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Ice work if you can get it: designs sought for Antarctic challenge

An international competition has been launched to design a new research station in the Antarctic. Located on a floating ice shelf, the current British Antarctic Survey (BAS) centre needs to be replaced before it drifts off on an iceberg.

The new scientific complex must be selfsufficient, able to withstand temperatures of minus 30infinityC, and capable of migrating nearly 400m on ice floes each year. The structure should also have minimal impact on Antarctica's pristine environment.

Linda Capper from the BAS said: 'It is an environmental and technical challenge. The design will have to look at ways of overcoming the moving ice-shelf and the 1.5m of snow which falls on the station every year.'

At the moment the main accommodation blocks, which house up to 52 scientists, are lifted above the snowline on stilts which are jacked up when needed. Other temporary buildings and garages are fitted with skis and can be pulled free from drifts.

Capper added: 'This is the fifth station on the site and we know what things work. But we don't want to be too prescriptive about the solutions. We have an opportunity to get something really special.'

The BAS, which is government funded, is looking to ship the new building to the South Atlantic before 2009.

The competition, organised by the RIBA, is initially calling for expressions of interest from multi-design teams. For details on how to enter contact Linda Roberts at the RIBA Competitions Office on 0113 2341335.

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