Research Series: Creating Architecture in Space  |  Issue #1
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Image source thanks to Career Research

Take a moment before reading on — In this post, along with many others in the series, I will begin to explore how architects can create architecture in space. The topic is very broad, and there are already many possibilities for this, but what is needed to achieve life in other planets? These series will be a big help for architects and designers trying to figure this topic as well as for myself. I know my research will bring up some questions that I will not be able to answer, because like everyone in the world, we are still on our way to knowledge and what I post here will merely be a collection of thoughts not only from my own self, but with the help of others, so take these posts as learning methodologies for all of us designers to learn along together. I would love to answer/research questions and/or comments that you guys have as well. Let’s make these research series about learning as a community rather than posting up information that can already be found on the web. As always, I will try to give out credit to all the sources I mention, if I forget something, please do let me know.

How It All Started:

About 3 months ago I started getting into podcasts. My friend had recommended me some good ones that dealt with crime scenes and funny/interesting stories. I started looking over to the architecture and design podcasts to realize there was actually an infinite number of interesting shows every architect should listen to. I was mesmerized to find out that I had been missing such important source of information for most of my life.

I mean common, let’s accept it, the reality is that a lot of people do not even know what podcasts are. Sometimes, after getting really into them and even listening to them while designing at work, I would tell people I just heard the best architectural story ever! And without a doubt, my coworkers would laugh and look at me as if I was some kind of weirdo. Podcasts are great, especially if you are stuck in traffic and for people like me, who hate listening to the radio (yes, I have something against the music on the radio, they always play the same songs), and probably because I think of so many things as I commute that I don’t even end up listening to the radio at all!

Anyway, the podcast I found searching through the libraries is called 99% Invisible, for those of you who want to check it out – which you should. Roman Mars, who produces all these shows and hosts them, has some really interesting things to say. Going back to the story of how this obsession of mine started, I listened to an episode talking about architecture in Space. Episode 07, 99% Alien, is based on the idea that when it comes to designing space habitat modules, be it inside of a space station or on a planet, we as architects must first cover the basic needs of people. After listening to this podcast, my spirit grew. I mean, who knows what will happen in the future? Architects should be ready to move to different habitats and even more so now with extraterrestrial exploration, we should be aware of these types of advances and opportunities.

“We Will Never Travel to Space”

Space… It sounds like your typical architectural word, where you point to that one room at the corner in a scaled model or in real life and you remind everyone how important it is because this many people fit and you can use it for a bathroom or kitchen… This kind of Space we talk/dream about nowadays however, is scarier. If you think about all the space that there is in Space… Is it infinite? We only live in such a small part of Space that even thinking about our percentage of usage in this world might probably be about 0.000124% of 1GB used. Really, think about the advancements in space travel/technology there has been world-wide since you were a kid.

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Infographic showing history of space exploration. Source by Kenneth Dsouza.

Even if you believe that after reading all those advancements only in Space travel, then you must look at all the advancements happening daily. The world is changing, that’s for sure. Maybe to a more technological world, void of active communication, all thanks to the use of cellphones, but if those kinds of things have happened in 50 years, then a lot more can happen in the next 50 years.

Look at for example, advancements that the world never thought would see even since the 80s, such as the Internet. The World Wide Web is such an extensive type of Space that not even a hacker nor a FBI agent could figure out. There are hidden webs such as the “Deep Web” where servers do not include their IP addresses and the content is so controversial it cannot even be found through search engines. Whatever you put up online will forever be there. How? Who knows! But it is hidden in the room of Internet Space. Other stuff such as DNA testing and cloning. People can now bring back their old and diseased animals to life with some crazy technology and science, how is it done? Who knows! It just happens, and let’s have faith that so will the future of Space travel.

Effects of Space Travel on the Body:

Like any other habitat in the world, there are effects of the environment around us to the body. We cannot start designing something for a particular habitat without first knowing its relationship to individuals. There are so many horrors seen in movies and sci-fi of getting lost in space or losing a space suit, that some people do fear this idea.

There are also undesirable effects on the human body that play a role when one travels away from their own planet or solar system. We are so habitual and comfortable here and our body is used to all gases that occur on Earth.

Space exposure, is the subjection of a human to the conditions of outer space beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. NASA’s Human Research Program has been studying the dangerous of space travel for over a decade. They are coming up with different categories that the individual will feel: gravity fields, isolation/confinement, hostile/closed environments, space radiation, and distance from Earth. We will only talk about gravity fields, isolation/confinement and hostile/closed environments because they are the most close to architectural design solution solvers. Recently, Scott Kelly was the first American astronaut to spend a year in space, aboard the International Space Station. The funny thing is… Scott has a twin, Mark Kelly. They have both participated in a study of how spaceflight and time in outer space can affect the body. As one twin lived one year in space, the other twin stayed on Earth. NASA is still coming up with the results, but it has been noted that the twin who stayed in space lost a few centimeters in height/shortened.

--- All images below are taken from the NASA Research Program

blog_67Going back to the idea of feelings and experiences one must go through in outer space, let’s talk about gravity fields. The thought of being weightless is essential to know for an individual traveling to space. Adaptation to living in 1/3 of Earth’s gravity is no easy task because it affects not only orientation but coordination, locomotion and brings about motion sickness. The change of gravity on your body are also quite serious, your bones lose minerals, and the bone density drops at over 1% every month. Making individuals more prone to osteoporosis fractures later in life. Not exercising – which you wouldn’t really do if you just float – can make you lose muscle mass, strength and endurance and cause cardiovascular problems. Also, fluids in your body shift to your head causing vision problems.

How can this be solved?  All these problems can be changed with the help of fine motor skill testing, compression cuffs, and fitness self-evaluations. Practicing your functional task and motor skills can minimize the effects of space on balance and performance. Compression cuffs which are worn around your legs can make the distribution of the fluids better. And fitness self evaluations can make you more active in space.

blog_68Another category that designers must pay attention to when thinking about space travel and innovation, is the idea of isolation and closed environments. The idea of being crammed into a small space for a long time and the sensation of loneliness is inevitable. Even though you practice every day to effectively go six to a year without human contact, will not change your emotions and feelings.

How can this be solved? For isolation, as designers we need to create environments that are similar to the ones individuals create. A house for an astronaut will not make him/her feel less isolated but it can bring back memories of back home. Later on we will touch back on this, about how to have tables, walls, and even a bathroom when the gravity is different from Earth.

The Future of Space Travel

An interesting source I found while researching space exploration is Brent Sherwood. He is a “space” architect who has extensive published articles related to the human exploration and development of space, with along owning master degrees in aerospace engineering and architect. In his book Out of This World: The New Field of Space Architecture, he explains that…

“Two-week vacations in low earth orbit could be routine by mid-century. Like cruise ships, orbital resort hotels would course silently over the planet once every 90 minutes, through 18 sunrises and sunsets each day. Imagine the amenities: weightless staterooms with awesome views; gourmet meals of locally grown and globally imported food; zero-gravity swimming pools, discotheques, sports and performing arts; guided telescope tours of Earth; and space-walking excursions into the vacuum.”

In his book, he states that government agencies are growing and they want to make the most inversion possible. Meaning that as of now, the commercial orbital leisure travel market will grow fast, but these advancements mostly depend on government technologies. Technical challenges such as the ones explored in the last segment, limit human exploration to places such as asteroids, Mars’ moon, Mars itself and the sun. But out moon is the prize for now. He describes the moon as the “ultimate destination”, it is now the most distant surface we could reach by mid-century.

The investments might be a lot: advanced space propulsion, large vehicles, machinery and medical technologies. All these to survive only a couple of months – maybe a bit more than a year – off Earth and into Space. New forms of electricity must be made available; electricity that comes from the sky perhaps, rather than fossil fuels. Another world which can be used to resources.

On the Next Issue…

In my opinion, we are already categorized as the Martians. We were once so fearful of “aliens” and different technology, but nowadays we are the ones trying to make all those advancements happen. We live in a world of curiosity and striving to go to different worlds. Sometimes however, the ideas of others are not as pure for exploration as ours. Some people want to colonize different planets just for investments and monetary purposes. I believe that at some point or another, this type of problem will happen and the so-called “Tragedy of the Commons” might happen if we are not careful as to our intentions to explore unknown lands.

In the next issue we explore the recent technologies that can make space travel available. We will also talk about how we can make architecture on other planets, the materiality to be used and the man-power as well as the strengths and weaknesses of colonizing space.

Leave any comments/feedback on what you guys as readers and enthusiasts would like to read about on the next issue. Remember, this is an online community and I will pay attention to the wants of the people. Until next Saturday…

Posted by:archiologist

I am a Masters Architecture student at Florida International University with a passion for architectural research and learning precedent studies. My interests include hand sketching and writing.

2 replies on “RS: Creating Architecture in Space | Issue #1

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