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Hugh Broughton Architects | New British Inventors

© THOMAS BUTTERY

Hugh Broughton Architects has developed a specialism in polar and remote architecture, as well as projects in sensitive or heritage locations. Bringing together many different technologies, and taking a courageous approach to construction in an extreme environment, the Halley VI Antarctic Research Station is a case-study project for New British Inventors. 

Halley VI is the mostly southerly scientific research station operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The modular structure is located on the 150-metre thick floating Brunt Ice Shelf, which moves 400 metres per annum towards the sea.

The constant movement of the ice shelf meant that the architects had to design a unique solution to allow the station to stand on the ice, without sliding or, by contrast, holding on the ice-shelf permanently. For Halley VI the London-based practice developed a unique system for the modular units to be supported on giant steel skis and hydraulically driven legs. The hydraulic legs allow the station to mechanically “climb” up out of the snow every year to avoid being buried. And as the ice shelf moves out towards the ocean, the modules can be lowered onto the skis and towed by bulldozers to a new safer location further inland. In this way, Halley VI can therefore continue to respond to the changing needs of Antarctic science for many more years than its projected design life. This mobility and flexibility means that the new station will survive and perform on the ice for far longer than any of its distinguished predecessors.

A research station has been occupied continuously at Halley since 1957. In 1985 scientists working there first observed the hole in the ozone layer. In 1992 Halley V was completed, however its occupation eventually became precarious, having flowed too far from the mainland to a position at risk of calving as an iceberg. As the station’s legs were fixed in the ice it could not be moved and so in 2004, BAS organised an international competition to select designers for a new station.

In December 2016, the British Antarctic Survey confirmed that Halley VI will be moved 23 km towards land due to a growing chasm in the ice shelf. The work will take 3 of the Antarctic's short summer seasons to complete.