Fabricating Grounds: Ice Shelter Installation / Koepcke + Prado

© Koepcke + Prado

Under the guidance of David Mah, and from Harvard Graduate School of Design created a system for constructing a rapidly deployable ice shelter using snow and ice as building materials.   The temporary shelter is intended for cold environments and utilizes the insulative properties and inherent compressive strength of the proposed building materials to craft a spatial catenary volume.

More about the ice shelter after the break.


© Koepcke + Prado

Using parametric modeling and digital fabrication techniques, plastic panels define the framework for the shelter and are joined to make the inflatable structure.   Such panels supply a lightweight and packable guideline for the shelter, allowing users to carry the system in a large backpack until construction is necessary.  “Instead of using traditional igloo construction, the proposed process could be self-forming under wet, frozen conditions,” explained the designers.

© Koepcke + Prado

The self-supporting thinwalled shelter builds upon earlier research on pneumatic structures as form-finding and space-making devices.  The final product has sectional variability within the catenary structure to optimize multiple interior and exterior spaces.  This form utilized internal air pressure and catenary diaphragms define and control the desired inflated shape.


© Koepcke + Prado

“While fabric reinforcement was used to strengthen and connect the catenary ribs, it was discovered that an ice shell of approximately ½” was capable of supporting itself without further bracing,” explained the designers.

© Koepcke + Prado

Check out the time-lapse illustrating the assembly process with regards to how the 92 unique milled plastic panels were arranged and joined together for construction using double sided polyester tape and some packing tape for extra reinforcing.

Cite: Cilento, Karen. "Fabricating Grounds: Ice Shelter Installation / Koepcke + Prado" 23 Mar 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=219734>
  • jeb


  • Hunter

    ice croissant anyone? sweet project.

  • Retard Riot

    all that plastic… it’s like a giant douche bag. how is this an improvement over traditional igloos which result in ZERO WASTE?

  • Pingback: pop-up snow shelters | The World is Flat

  • AH

    The video could be more interesting!

  • arthur

    love it. killer project.