Estúdio 41 breathes new life into Brazilian research base in Antarctica

Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station marks the re-establishment of Brazilian presence with a new design for the naval service's programme, eight years after a fire destroyed the old base.

by STIRworldPublished on : Nov 23, 2020

In the cold King George Island of Antarctica, Estúdio 41 has completed the reconstruction of the shelter for Brazilian Navy's scientific research programme, which was destroyed in a mishap in 2012. After a fire that destroyed the previous base, there was a need to have a new safe space for Brazil, which would act as a hub for people to gather and also be a place of production of scientific knowledge. Along with providing the space for scientific contributions with the international community, the building also represents Brazil’s architectural and technological development as well as the national industry.

Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station, where average temperature goes till -1.8 degrees Celsius | Ferraz Station | Estúdio 41 | STIRworld
Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station, where average temperature goes till -1.8 degrees Celsius Image: Courtesy of Estúdio 41

The design for the station was made considering not only the possibilities of what could be done technologically, but also how it would balance the natural geographical and human sensorial elements. Given how adverse the climate conditions are in Antarctica, the building had to incorporate a sense of comfort. The design went beyond just the basic sense of comfort and safety to include the space’s symbolic and perceptual dimensions. In this process, the studio also had to keep in mind the delicate nature of human life and work accordingly to solve any constructive, functional, and sensory issues.

A man stands between two levels of the station | Ferraz Station | Estúdio 41 | STIRworld
A man stands between two levels of the station Image: Courtesy of Estúdio 41

The current design for the prefabricated volumes factors in the territorial and geographical conditions of the Keller Peninsula, where the island is located, so as to be mindful of the topography and the surrounding flora and fauna life, among other environmental factors as well. The building has been made following several conditions, which are provided by Environmental Use Zoning to ensure minimum impact on the natural fabric of the place.

  • Aerial view of the Ferraz Station expanse | Ferraz Station | Estúdio 41 | STIRworld
    Aerial view of the Ferraz Station expanse Image: Courtesy of Leonardo Finotti
  • The deck on the upper level of the building | Ferraz Station | Estúdio 41 | STIRworld
    The deck on the upper level of the building Image: Courtesy of Leonardo Finotti

The new base is organised into blocks, which are the functional sectors that distribute the different uses across the space. The upper block at a +9.10 level comprises cabins, service areas, and the dining / living space. The lower block at a +5.95 level has the laboratories, which are spread over an area of 1,253.72 sqm, containing 17 research labs along with the areas for operation and maintenance. The same block has the garages and the central store-room coming at a +2.50 level.

  • The station building stands separately | Ferraz Station | Estúdio 41 | STIRworld
    The station building stands separately Image: Courtesy of Leonardo Finotti
  • The rear of the Brazilian Station | Ferraz Station | Estúdio 41 | STIRworld
    The rear of the Brazilian Station Image: Courtesy of Leonardo Finotti

The total built area of the building stands at 4,916.59 sqm with systems for power generation, water treatment, sewage treatment, and solid waste processing. In a transversal block, also located at the +5.95 level, a space is dedicated for more social and casual purposes and the section also has the video room, the auditorium, the LAN house, the meeting / video conference room, the library, and the living room. The building completes with 8 VAWT wind turbine units in the south-west and photovoltaic panel plants in the north side.

Ferraz Station against the backdrop of Antarctic Mountains | Ferraz Station | Estúdio 41 | STIRworld
Ferraz Station against the backdrop of Antarctic mountains Image: Courtesy of Leonardo Finotti

The fire that took place in February 2012 started in a machine room that housed energy generators, before destroying the entire station, which was built in 1984. Two people were killed, while one was injured.

The Comandante Ferraz base was equipped with research laboratories, dormitories, a large-scale kitchen, a library, and technical installation used by expedition boats.

The new base - the winning project in the international competition for the reconstruction of the Brazilian station in Antarctica - is nearly twice the size of the original base and can accommodate up to 64 people, including scientists and military personnel.

(Text by Shreeparna Chatterjee, editorial trainee at stirworld.com)

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