Why so blue? The colour of Britain’s Antarctic research station explained

What? The British Antarctic Survey‘s Halley VI, the world’s first relocatable research station for studies into climate change, the ozone layer and meteorology including space weather. The award-winning Halley VI is home to the 16 people working there during the nine-month austral winter and 52 in the three-month austral summer. The programme also helps the European Space Agency understand more about experiences of living in isolation.

Where? It sits on the 130m thick Brunt Ice Shelf which flows slowly out onto the Weddell Sea – here chunks of the ice splinter or ‘calve’ off as icebergs.

Why? Data collected at Halley VI helps to protect satellites (from solar storms and mass ejections of particles from the sun) and thus keeps global infrastructures working.

The architecture: Halley VI was designed by Hugh Broughton Architects and incorporates two modules for science work, two for generators and equipment, a living module, two sleeping zones and a command module. The whole lot perches on legs to stay above snow that can reach several metres deep. These legs are attached to skis so that it can be towed into different positions if there is a risk of the site calving off – when chasms in the ice are detected, Halley VI relocates to a new site.

Why blue? Blue was a conscious choice for the exterior as the colour absorbs less heat from the sun and this reduces snowmelt underneath the station.

What about the red part? This is the living module, which contains kitchen and dining facilities as well as a gym, library, pool and table tennis tables and a projector screen. It was painted red simply to look different to the work zones… and potentially remind us about the beauty of using primary colours.


Jill Macnair


Jill Macnair has worked as an interiors journalist for 13 years, contributing to titles including Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. She set up cult interiors blog My Friend’s House in 2009 with Ros Anderson and continues to run the forum daily.

The Chromologist 2018 | Farrow & Ball

The Chromologist