Polaris Climate Change Observatory

The sophisticated building design will represent the look of a giant tabular iceberg, surrounded by water on all sides and depicting a melting ice block as a result of climate change. Three iconic symbols will be represented: the iceberg, the planet and the ice-core

Architects: GAPP Architects in assocation with Atelier Brückner

Completion: 2014

Location: Collier Jetty, V&A Waterfront

The Polaris Climate Change Observatory (PCCO) is a key project of the International Polar Foundation communicating to the public on the importance of the Polar Regions and the research being conducted there to improve the understanding of the mechanisms driving climate change. The Polaris will allow multiple stakeholder interactions giving the public, policy makers and actors a forum for improving mutual understanding of needs and actions required to assure an adapted response to development needs.

The PCCO will provide a showcase for research and forecasting tools, as well as explaining regulatory measures, and international agreements aiming to set in place planetary governance frameworks and instruments. In addition, researchers and industrial actors will also be able to showcase innovation and expertise that will help society to meet the challenges that lie ahead in the battle to restrain climate change and intelligently manage resource depletion in the face of growing population pressure on fragile ecosystems.


The Polaris Climate Change Observatory is:

  • A showcase of the science unwrapping climate complexities
  • A place where innovations towards a low-carbon economy can be explored
  • A venue for bringing together policy-makers, civil society and industry
  • A centre for the promotion of scientific education as a tool for progress


The Polaris concept begins with the external structure which is in the form of a tabular iceberg, enclosing an exhibition area of 3000 m², lying over an expanse of water which has to be crossed to gain access to the observatory.

The depiction of the melting ice block is a spatial metaphor for climate change. Each Polaris contains three iconic symbols: the iceberg, the planet and the ice-core as recurring themes, linking all Polaris facilities in different locations.


Inside the Polaris, the ice block is fissured to allow a view on the Earth from different vantage points. The ice frames the Earth giving it an unusual perspective.
Three elements form the core of the space: the iceberg, the planet and the ice core

  • The iceberg is the symbol of the Polar World
  • The planet is the canvas against which global phenomena are projected
  • The ice core is a metaphor for the archives of climate history


A large section of the space adjoining the PCCO will be developed as a landmark public space dedicated to science, knowledge, reflection, art and the future. A dedicated centre for students will provide facilities for the development of an educational programme known as ‘Class Zero Emission’, and additional space will also be created for interactive performances, conferences, film festival and receptions.

One of the main features of the observatory will be its permanent exhibitions aimed at educating visitors about the Earth’s climate system. The observatory will also host temporary exhibitions, showcasing some of the leading international initiatives, achievements and impact studies in the field of global climate change research.

The Polaris Climate Change Observatory is a project of the International Polar Foundation, with the endorsement of its Honorary President, HRH Prince Philippe of Belgium. Under the patronage of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco.

With the support of:

Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation
International Council for Science (ICSU)
World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)
World Meteorological Organization (WMO)


1. International Polar Foundation

2. SA Property News