If humans follow Curiosity to Mars later this century, we'll need cities modeled on ones that already exist in extreme climates on Earth. Here are six high-tech (and a few low-tech) cities that would have a passing shot at survival in the Martian climate.
Of course there are the obvious choices, like research stations in Antarctica. But there are other possibilities, like the instant city model developed at Black Rock City, home to arts festival Burning Man, which you can see here nestled in a Martian crater. And there are others potential Martian city models that might surprise you, like ones in Nunavut, Canada and in ancient Native American pueblos.
We've superimposed structures from Earth onto real Martian landscapes created by the Martian rovers and satellites orbiting Mars (click to embiggen). You can see smaller photos of the original Earth structures next to each.
Black Rock City
Up top, you can see what Black Rock City, home to Burning Man, would look like in a Martian crater. Why this city? Erected swiftly every year in the barren playa of Black Rock Desert in Nevada, the city is like a beta test for instant colonies erected in harsh alien climates. People use vehicles and temporary buildings to shield themselves from extreme temperatures and sandstorms. Would it work on Mars? If the buildings could provide atmosphere, yes. A Martian colony will need fast, temporary housing and will also need to be profoundly careful with the ecosystem on the planet. So the Burning Man credo of "leave no trace," meaning leave no trash or non-environmentally appropriate items, will become the credo of Mars too.
Research Station, Anarctica
Already there is an international program devoted to simulating life on Mars in the arctic region. And Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the Red Mars trilogy, spent several seasons in Antarctica to get a feel for what it would be like to live on Mars. Many researchers have speculated that the new high-tech Antarctic science station, pictured here on a Martian landscape, would be perfect for the frigid, windy climate on Mars. It's placed on hydraulic legs that can lift or lower the station so that winds can blow underneath the station, and snow (or on Mars, sand) doesn't get packed around the walls. Admittedly this isn't a city, but it's the kind of building you'd expect to see in a Martian city.