Antarctic architecture

Antarctic architecture

Polar ice formations let a student see beyond just buildings

Last December, I took part in a 21-day Antarctic expedition with 22 other undergraduate students from City University.

As an architecture student, I was asked how this trip related to my studies. After all, the only buildings in Antarctica are the international science stations.

People often think a building is the same as architecture. But there is a difference. A building is just a structure built for a function, but architecture is about an idea.

Hong Kong's Bank of China Tower - designed by I.M. Pei - is usually regarded as "architecture", but public housing estates, for example, are seen only as "buildings".

With architecture, one part of the building should reflect the whole idea. That means the materials used, the structure, the design, and even the heating and air-conditioning systems should come together to create a unique, harmonic experience.

So where do the architectural ideas come from? Before we start designing, we need a theme, and we have to decide what kind of experience we would like to provide.

Some architects want their designs to promote harmony between the human and natural worlds. This is called Organic Architecture, a term coined by Frank Lloyd Wright. Fallingwater - a famous house that he designed in Pennsylvania in the US in 1964 - is a perfect example of this philosophy.

Another school of thought is called tectonic architecture. This takes inspiration from nature's own creations - that is, using the structure of a plant to get our own ideas.

For example, the Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre at CityU, designed by Daniel Libeskind, mirrors the geometric shapes of a crystalline cliff. I wanted to go to Antarctica get inspiration from the extreme landscape that's there. What caught my eye most were the icebergs and carved glaciers that formed different shapes and sizes.

I was reminded of Gothic architecture, which often uses lots of arches and ornamental spires.

Equally impressive were the textures of the icebergs. Some looked like big teeth, frozen drips, woven patterns, and golf domes. They were all incredible.

To help me understand how complicated the icebergs' architecture is, I took some 360-degree photos. I am sure these unique geometric shapes will be a useful resource later in my career.

However, if you cannot wait to see my designs, you could visit our exhibition in late May, at CityU's "crystalline cliff".

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Antarctic architecture


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