Balbek Bureau creates Ukrainian "home away from home" in Antarctica
Kyiv-based studio Balbek Bureau has converted a defunct fuel tank into a depiction of a typical Ukrainian home at the country's research base in Antarctica.
Named Home Memories, the installation at the Vernadsky research base on Galindez Island in Antarctica was designed to evoke memories of home for those stationed at the base and tourists visiting.
Balbek Bureau was commissioned by Ukraine's National Antarctic Research Center to reimagine a defunct fuel tank in a prominent position on the site, which is one of the first things the 4,000 tourists visiting each year see.
The studio chose to wrap it in the outline of a typical Ukrainian house as a "home away from home".
"Our installation was inspired by a typical Ukrainian house – one associated with warmth, comfort and grandmotherly coziness," explained the studio.
"For our researchers, it is an evergreen memory of home – a daily reminder about something simple, warm, and dear. For tourists – an inspiration to start planning their trip to Ukraine itself."
The installation was designed before Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, but Balbek Bureau believes it has more meaning now many Ukrainians have fled their homes.
"The art installation, designed a year before the invasion, took on a new meaning," said Balbek Bureau CEO Slava Balbek.
"For millions of people forced to flee their hometowns and villages due to Russian aggression, returning home became their biggest dream."
"Still, we believe that the war will end in our victory, and Ukrainians will create new memories from the safe haven of their home," he continued.
"And all the way in Antarctica, for researchers and tourists alike, our house will continue to stand strong, a true memento of Ukraine."
The home, a representation of a slate roof, chimney and distinctive windows, was formed as a composite of houses found across Ukraine.
It was constructed by Wonder Workshop with the support of Ukrainian retail chain Silpo as a steel frame designed to resemble a pencil sketch.
"The structure is based on a composite image of a Ukrainian rural house: we went through hundreds of photos from different regions," added the studio. "We came up with a design that embodies the quintessential Ukrainian home."
The house was created to be robust enough to survive both the fierce weather and the island's 3,500 penguins that dismantle less-sturdy structures to make nests.
The entire installation was fabricated in Kyiv, before being shipped to the base where it was assembled without professional equipment or contractors.
Within the structure, the studio created a mini exhibition with several "symbolic mementos" encased in epoxy resin.
Balbek believes that cultural projects like this are important to keep focus on the country's independent identity.
"Projects like this are important to both Ukrainian and international audiences: they pay homage to our roots and keep our country in the global conversation," said Balbek.
"It is also an embodiment of cultural identity, which is a crucial element of independence, like language, art, science, and sovereignty."
In Ukraine, Balbek Bureau recently met Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss constructing shelters to temporary house people in Kyiv as their homes are being rebuilt.
The photography is by Slava Balbek.
Architects: Slava Balbek, Anastasiia Partyka, Alyona Tryhub
3D artists: Nik Key, Valerii Stefanov
Graphic designers: Dasha Levchuk, Oleksandra Zavada
Project manager: Arina Petrenko
Production: Dmytro Zinoviev and the Wonder Workshop bureau
Sculptor: Marusia Sinkevich
Сopywriter: Taisiia Kudenko
Comms support: Yevheniia Ryzhak
Photo retouching: Maryan Beresh