The Arctic is melting. In 2012 the summer sea ice levels reached their lowest point since records began. The Greenpeace campaign, Save the Arctic, is a ground- breaking collaboration between scientists, architects and environmentalists. This summer the Greenpeace ship, The Arctic Sunrise, took a research team headed by leading scientist Peter Wadhams and London-based designers ScanLAB to remote Arctic waters in order to deepen our understanding of the threats faced by this unique and fragile region. During this expedition to the Fram Strait, northwest of Svalbard in Norway, ScanLAB were able to capture a huge amount of data, documenting a series of ice floes using millimetre-perfect 3D scanning technology, capturing a total of 26 floes in forensic detail, mapping their surfaces precisely.
The exhibition, Frozen Relic: Arctic Works, recreates this landscape in its natural material – frozen saltwater. Each piece is a digitally fabricated scale replica of the original ice floe which was 3D scanned from above and documented using underwater sonar from below. The completed digital model is used to guide a CNC machine which carves the moulds in which each replica is cast.
Visitors entering the gallery found themselves in a darkened room; the suspended ice floes glowing in an icy archipelago. Like the fragile environment they are born from, these exhibits are disappearing. Every day they completely melt into the drip trays below, being refrozen and rehung for the following day. As the installation melts, it left only the supporting structure which itself accurately represents the scientific data that remains of this captured ice floe. Left with only their forensic records, ScanLAB speculate on this disappearing landscape for which architects may only ever design theoretically.