Building for the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition
The Antarctic Continent

Building for the Japanese
Antarctic Research Expedition

Completion Year1955
Project Story
From the South Pole to A New Kind of Housing in Japan

In 1955 Takenaka was involved in construction of the building for the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition from the planning stage. This was Japan’s first contribution to the study of the
Antarctic and the starting point of Japanese research into this most demanding of environments, at this time little understood, with many challenges.

In 1995, the whole habitat used by the first observation team was brought back to Japan.

It had survived snow storms, wind, and extreme cold at South Pole Showa Station for 40 years supporting the team’s various research efforts. It also taught us a lot about how to design and construct prefabricated housing in Japan.

Polar Creativity

The design and construction of an Antarctic base facility had been a major challenge. The lessons learned provided us with clues as to different approaches—especially manufacture of prefabricated housing components.

The Antarctic is not just another “cold” region. In climatic terms, it poses a range of challenges beyond those in the places where human beings normally live. So a lot of creativity was required in creating human habitats.

Full view of the building

Full view of the building

Building Cross-Section

Building Cross-Section

Double Chimneys and Canaries

The base was designed to be airtight with a double chimney for concurrent emission and intake of air without allowing in snow or letting heat to escape. This prevented ventilation issues. Canaries—traditionally used in coal mines because of their extreme sensitivity to air—were used here as well, to warn if there were air problems.

Wall Cross-Section

Wall Cross-Section

Wall lnnovations

The wall panels were created about 1.2m x 2.4m, to manage even smaller helicopter doors in the event of emergency transport. At 80 kilograms a panel, even four non-athletic researchers could carry them. Each panel had a wood core made from cypress trees from a northern slope for lightness, extra hardness and water resistance. The surface was six-layer birch plywood.

Popularizing Panel Construction

Innovative technologies developed for the Showa Station, showed the way to newer and better kinds of panels that could be used in Japanese house construction, which conventionally use beam-column structures. They have helped us modernize prefabricated house production.

Japanese homes have traditionally been made under the direction of master carpenters. Techniques are handed down from generation to generation. There is a lot of handwork, especially in joint work. That is one of the noticeable differences between traditional Japanese construction and European methods using prefabrication technologies. Obviously, it is difficult to mix the two.

So Takenaka’s innovations at the South Pole Showa Base have made a major contribution to panel work throughout Japan.

Construction work in progress

Construction work in progress

Completed building

Completed building

The Antarctic Continent
The Antarctic Continent
From the South Pole to A New Kind of Housing in Japan
Building for the Japanese
Antarctic Research Expedition
1955