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Arctic Instruments

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Apr 13, 2013 01:10 AM
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by Geoff Manaugh ( last modified Apr 12, 2013



[Image: Via the Extreme Environments & Future Landscapes program].

Returning briefly to the theme of landscape devices—particularly in the run-up to the launch of Landscape Futures—I thought I'd post a quick look at a trip to the Arctic island of Svalbard last autumn led by David Garcia with students from the University of Lund School of Architecture.

As part of Lund's Extreme Environments & Future Landscapes program, students flew up to visit "the far north, beyond the Polar Circle, to Svalbard, to study the growing communities affected by the melting ice cap and the large opportunities for transportation and resources that the northeast passage now offers."

[Image: Via the Extreme Environments & Future Landscapes program].

There, the students would also research first-hand the performance of "urban structures in the extreme cold."

[Images: From a series of "light beacon studies" by Marta Nestorov].

However, Garcia adds, during their time in the extreme environment of the north, the group also "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."

[Image: An instrument for analyzing "perception and interpretation of the aurora borealis" by Christopher Erdman].

Some of that equipment is pictured here, ranging from a colorful audio device "used for testing sound absorption properties of snow" to a kind of portable oven meant for testing the thermal-insulation qualities of "ice tiles" that might someday be used in constructing frozen architecture.

[Image: Device "for testing sound absorption qualities of snow," by Milja Lindberg and Liina Pikk].

For their test of the acoustic properties of snow, for example, using tripods seen in the above photo, students Milja Lindberg and Liina Pikk designed an experiment that would operate "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.
[Images: The aforementioned device "used for testing sound absorption qualities of snow," by Milja Lindberg and Liina Pikk].

The accompanying pink & lavender light show lent a strangely theatrical air to the operation—perhaps also inadvertently revealing the possibility of designing "architecture" in snow-intensive environments using nothing but colored light.

[Images: A device for performing "biomimicry of polar plants" by Clemens Hochreiter].

Clemens Hochreiter's installation for studying the "biomimicry of polar plants," meanwhile, was an attempt to reproduce the shapes of Arctic flowers in small translucent shells, in order to test—if I've understood this correctly—what architectural shapes might be most useful in future greenhouse design.

Hochreiter hoped to "clarify if it [is] possible to improve the microclimate within the flower shaped volumes by using transparent, translucent, light absorbing or light reflecting materials."

[Image: Device for studying the "insulation properties and light transmission" of ice tiles, by Daniela Miller].

Continuing to move through the projects relatively quickly, we come to Daniela Miller's study, pictured above, which seems to be one of the more practical investigations of the bunch. Miller's goal was to analyze the ability of specially made "ice tiles" to insulate against heat loss as well as to transmit light.

[Images: Ice tiles by Daniela Miller].

"The tiles are produced in different thicknesses," Miller explains, "and some of them encase different kinds of material. Using a heat source within the box, the insulation properties of the tiles can be measured with a thermometer. 
The other series of studies deals with the translucency of the tiles. A light source is placed inside the box and the light intensity and quality crossing through the tile can be measured with a luxmeter."

The "different ice and snow plates were produced by use of a mould system," she adds, and each tile was subsequently "registered and analyzed to quantify the most relevant data"; this was all part of her attempt to explore "the potential of benefiting from ice and snow in architecture."

[Images: A "polar bear alarm" by studio director David Garcia].

Finally, David Garcia himself built an alarm system for detecting polar bears, or what he calls "a 'soft' perimeter alarm, not one that will stop polar bears from approaching the designed area, but allows for an acoustic or visual alarm to be triggered."

Cue a team of screenwriters here to produce the world's first Arctic bear-heist film, in which enterprising 800-pound superthieves rumble up on a snow-covered city in the dark one winter and hatch a devious plan, subverting the red-laser alarm lights, slinking past optically-advanced high-tech fencing, and erasing their own paw-prints as they pull off the world's most spectacular case of ursine burglary. The Svalbard Job.

In any case, more images of other projects—and, in most cases, longer descriptions of each—are available on the expedition website.




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