight in the polar circle. The work area is naturally illuminated by two skylights that allow a panoramic view from the inside. The rigid shell does not flap in catabatic winds, promoting a quality rest for researchers. The plywood is a renewable product, and gives qualities of habitability in the interior that cannot be achieved with artificial products. The capsule integrates a furniture system and comfortably accommodates four people in four niches, each with a mattress and individual shelves. The modules have two fixed windows for natural light that establish a relationship with the outside. It also has a double passive Venturi ventilation system in its highest point.


The exterior of the capsule is insulated with a 150mm polyester blanket that is then wrapped in a membrane to establish an airtight skin that protects the plywood against the action of wind and ice, and ensures the appropriate level of comfort inside.


The capsule carries 500 watt radiant plate heating and electricity systems. It also has a shelf system, two work tables and four chairs, generating space where individual and team research can be undertaken by resident scientists. A membrane connection allow the capsule to be integrated into the tunnel and thus form part of the formal organization of the station.

title                     polar_cap

location              Glaciar Unión,, antarctica, 80° s

team                   pol taylor + marcelo bernal + francisco valdivia

colaborators      pablo barria (scripting)

client                  antarctic department, chilean airforce, FACH

date                    2013           

data                    48 x 12mm marine plywood panels

                            shipping weight 500kg shipping volume  1.5m3


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