Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes



Extreme Environments and Future Landscapes

“Finally back from the seven day expedition and research in Svalbard, where we received lectures by the municipality on Longyearbyen’s past and present , by LPO architects to understand the challenges of building on frozen (and now slowly melting) tundra, by UNIS, the university centre in Svalbard on the researchers community in the archipelago, and by the scientists running EISCAT, two large radio telescopes studying the Northern Lights. We also ventured into the frozen landscape to Barentsburg, a soviet era mining town, still active and with 300 inhabitants and to the depths of glaciers to see ice cave formations produced by melting tundra.

All the while, we tested and probed the surroundings with surveying equipment designed and built for the expedition, at urban and natural landscapes, from -30 degrees Celsius to overcast blackout weather. Below is a selection of images from the research which will now allow the students to define an architectural brief for a building design, that will tackle some of the challenges they have reserached.


Our surveying device is used for testing sound absorption properties of snow by transmitting sound onto snow and reflecting it to a receiver. The device consists of three parts. A blue transmitter tube (Ø 60mm) sends focused sound frequencies through a speaker fitted at one end of the tube. A red receiver tube 20mm wider in diameter picks up sound waves reflected from the snow test bed. Both tubes are connected to tripods with an angle adjuster that works as a protractor to set the right angle. This piece also connects two lasers on top of the tubes. The lasers meet in the middle of the snow test bed. From this spot a sample of snow is taken with a test tube and placed onto a photolab. Together with a picture of the snow sample the following information about the testing conditions is recorded: date, time, temperature of air and snow, site coordinates, name of the recording and snow depth. The transmitted and recorded sounds are then compared and analysed together with the testing conditions.


A device to facilitate the process of recording the changes of light – to follow the different conditions with the help of an artificial light source, a beacon, and a camera. To study how direct light, reflected light and bounced light might work in varying environments, weather conditions, and times of day and night. To create a spectrum of how the light is perceived depending on where you look, or the different surfaces and areas in a specific space – from afar to up close, the changes in snow, ice and other elements. How the wildly different landscape and climate influence how the natural light is seen, with a correlation to an artificial light- and reflective source. To inspire and create a collection of the intensities and range of colours, as well as the relation between an artefact and the environment itself.


Due to the exceptional relationship between the human population of Svalbard (2500) and the polar bear population (3000), the encounter between the two species occurs often, and not necessarily in the best of circumstances.. Although the bears are protect ted by strict laws, no one is allowed outside zone 10 (urban area of Longyearbyen) with out a rifle or a guide with a rifle. This become clear when entering any public building or store, you are asked to leave your rifle or hand gun behind….they provide security lockers for this. Albeit the high security measures, when encounters occur, weather in town or out in nature, bears are owlet scared off by flares, or shots in the air. But when a polar bear has not eaten for months, their are quite determined, and on many occasions, casualties have occurred.
The proposed design allows for a “soft” perimeter alarm, not one that will stop polar bears form approaching the designed area, but allows for an acoustic or visual alarm to be triggered. more over, specially in the long dark season (6months) the laser allows for hum as to recognise the alarm, and avoid unnecessary triggers. This flexible systems creates a nomadic edge, which can be moved at will, defining the limits of safety, and the boundary between “nature” and “urban” landscape through the parameter of danger.” – via BLDG Blog

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