> eptap



1.0 polar network

 EPTAP, or the Polar Station Parodi, was produced in a colaborative action between ARQZE and the Antartic Division of the Chilean Air Force, who are interested in establishing a permanent infrastructure in Patriot Hills to accomodate the anticipated increase in the logistical activity of blue ice runway in support of polar zone flight paths. EPTAP will conform the first permanent polar station in the vicinity of a blue ice zone. It has an initial capacity for 24 persons  and will allow the Chilean Air Force to provide  navigational, communicational, and logistical services throughout the summer months. Chile will pursue a long term policy of aerial and surface exploration, penetration, and habitation with this form of station producing a network beginning in King George Island, crossing points of logistical support in Welcome Nunatak and Thiel Mountains, and transforming Patriot Hills into the second most important national antartic settlement, catalysing scientific, cultural and touristic development within the interior of the continent. EPTAP becomes the first node of this network, extending national activity towards the pole and towards an aerial link with other continents close to antartica.

2.0 blue ice runway


morphology. Situated at 80 degrees south, the Patriot hills perforate  850m of  ice and on their north side produce an acceleration in the catabatic winds which flow constantly northwards and downwards from the 4000m polar icecap. This local increase in the velocity of the winds displaces the snow layer and exposes the surface of the highly dense and transparent blue ice.

landing. In 1984 it was confirmed that this extensive horizontal surface could be implemented as a natural runway capable of receiving cargo planes such as h the hercules_c130, flying directly from punta arenas in 6 hours and landing with wheels on the ice.


air transport. given the difficulties in terrestrial travel in antarctica and the limited cargo capacity of ski equipped aircraft, blue ice runways will completely  transform air transport, reducing costs spectacularly and establishing a network of natural airports that  will activate the interior of the continent.

3.0 environment


snow accumulation . The EPTAP station incorporates the processes of snow accumulation particular to blue ice fields into its location and organization. The zone of superficial equilibrium defines an area of snowfield located 800 m north of the blue ice, where the wind decelerates and precipitates the snow it has eroded from the icefield, generating a surface condition that is stable, and hence avoiding the burying of the station in time. This zone has a depth of hardened snow of approximately two meters that is supported on the blue ice below. this ground condition allows the station to be situated without suffering the problems of sinking that affect other antarctic stations. These two conditions generate a very favourable situation for the development of future stations within this zone uniquely associated with blue ice fields. the identification of this opportunity through colaboration with glaciologists and the successful demonstration of its operability through the implementation of the eptap station was the major achievement of the project.


 situ data

Geolocation> Latitude 80°19´south Longitude 81°18’´west

distance to south Pole> 1084km

altitude> 855m above sea level


sunrise august 25 12.00hrs

sunset april 17 12.00hrs

summer 135 continuous days of sunshine

winter 135 continuous days of darkness.


minimum rec. temp. –35.8°C .

temp. promedio january - feburary   -20°C

temp.min. predicted–70°C

Humidity> humidity between 28% and 65%, with an average of 35%

catabatic wind> 

max.registered velocity150 km/h 29 december 1999

average velocity 20 km/h in mission 1998

max. predicted 200km/h

blue ice area > Average Ice thickness 700m

length 8km east west.

width 2km. north south

average displacement 8m each year


4.0  module intervention

ARQZE developed the EPTAP design on the basis of a detailed critical analysis of  six Igloo Cabin  living modules that had been purchased previously by the FACH from an Australian company.   The organization, deployability, materiality, and performativity of this modular fibreglass unit  informed a proposition for their transformation and incorporation into the design of a permanent  polar station adapted to the extreme conditions of Patriot Hills.

insulation. The most critical deficiency of the modules is their low level of insulation and the cold bridges and filtration of air produced in all of the joints between panels. The u-value of the modular panels was increased by applying a layer of 50mm of high density polyurethane  on the interior surface, finished with a white pvc membrane, isolating the interior of the module completely from the existing fibreglass and resin structure and eliminating all filtrations.The resulting internal surface promoted tactile contact, inviting the inhabitants to occupy the space from its limits in a mediation through the skin and the body of an architectonic construction that is energetic and corporeal, while increasing the habitable volume .

protesis. The intention of maximizing the void at the centre of the 12m2 module together with the recognition of a series of activities that are superimposed in this space led to the proposition for a furniture system that was flexible, transformable, and capable of dissappearing  when not being used. An aluminium framed canvas stretcher formed the basic component of the system,  providing material support for the activities of the 4 inhabitants of sleeping,  working and relaxing in a sequential cycle within the same space.

5.0 tunnel

snow accumulation: In the antarctic interior static bodies located on the surface of the snow provoke intereference patterns in the prevailing catabatic wind, leading to an accumulation of snow which tends to consume the original body, making access extremely difficult. In response to this condition a new lineal element called the distribution tunnel was developed, providing an independent protected access to all of the modules and allowing them to adopt the north-south orientation dictated by the catabatic wind. This tunnel is located downwind of the modules, and incorporates the accumulated snow into the construction of the station as a structural defence against the extremity of the catabatic winds and a thermal defense against the extreme winter  temperatures. Access to the tunnel is organized by orientating its extremes upwind, constituting the two leading points of the station which tend to remain free of snow, and give the impulse to the development of a curved form for the tunnel.


interstitiality: Originally incorporated as a strategy for guaranteeing access, the tunnel was subsequently developed  as an interstitial space graduating the energetic and programatic relationships between the reduced interiors of the modules and the full exposure of the antarctic exterior. This interstitial potential was expanded through proposing the tunnel as an unheated and uninsulated interior constituted by a simple membrane that provided protection from the wind and the accumulation of snow within a territory where the catabatic winds can make exterior habitation impossible for days on end. This decision reduced dramatically the cost of fabrication and transportation, and allowed the tunnel to be developed as an architectonic space with a dimensional generosity that was inconceivable within the energetic parameters of the modules, constituting the experience of the station as a unitary installation.


implant: The energetic interstitiality of the tunnel generated the possibility of implanting it through integrating the  snow into its structural organization, providing a ballast for the tunnel that would prevent it being overturned by the wind. This action is integral to the deployable strategies developed by arq.ze in which lightweight products colaborate with the materiality of a context to consolidate an architectonic proposition that is tensioned between place and placelessness.


structural section: The section of the tunel was developed initially  from ergonometric notations that were rationalised within a circular arc with a radius of 2metres and a rotational angle of 240 degrees, coinciding with the dimensions of the cargo pallets of the hercules plane and invoking the scale of its fuselage. This arc was defined as a tubular compression ring and  for economic considerations was assembled from welded steel sections, provided the lateral resistance necessary to oppose wind loading and  possible  snow acumulation of two metres. Because the tenacity of steel drops rapidly with temperatures below –20 °C, making it fragile and susceptible to impact fractures, it was decided to design a structural system in which the rigid compression elements are isolated from each other within a network of flexible joints which dampen and distribute impact forces throughout the system.


articulation: Criteria of economy and flexibility informed the material resolution of this articulation in strips of 50mm nylon sling, fixed to the arcs and the rails by means of self perforating screws, producing a simple effective and adaptable system that was easy to implement on site, reproducing the modelled geometry of the structure in five hours. Before transportation the arcs were joined into six units of three pairs,these units being easily stackable and manipulable by three persons.


skin: The enclosure of the tunnel was developed as a membrane tensioned into a series of three distinct hyperparabolic surfaces between the arcs, establishing a system of intersecting lines of opposed tensions that fix each point of the surface in space. The fabric chosen for the membrane was PVC reinforced with a polyester webbing with a weight of 750gms/m2, its surface incorporating an anodized finish and an anti U.V treatment  to protect against the reduced ozone layer and the continuous solar radiation. The six arc structural unit was replicated in the module for the membrane, and the union between membrane units was developed as a double flap of 100 mm velcro.The membrane units were fixed to the structural arcs by means of a large quantity of 35mm nylon slings and buckles, reproducing the action of the hands that manipulated the membrane and forming one structural system that was flexible and extremely resistant. The installation of the membrane units was facilitated by calm conditions and the prestress was introduced by fixing to the extreme arcs of each unit and rotating them through the applied action of a skidoo.


adaptability: The geometric, structural and material strategies of the tunnel skin were adapted to produce a series of plug in ports that connected the existing modules into the interiority of the tunnel. These plug in ports are central to the logic of the tunnel as an adaptable distribution system, transforming the design of the station into an open system capable of linear expansion in two directions along its circular axes. This first phase of 50 metres can be extended serially by 6 arc structure and membrane units with their corresponding plug in ports. When fully developed the station will be able to accomidate up to 30 modules similar to the igloo cabins together with other dependencies, permitting a maximum capacity of 100 personnel.


performance:  the tunnel demonstrated its capacity to articulate and organize in one continuous space a range of activities that consolidated it as the principal component of EPTAP. Its thermal interstitiality oscillated between –10°c and 0°C making it agreeable to inhabit in exterior clothing while leaving hands and face exposed. The aerodynamic performance of the tunnel was revealed by a strong catabatic wind in which the double curvature surface of the tunnel proved remarkably stable, performing  like an aerofoil. This impression of stability has since been confirmed by the experience of 150km/h catabatic  winds that on the first of january destroyed half of  the ANI camp, but left EPTAP absolutely unmarked.

6.0 visor

materiality: The regular repetition of the structure and membrane units of the tunnel terminates in each extreme in a transparent visor that exploits the combination of flexibility and structural strength of  4mm monolithic polycarbonate in the articulation of a single continuous plane . This plane is fixed to a frame of two arcs and articulated by cast steel joints, allowing it to  be rotated into the air.

transparency: The visor opens the tradition of sheltered concentric interiority of antaric habitation to the experience of transparency. This provokes a profound transformation in the relationship with the exterior in which the extreme climatic processes cease to present a threat, and become incorporated into an architectural proposition of continuity in which they are observed  from a space of security. This transparency in the work constructs a tension between a projected space of design and a territorial space, in which a mutual enfolding is juxtaposed by an energetic discontinuity. When open the  visor actualises the continuity between the tunnel and the exterior, allowing skidoos with sledges of equipment and stores to be entered directly.

virtuality: The light that emerges  from within the 4mm of the polycarbonate plane is complex and layered and inscribes a dimension of virtuality into the perception of the exterior. The structural forces generated by the curvature provoke a pattern of polarization in which simple transmissivity is detained and reconfigured in the constitution of the depth of this transparency. This interference is combined with the deformed reflections of the interior space produced on the inner surface of the visor. These reflections are parabolic and surround the observer with their trajectory, mediating the perception of being simultaneously visible from a series of points on a plane in space. The self awareness of the inhabitant in this reflected interiority is superimposed on the experience of the exterior in a virtualizing process in which the  distinct spatialities and temporalities are merged into an experience that resituates the perciever in an ambiguous field between visibility and corporeality.

asymmetry. The two visors demonstrated a symmetrical condition and it was anticipated that their function would be similar. In practice the different orientations produced an asymmetry in their activation, with the west visor being used as the principal entrance and the east visor remaining closed and inhabited in the evenings as a form of living room when it received the delicate southlight after midnight. In the next phase two plug-in membrane entrances will be developed and installed to formalize the entrance of personnel, complimenting the direct entrance of skidoos offered by the visor.

7.0 water cycle systems

The design of sanitary systems in antartica  presents a tremendous challenge that has as yet not been adequately resolved. The principal problems are energetic, related to the production of water and the freezing of waste ducts, and environmental in relation to the disposal of the waste in a form that complies with the spirit of the Madrid protocol.

transparency: The zone beyond 80° south has until recently never accommodated biotic systems, and central to the design intention of the support systems is the agenda of making visible the fragility and temporality of a living system within this extreme energy field through the development of a series of transparent artifacts.

water cycle. The sanitary module is perforated in a series of operations that establish different energetic mediations between the external environment and  the bodily functions of the user. The acrylic solar water fabricator is situated on the roof where it captures the suns radiation within an insulated environment, using it to transform snow into water that is admitted directly into the heated module. This water supply is complemented by a thermos inside the water capsule that melts snow with an electrical plate, and between the two they generated around 50 litres of water a day. This water is decanted into small one litre containers that can be pressurized and deliver the water through a spray nozzle, allowing an extremely efficient use of water for cleaning hands and showering. Grey water from handwashing and the shower is collected in polyurethane bags. This form of entering into an energetic relationship with a territory is inventive and symbiotic. The body is situated within an artificiality induced water cycle within an interior in an absolutely transparent fashion.


separating toilets. The dry separating toilets have greased paper bags that receive solids, and  the separated urine is collected in  polyurethane bags. The bags of waste are stacked up outside the module where they freeze, numerically registering the duration of the temporary habitation, awaiting transportation on the hercules plane to other latitudes where they can continue their cycle of decomposition. The aesthetic of transparency in the design makes visible these relationships between isolated actions and a wider context.


Energy cycle  The success of the insulation intervention was demonstrated by  the thermal performance of  the module. Heated by a radiant electrical panel of 1000watts working intermittently at half of its maximum potential a temperature of 15°C was maintained within the module on overcast days when the solar radiation was negligible.

All air exchanges were organized between the interior of the modules and the tunnel. This entailed that the air entering the module was already preheated by solar radiation and to a value that ranged between –10°C and 0°C. With an external temperature of –20°C, this preheating of the air  provided significant savings, and incorporated the tunnel into the energetic organization of the station as a heat exchanger. 

This fine tuning of the energetic organization of the station is central to its environmental strategy, and permitted all of the heating and communications systems to be run off a small portable 5000 watt petrol generator.  This scale of the consumption makes it possible to propose running the whole station off a renewable supply in the near future, and it is planned to implement a combined 10 kw. eolic solar system next year.

8.0 deployment

air transport: The Hercules c130 planes have a carrying capacity of 13 tonnes, and a standard pallette dimension of 3x3m. Given that the cost in fuel for each flight is aproximately $50,000 u.s. the entire station was designed to be carried within the cargo hold of one single plane.

conditions: The climatic conditions in week 1 of installation were very favorable,with clear skies, continuous sunshine and light winds. Deployment was faster than programmed, and in three days the tunnel was excavated, erected and skinned. The instalation of the modules and the visors was realized in a further three days, leaving the entire station consolidated as an interior at the conclusion of one week. Twenty personnel participated in the installation process in a dedicated and organized manner that was a testament to the efficiency of military programming.

minga: The existing FACH module was excavated from the acumulated snow and transferred from the site of the camp to the station by means of two skidoos and a hercules pallet that served as a sledge. This operation resembled the tradition of the Minga practiced in chiloe in which entire houses are displaced on rollers and floated from one island to the next to be reinstalled on posts in another site. This reinvention of cultural  tradition provided  an unexpected  moment of collective identity amid  the white international neutrality of antartica.

9.0 blue ice city

ice point. In addition to the material infrastructure that supports actual bodily habitation, ARQZE is dedicated to the construction of antartica as virtual experience, through establishing relationships with national and international media to expand knowledge and catalyse development. This mediated construction is consolidated in the blue ice city, which is a cultural, technological, and political proposition for an international programme of artistic actions in Patriot Hills at the southernmost point of chilean national activity. The blue ice city was initiated on 19.11.99 through the  instalation of ice point as the location for formal actions and photographic register within Patriot Hills. Constructively  ice point is a system of aluminium tubes and plates that form an expandable series of flag masts and signages. The maps and texts engraved on the plates articulate the relationship between actual bodily location and the geographical distances that they open, provoking a dislocation with the immediate  continuity of place, resituating the corporeality of the inhabitants within a transhorizontal context. The antarctic baptisms traditional in the airforce were rescripted by ARQZE and given a poetic dimension.


excentric concentricity. The habitability of the station is understood as an experience that is situated between antartic transhorizontality and the technology of deployability, conforming a space that inscribes its generational logic into this mental territory that is antartica. The habitational act emerges as a confluence between constructs, an interfacing of strategies that is never conclusive. Geometrically the tunnel is a sectioned  torus , and opens a continuous acceleration around an unseen point in a translation of the 80° south  eliptical solar  revolution, provoking tangential slippage behind the curving visor. The  transition from antartic extension to the curved closure of the tunnel interior becomes a looped experience in which the space becomes interactively experienced and the inhabitants become passengers. Interacting with the catabatic wind, the implanted tunnel provokes artificial sastruggi, like an white idea revealing itself in the whiteness.