Feel the chill in Manchester: Stunning Antarctica exhibition at MOSI explores life in extreme environments

By Scott Hunt

Antarctica. One of the most extreme environments on the planet.

Freezing temperatures and fierce winds make the continent a hostile place for humans to inhabit – yet scientists are able to live and work in such relentlessly ferocious conditions.

And to give the public an insight into the frozen continent, Ice Lab: New Architecture and Science in Antarctica is a brand new exhibition underway at the Museum of Science and Industry.

As part of Manchester Science Festival in partnership with Siemens, the exhibition shows how innovative architecture allows scientists to carry out their work in Antarctica.

Five unique buildings are featured which are designed to withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour and temperatures of minus 55 degrees celsius.

MOSI Director, Jean Franczyk, has said how delighted she is to welcome Ice Lab as their headline act of Manchester Science Festival.

“MOSI’s iconic industrial buildings are a great showcase for this display of the contemporary architecture and engineering it takes to support ongoing research in extreme environments,” she said.

The polar research stations are demonstrated through stunning photographs, architectural drawings, models and films.

The science which takes place on the frozen continent is at the forefront of Ice Lab.

Exhibitions range from a 4.5million-year-old meteorite showing how the solar system was formed to the study of ice cores used for measuring climate change plus the cutting edge of astronomical research.

There are five featured buildings at Ice Lab.

British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI is the first fully re-locatable polar research station in the world.

Becoming fully operational in February 2013, the station is located 100 miles from the UK on a floating ice shelf.

The station is designed to be self-sufficient, able to withstand freezing temperatures while having minimal impact on Antarctica’s environment.

Also featured is the Bharati Research Station – made from 134 pre-fabricated shipping containers.

The station is wrapped in an aluminum case, with its extensive glazing offering magnificent panoramic views while still being able to withstand winds, blizzards and below 40 degrees temperatures.

Princess Elisabeth Antarctica was constructed and is operated by the International Polar Foundation.

It is Antarctica’s first zero-emission station. Perched 200km from the coast and 1400m above sea level, the station has to withstand the strong Antarctic wind.

What sets this building apart is how it is layered to ensure that no form of interior heating is required.

Renewable wind, solar energy, water treatment plus a smart grid help to maximise energy efficiency combine to make this remarkable structure totally free from emissions.

Jang Bogo is a building which reflects the emergence of Korea as a force in Antarctic Research.

Opening in 2014, the station boasts an aerodynamic triple-arm design, allowing it to accommodate up to 60 personnel during the busy summer season.

The final station featured is a fascinating concept. The Iceberg Living Station is a design by David Garcia and MAP architects for a future research station made entirely from ice.

It will be holed out of a large iceberg and at the end of its life course the station will simply melt, eliminating the issue of how to remove the station.

The exhibition is commissioned by the British Council and curated by The Arts Catalyst.

It is the first of its kind, demonstrating the complexity of life in Antarctica.

Innovation in science is at the forefront of the exhibition, allowing the people of Manchester to gain an insight into the world of the frozen continent.

Vicky Richardson, Director Architecture, Design, Fashion at the British Council believes it is entirely appropriate for them to commission the exhibition, which will tour the UK and then move overseas.

“The new wave of Antarctic research stations show the inventiveness in design and engineering required to build in Earth’s most extreme conditions,” she said.

“In the same way that scientists from around the world collaborate in Antarctica, these buildings are made possible by co-operation between nations.”

Running alongside Ice Lab during Manchester Science Festival will be an events programme of talks by featured architects as well as films about Antarctica.

Ice Lab: New Architecture and Science in Antarctica is open until January 4 2014 and admission is free.

Event times at MOSI are between 11am and 5pm.

Image courtesy of Rita Willaert via Flickr, with thanks.

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