It’s a chill wind that blows everybody good

There have been two really good events in the last week related to the launch of the book Ice Station: The creation of Halley VI.I may be biased of course, because I wrote the book. But it was pretty easy to do, because it is a wonderful project. It seems that you have to go to the other end of the world to allow architects and engineers to work in the way that many would like to and most feel that they should.

There have been two really good events in the last week related to the launch of the book Ice Station: The creation of Halley VI.I may be biased of course, because I wrote the book. But it was pretty easy to do, because it is a wonderful project. It seems that you have to go to the other end of the world to allow architects and engineers to work in the way that many would like to and most feel that they should.

The boundaries between engineer and architect blurred, and between different specialisms, as everybody set about solving problems which were frequently on the boundary of structural and mechanical. The contractor, Galliford Try, employed its workforce directly as they had to be hand-picked for suitability for working in the conditions. And those workers had to be willing to be flexible with, for example, steel erectors turning their hands to decorating later in the summer season.

But the best ways of working are worth nothing if they are not reflected in the result. And at Halley they are with a futuristic assembly of modules joined together like tube train carriages, and mounted on skis so that the entire assembly can shift when the ice shelf crumbles. Inside they are light and easy to navigate, with both lively and calm social spaces and windows that allow residents to stare out at the void in summer and the natural fireworks of the Aurora Australis in winter. 

At an event at the Institution of Structural Engineers (a building that was remodelled by Halley architect Hugh Broughton) there was an opportunity to find out what occupying the building is really like, through a telephone link to the station head at Halley. He told the audience what he had eaten for breakfast, how long it took him to get ready to go outside (a long time) and the details of the delicious but atypical gut-busting menu for the ritual midwinter feast. He also said how much he enjoyed working in the building. Which is, after all, what it is all about, especially if you can’t leave for 14 months.

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