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The Catabatic System is an interconnective tent system specifically designed for antarctic conditions and based on a concept of triaxial organization and double curvature membranes. This design permits a high strength-to-weight ratio and provides secure, user-friendly shelter in the most extreme environments on earth, generating specific solutions to habitational requirements, including scientific expeditions and bases, tourism and low impact residential living.



The system was developed on the basis of experience gained in the design and installation of EPTAP, the first permanent Blue Ice Station, developed in collaboration with the Chilean airforce and deployed in 1999 at Patriot Hills, Antartica. The first prototype of the catabatic system was developed and deployed as the sala sastruggi in the subsequent mission of 2000, and its 60m2 configured the main social space of the EPTAP station. This prototype performed extremely well and was used each summer through to 2007 when the operation of the station was suspended.


high latitude materiality

The catabatic system is designed from materials of the highest specifications to withstand the extreme temperatures experienced at latitude 80º south in the antartic interior.


structure. The system incorporates a structure of extruded 6061T6 aluminium arcs formed in a prototipical profile specifically designed to resist extreme wind loading while receiving a series of steel cables that fix the tensed membranes in a system similar to yacht technology. 

skin. The interior is protected by a series of double curvature membranes that incorporate polyester webbing of the highest specification. These hyper parabolic surfaces interact aerodynamically with the wind, and the anticlastic geometry of the double curvature defines each point in a specific location in space which avoids the vibration and fatigue experienced in standard tent solutions.

insulation. A 50mm layer of closed pore polyurethane provides continuous insulation between the double membrane envelope, and in the floor panels, allowing internal temperatures of +10ºC while externally the temperatures drop to -30ºC. The internal membrane is finished in a reflective surface that avoids energy losses through radiation.

thermal chamber. Access is through a rigid transparent door that leads to a thermal exchange chamber where incoming air is warmed before entering the tent.

transparency. Natural illumination, solar gain, and extensive visual contact with the exterior is established through a large panoramic visor made from double layer of transparent polycarbonate panels and inserted into the membrane. These visors can be closed by insulated curtains to permit sleep in the nightless Antartic summer.




In 2013 the Catabatic prototype was extracted from Patriot Hills along with the complete EPTAP station  and redeployed to Union Glaciar. For its reinsertion the membranes were completely redesigned,  including translucent insulation in its double skin to maximize the energetic input from the abundant solar radiation, configuring the command centre of the new station, and offering completely new cycle of use.


The Catabatic System is modular and interconnective, forming a flexible and expandable organization, which can accommodate changes in strategy and develop itself through a series of phases. The triaxiality permits peripheral sections of each module to be configured as separate sleeping compartments by means of adjustable partitions, while the central section  becomes a shared communal space with external access. The basic initial unit is a catabatic 90_3 which incorporates two sleeping compartments with a capacity for four persons in each, a sanitary compartment, and a central shared space for eating, working and relaxing. This self sufficient unit can be expanded through incorporating successive triaxial modules to form communal living and working areas in an organic process that can be adapted to specific needs.


When collapsed the catabatic 90.3 module is very compact, being contained within a system of 2m bags, with a total weight of approximately 1000kg, allowing it to be transported economically by small planes such as twin otters.The erection procedure is specifically designed to be practical in adverse conditions, employing the hinging of the arcs to tense the membranes. The fixing of the tent to the ground is through a series of systems adapted to differentiated conditions such as snow, gravel, or rock.




title                  catabatic system prototype 90.3

location            patriot hills , antarctica, 80° s

team                pol taylor + marcelo bernal

collaborators  pedro serrano

client               antarctic department, chilean airforce

date                 2000    

data                 area 60m2 , height 2.6m , weight 900 kg,

                        membrane surface 120 m2 / extruded aluminium profiles/ cast aluminium terminals /                                                  polycarbonate visor 4mm / closed pore polyurethane insulation.

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