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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