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Cutting-edge designs built to beat Antarctic freeze

  • Halley VI
    The first fully relocatable polar research station in the world became fully operational in February 2013. (Copyright: British Antarctic Survey)
  • Halley VI
    The research base sits on top of ski-fitted, hydraulic legs for transportation, and can be individually raised to overcome snow accumulation. (Copyright: British Antarctic Survey)
  • Princess Elisabeth Antarctic
    The first zero emission polar research station, housed in East-Antarctica, around 220 km (135 miles) from the coast. (Copyright: Rene Robert - International Polar Foundation)
  • Princess Elisabeth Antarctic
    The building is layered so no interior heating is needed, and uses renewable wind and solar power. (Copyright: Rene Robert - International Polar Foundation)
  • Bharati Research Station
    India’s third Antarctic research station is made from 134 rugged, prefabricated shipping containers, all wrapped in an aluminium shell. (Copyright: bof Architekten/IMS NCAOR)
  • Bharati Research Station
    Glazing on one side of the building will give meteorologists, climatologists and astrophysicists housed there a magnificent panoramic view. (Copyright: bof Architekten/IMS NCAOR)
  • Jang Bogo
    Designed in South Korea, this will be one of the largest year-round bases, accommodating up to 60 people, when it opens in 2014. (Copyright: Space Group and KOPRI)
  • Jang Bogo
    The base on Terra Nova Bay will be the second Korean station in Antarctica – King Sejong is on King
  • Iceberg Living Station
    Radical concept design for a research station made entirely from ice, which would remove the need to ship foreign materials to Antarctica. (Copyright: MAP Architects)
  • Iceberg Living Station
    The station will be holed out of a large iceberg using caterpillar excavators, and it will eventually melt away rather than needing to be dismantled. (Copyright: MAP Architects)
A new exhibition celebrates the cutting-edge architecture that is allowing scientists to live and work in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.

Research stations in the Antarctic have to deal with some of the most extreme conditions on this planet, and so their design needs to meet the task. For a long time, it was impossible to maintain permanent structures on the icy continent; several buildings disappeared under the snow and unstable ice.

But a new breed of Antarctic architecture is being designed to battle the elements, and their ingenuity and innovation is being celebrated in an exhibition called Ice Lab: New Architecture and Science in Antarctica, commissioned by the British Council and curated by the Arts Catalyst.

Some of the buildings are already in operation, such as the British Antarctic Survey's Halley VI, an eight-module structure that sits on top of hydraulic legs with skis – to keep it above perpetual snow build-up, and allow it to be moved to safer locations. The first four Halley bases were all buried by snow and crushed, Halley V was on fixed legs and became precariously positioned as the ice shifted.

Other featured stations are: Princess Elisabeth Antarctica by the Belgium branch of the International Polar Foundation, which is the first zero-emission station, and warmed by wind and solar energy; South Korea's Jang Bogo station, which will become one of largest bases when it opens next year; India’s Bharati Research Station, made from 134 rugged, prefabricated shipping containers wrapped in an aluminium shell; and the conceptual Iceberg Living Station, which would be holed out of a large iceberg using snow-clearing excavators, and is designed to eventually melt, removing the need to dismantle and ship it at the end of its life.

Ice Lab: New Architecture and Science in Antarctica is at Architecture and Design Scotland until 2 October, then at the Museum of Science and Industry as part of the Manchester Science Festival 21 October - 6 January, before touring internationally.

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