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Posts Tagged ‘Arctic Research Center’

BY ZACH MORTICE

View of Utqiaġvik, Alaska, and the Chukchi Sea in February 2020. Photo by Chengxin Sha/Arctic Design Group, 2020.

Federally funded research will help set a baseline for how to build in the Arctic.

 

In Alaska, beyond the Arctic Circle in North Slope Borough, Indigenous communities practice subsistence whale hunting. To store the whale meat, tribal communities dig ice cellars in the permafrost, a major infrastructural feat, as a 50-ton whale can feed thousands. But as climate change melts permafrost, the cellars are failing, leading to spoiled food. Studies have indicated that climate change may be a factor, but soil conditions and development on top of cellars are also causing warming and potential failure. “We keep it there in trust for the community,” says Gordon Brower, the director of North Slope Borough Planning and Community Services and a member of the Iñupiaq Indigenous community. “To keep that type of meat secure and healthy, we need to evaluate our earthen storage shelters.”

How might designers augment ice cellars’ cooling capacity in ways that support Indigenous traditions, while contending with the Arctic’s position on the front lines of climate change? This question is just one part of the National Science Foundation-funded research by the University of Virginia’s Arctic Research Center, aimed at gathering data to determine the design parameters for Arctic infrastructure in an era of expanding development and climate change, says Leena Cho, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at UVA. Cho, her partner Matthew Jull, an associate professor of architecture, and a team of UVA researchers will install aquatic, meteorological, and geotechnical sensors in the North Slope Borough town of Utqiagvik. This data will help Cho and Jull formulate guidelines for building height, form, materials, and foundations, as well as wider urban planning concerns in the Arctic. (more…)

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