Architecture in Extreme Environments

Mankind has never been complacent to just stay put, and exploration into the farthest reaches of our planet has resulted in human settlements in some seriously extreme locations. As a result, architecture has been forced to adapt to allow humans to live in such extreme conditions, and advances in technology have meant that mankind is able to live and explore even more remote and isolated environments.

A million miles away from the tents and sleeping bags of Roald Amundsen and those with him who were the first to stand at the South Pole, modern architecture in Antarctica can be used as a model for how to adapt and live in such extreme conditions.

Princess Elisabeth Antarctica research station

Belgium has had a strong presence at the southernmost point of the world since 1898, and its most recent structure has used cutting edge science and technology to become the world’s first “zero emission” scientific research station. The Princess Elisabeth Antarctica research station is solidly anchored onto the granite ridge of Utsteinen Nunatak, at an altitude of 1382 metres, in the Dronning Maud Land region of East-Antarctica which is approximately 220 km from the Antarctic coast. The zero emission polar research centre is an ideal logistics hub for field exploration in the 20°- 30° E sector of Antarctica.


Image sourceThe Princess Elisabeth incorporates a layered design which works to eliminate the need for internal heating, allowing perfect integration of the living quarters which maximises both heat distribution and energy use. The station also turns a challenge into an opportunity, by taking advantage of the environment's extreme conditions to power the station. 24 hour sunlight in the summer months is captured by solar panels, and gale force winds are harnessed to provide the station with renewable power.

Halley VI Research Station

The British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI was the world’s first relocatable research station, with raised legs which counter the accumulation of snow, and connected modules that can be moved around independently. Built on a floating ice shelf in the Weddell Sea, the Halley VI Research Station enables scientists to study pressing global problems within state of the art laboratories, such as climate change, rising sea levels, and the ozone hole (which was first discovered at Halley in 1985). Halley VI is segmented into eight modules, each sitting atop ski-fitted, hydraulic legs which allow each module to be towed independently to a new location.


Image sourceThe architecture and technology used to create living and research centres in the most remote and inhospitable region on the planet shows just how adaptable humans are to living in extreme environments. They also have wider applications as the designs and ideas could be implemented to architecture in other locales affected by extreme weather. For instance, those areas affected by natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and tornadoes.

In fact, the architecture used in Antarctica could one day be developed for humans to exist in environments even more alien than the South Pole, perhaps even allowing mankind to settle on other worlds.

Iceland architecture competition series

Iceland is a land a little bit closer to home than Antarctica (for some of us) yet as alien and mystical as it comes, and this type of architecture is becoming increasingly important to those wishing to explore its extensive natural beauty.

Explore our Iceland architecture competition series and dream up new and exciting ways in which architecture can enhance the Iceland experience.

Open architecture competitions

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project COMPETITION
Legendary Bird Home 2020

Design a bird home to fund wildlife charities

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PRODUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Dec 13
Feb 11
May 14
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ideas COMPETITION
SKYHIVE 2020 Skyscraper Challenge

Redefine the modern-day skyscraper

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Dec 17
Feb 14
May 17
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ideas COMPETITION
San Francisco Affordable Housing Challenge

Design solutions for San Francisco affordable housing problem

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Dec 20
Feb 18
May 21
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project COMPETITION
Vale De Moses Meditation Cabins

Design meditation cabins in Portugal

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 10
Feb 21
May 24
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project COMPETITION
Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Center

Design an iconic visitor center for Abu Dhabi’s unique wetlands natural reserve

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 14
Feb 25
May 28
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project COMPETITION
Mega Dunes Eco Lodges - Abu Dhabi

Design comfortable, sustainable visitor huts for the Abu Dhabi protected nature reserve

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 17
Feb 28
Jun 01
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project COMPETITION
Monte d'Oiro Wine Tasting Room

Design an iconic space for guests to enjoy the wines and the views of this Portuguese vineyard

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 21
Mar 03
Jun 05
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project COMPETITION
Kurgi Observation Tower

Design an eco-farm observation tower in UNESCO biosphere reserve

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 24
Mar 06
Jun 08
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ideas COMPETITION
RE-Stock London Housing

Submit affordable housing solutions for the one of the world’s most iconic and expensive cities

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 28
Mar 10
Jun 12
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