Autumn 2010 / Leading Edge
Polar Express

Architecture prof’s Arctic designs include proposed Russia-Alaska rail link


Photo: Lateral Office

For many Canadians, the Far North conjures images of a desolate landscape home mostly to polar bears. But the region intrigues Mason White, a professor at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design and a partner in the Toronto firm Lateral Office, who is studying how to adapt buildings and transportation to cold climates.

Over the past four years, White and his colleague, Lola Sheppard, have designed a number of Arctic projects, including a high-speed rail link connecting Russia and Alaska over the Bering Strait. The station pictured above is situated on the international date line, so visitors are “neither in yesterday nor today,” says White.

Lateral Office typically designs structures that serve more than one purpose, so the station is also home to an Arctic research facility and iceberg harvesting piers that collect fresh water. The people jogging on the boardwalk could be taking part in an Arctic marathon, says White.

The proposed Bering Strait Ice Link is one of several Lateral projects that the Canada Council for the Arts considered in awarding the firm this year’s Professional Prix de Rome, worth $50,000.


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