In Images: How to Build a Giant Ice Dome

Ice Dome

ice dome

(Image credit: Institute for Structural Engineering, Vienna University of Technology)

The team started with a level, sealed working surface where they would construct the ice dome.

Ice Dome

ice dome

(Image credit: Institute for Structural Engineering, Vienna University of Technology)

They made the ice by spraying water onto this circular surface and waiting for it to freeze. The team also built a wooden tower in the middle to help support the dome segments during construction. (The steel rods sticking out of the ice were necessary to connect the ice segments to the lifting device later on.)

Ice Dome

ice dome

(Image credit: Institute for Structural Engineering, Vienna University of Technology)

Sixteen segments were then cut out of the 8-inch- thick (20 centimeters) plate of ice, each 19 feet (5.8 m) long.

Ice Dome

ice dome

(Image credit: Institute for Structural Engineering, Vienna University of Technology)

To sculpt the segments to have a dome-like curve, the researchers relied on ice's creep behavior. If pressure is applied to ice, it slowly changes its shape without breaking. "The segments of ice are placed on stacks of wood. Then, under the load of its own weight, the ice begins to change shape all by itself, resulting in a curved dome segment," said team member Sonja Dallinger, research assistant at the Institute of Structural Engineering and on-site manager of the Obergurgl construction experiment. (The blue steel frame was used to lift the ice segments.)

Ice Dome

Ice Dome

(Image credit: Institute for Structural Engineering, Vienna University of Technology)

Here the creep process is further along, and the ice segments are taking on a more curved shape.

Ice Dome

ice dome

(Image credit: Institute for Structural Engineering, Vienna University of Technology)

Each curved segment was fastened with temporary tension chains, which were removed later. Then the pieces were lifted with the help of a crane and fixed to the wooden mounting tower.

Ice Dome

ice dome

(Image credit: Institute for Structural Engineering, Vienna University of Technology)

Here, more of the segments have been lifted and fitted to the wooden mounting tower.

Ice Dome

ice dome

(Image credit: Institute for Structural Engineering, Vienna University of Technology)

Once all the segments had been positioned and the ice dome stood on its own, the team removed the tower.

Ice Dome

ice dome in austria

(Image credit: Institute for Structural Engineering, Vienna University of Technology)

The ice dome, which serves as a bar, at night. The temperatures inside the dome are warmer than one would expect, said the engineers.