Futuristic Antarctic research station walks over ice

A new Antarctic ice station set to open next week is equipped with skis and legs that can walk across the ice.

Looking more like something from the set of Star Wars than a typical research lab, the building is designed to overcome some of the key challenges of providing shelter in one of the world's least hospitable environments.

A new Antarctic ice station that can walk across ice is set to open in February. Credit: Hugh Broughton Architects.

Most Antarctic structures are buried under ice within a decade or so due to rising snow levels.

But the hydraulic-legged structure will be able to evade such a fate and even relocate in more dramatic circumstances - such as the site on which it stands carving off as an iceberg.

The structure is equipped with skis which will help to guide and glide across the icey continent. Credit: Hugh Broughton Architects.

The Halley Antarctic Station is the award-winning work of Hugh Broughton architects.

The firm says the challenges in designing the structure were myriad - it is the most southerly research station operated by the British Antarctic Survey, located on the 150-metre thick floating Brunt Ice Shelf, which moves 400 metres each year towards the sea.

The control room of Halley VI Anarctic Research Station, located on the 150-metre thick floating Brunt Ice Shelf. Credit: Hugh Broughton Architects.

Snow levels rise by over a metre every year and the sun does not rise above the horizon for 105 days during winter.

Temperatures drop to -56C and the site can be buffeted by winds in excess of 100 mph.

Access by ship and plane is limited to a 3-months window.

Materials and components required to construct the new base had to be delivered across fragile sea ice, which could fracture at any time.

The needs of scientists working far from home in these extreme conditions were taken into account when designing the interior of the station, reports Architectural Record.

A lounge area provides a comfortable view of the freezing continent that can drop as low as -56 degrees. Credit: Hugh Broughton Architects.

"Brutal winter conditions of permanent darkness and sub-60 degree temperatures leave them vulnerable to depression and stress – 'winter-over syndrome'," a report on the station said.

"Home comforts include a hydroponic salad garden and a climbing wall within a double-height central space lined with Lebanese cedar, selected for its scent.

"The architect also worked with a color psychologist to identify "refreshing and stimulating" shades, and developed a bedside lamp with a daylight bulb to simulate sunrise."

Perhaps Antarctic conditions aren't so brutal after all.