with balbek bureau
A Traditional Ukrainian House Outlines a Home Away from Home in Antarctica
Off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula within an expansive archipelago sits the island of Galindez where the Ukrainian Vernadsky Research Base annually hosts twelve scientists and welcomes more than 4,000 tourists during the summer months. One of the first things visitors encounter is an unsightly, defunct fuel tank perched on the shore that the National Antarctic Research Center wanted to tidy up, so they asked the Kyiv-based architecture studio balbek bureau to envision and repurpose the site into an inviting “home away from home.”
The center commissioned the project in November 2021, three months before Russia invaded Ukraine. Originally scheduled for installation in early 2022, the war forced the firm to postpone until last month, when the piece titled “Home. Memories” was successfully constructed. Conceived as a welcoming sight for resident researchers and travelers, the piece adopted new layers of meaning in the wake of Russia’s aggression, highlighting Ukraine’s distinct culture and history amidst the ongoing assault. balbek bureau’s design is based on a traditional, rural house, incorporating a thin, metal frame around the tank that resembles a pencil sketch, “as if someone, reminiscing, draws their childhood home from memory.”
Along with being a “visual treat” for visitors, the project had significant practical concerns because of its extreme location. The installation had to be easily assembled, resistant to severe weather conditions, and safe for more than 3,500 penguins living on the island— “who love to disassemble constructions into bits used for nests.” The structure had to be able to withstand winds of up to 90 miles per hour, sub-zero temperatures, and around 300 days of precipitation each year.
Complementing the geometry of the outline, a miniature exhibition of resin “time capsules,” or souvenirs from around the country, are on display and include a sample of UNESCO-listed Kosiv painted ceramics, a fragment of an embroidered shirt known as a vyshyvanka, and a lump of coal from the Donetsk region. “We believe that the war will end in our victory, and Ukrainians will create new memories from the safe haven of their home,” shares co-founder Slava Balbek. “And all the way in Antarctica, for researchers and tourists alike, our house will continue to stand strong, a true memento of Ukraine.”
Explore in-depth documentation of the process from start to finish on the studio’s website.
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