SAO PAULO – Eight years after the original base was destroyed in a fire that left two people dead, Brazil is poised to open a new Antarctic outpost that brings the latest in green architecture to one of the world’s harshest environments.
The new complex, set to be officially inaugurated next Tuesday, is the “finest research structure on the Antarctic peninsula,” Brazilian navy Rear Adm. Sergio Gago Guida told Efe.
Occupying 4,500 sq m (48,374 sq ft) on King George Island, the rebuilt Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station boasts 17 laboratories and living quarters for 64 people.
The post comprises two low-rise blocks that rest on pillars built to withstand the effects of melting ice, the coldest temperatures on the planet and winds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph).
“Brazil is a tropical country, so we are not used to these conditions. It was an engineering project carried out by a team,” Emerson Vidigal of Estudio 41 architects said.
“Our central premise was to guarantee the survival and comfort of the human being in such an inhospitable place,” he told EFE.
Estudio 41 began work on the design in 2013, but construction got under way only at the end of 2015, after Chinese builder Ceiec emerged as the winner of the bidding process.
The foundations of the buildings were assembled in Shanghai and shipped to King George Island, which helps to explain why transportation and logistics accounted for half the estimated $100 million Brazil spent on the new base.
The architects strived to create a complex that would meet the technical requirements of the scientists working at Comandante Ferraz while making the smallest possible impact on the environment.
For instance, 30 percent of the station’s energy will come from renewables.
But beyond considerations of efficiency and sustainability, the Estudio 41 team did not neglect the question of aesthetics, endowing the complex with large windows to let in the light and give the crew a sense of connection with nature.
Though the formal re-opening is still days away, Paulo Camara of the University of Brasilia and Luiz Henrique Rosa of the Federal University of Minas Gerais arrived at Comandante Ferraz two months ago to analyze the DNA of the local flora.
Other Brazilian scientists will come to the station to study climate change, which is already causing some Antarctic glaciers to melt, raising the sea level.
“This continent is the world’s air conditioner,” Guida said, adding that the research done at Comandante Ferraz will expand understanding of how Antarctica affects the global climate.