When I was writing the thesis portion of this, it informed me of several issues that I felt architecture could address in regards to space, and how best to improve the human condition. At first I felt that the study and research suggested new ways to think about living in a space station, however, what I came to realize was that it was really dealing with the fourth dimension; time. Ultimately when we propose things to happen in space, time is an important part of the consideration. What I found was that really I was addressing both living in space stations, or space labs, but also I was trying to rethink space travel. Well, maybe not rethink it, but conceptualize it through an architectural lens.
When considering traveling to Ceres, space travel time would be upwards into the 2-3 year range. This is a really long time even with conventional rocket standards and space travel capabilities. However by the time we actually would go to Ceres, there would more than likely already be a Moon base, or Mars base that would actually act as a way point in between travel time. Regardless, my job is to do one thing. Improve the experience of being in space long periods of time. Even now, scientist, engineers, and astronauts spend months-years aboard the international space station. What can we do to improve the living conditions of such things, especially when we need to travel further and further out into the solar system?
My research exposed a main problem with space travel and living in space that are more in relation to psychology, but ultimately boil down to a fundamental need, which is volume. If this capsule is to carry 8-12 passengers something will need to be re-thought; even conventional capsules like the SpaceX Dragon offer the interior volume equivalent of an SUV. And the dragon is top of the line. But, as my paper identifies: hell is people. It actually isn't the volume that makes us uncomfortable, it is the constant surrounding of our peers for a long period of time. I believe that increasing volume is one way to approach this, and I think it is fundamental to improve conditions, but not just because of volume in itself. Architecturally, more volume allows for more flexibility. Public/private/shared,etc.
So, I began to think about what it was we need first and foremost. It wasn't worrying with the bathrooms, air supply, or even functioning spaces. To improve the human experience, I need to increase volume. Everything else that needs design must be secondary. However this doesn't come without considering the implications of launching from earth orbit. The more mass we launch, the more fuel and resources we need to burn to get it out of our atmosphere. Making the capsule bigger is surely an option, however a very inefficient and wasteful one at that. No, I want to rethink this a bit. Why not consider lightweight expandable materials and geometry as a means of expanding once we reach orbit. I think increasing mass if fine, as long as the benefits are worth it. For instance, if we increase mass by 10% and only get 10% more volume, well, I am not sure that will cut it. But it we can increase mass by 10% and volume by at least 50%, we may be on to something.
I started by splitting the mass, looking at purely a volumetric cross section and how it may be able to unpack. Keep in mind, at this point I still am not concerned with materials or how it will work, I am only investigation ways it might be able to work. Even from these first mutations, I already see potential for expandable capabilities.
Second, I looked at how the core might retain itself, and perhaps the edges become structure for a more exterior volume. The mass unpacking really only allowed for a moderate amount of space to be created in the middle. I think that using the core as a stationary element actually provides this capsule with a solid structural component. Overall I think this evolution may provide the most feasible direction moving forward.
The longitudinal expansion is something that is interesting to think about as well. Imagine couplings that could unscrew to allow an inner chamber to be exposed. I also think that this will require some type of parachute packing technique, to where inflatable fabric could be packed and when the cores expand, it would be able to snuggle compress around a light weight composite structure.
I guess after this first little mutative phase I learned some things. One, it is very challenging to increase volume out of thin air. Two, it is difficult to consider that this will be a multi-phased capsule: It will launch, it will travel through space, and it will land. All of which require the crew to either be in a launch or landing position, or unpacked in zero gravity where they can float about as this ship is traveling 18,000 mph. I need to keep in mind that my job, and my responsibility is to improve the human condition in space. I am convinced that space travel is something that everyone should be able to do, easily, affordable, and with no training. Space travel should not appear to be some devastating, tortuous, task. At the same time, class-1 architecture cannot be inefficient because we still have to launch it.
Moving forward I am going to look at complex geometric packing. Perhaps rhombic tricontrahedrons or other multidimensional solids as ways to efficiently pack volumes that may be useful in space. Also, I am going to look more into inflatable construction as it seems that I will be relying on this as a solution regardless. Inspirations from the real world may involve how nature expands and contracts things, maybe flowers, cocoons, etc.
I will also be introducing more programmatic elements and technological requirements such as, but not limited to: crew quarters, cab and controls, restroom, sleeping, eating, exercise, pressurized cargo, food and storage, cryogenics/hibernation, etc.
It has been quite a journey to this point, but I really feel that I have just scratched the surface. The process is proving to allow me to consider a lot of possibilities, it seems that every time I put pen to paper, or in this case pen to digital tablet, my brain ignites with possibilities. For the sake of setting some guidelines, I am creating what I will refer to as guard rails. These are risk levels of design: Low, Medium, and High. Low Risk really entails a current level of technology and level of capabilities. It is low risk because the % of change if very small. Likewise, it doesn't offer any benefit for projecting towards the future. Medium/High risks concepts begin to push the % of change a bit higher. Although more beneficial for the human, also more difficult so sell such wild ideas. I think that this stage is important to think about because, often, architecturally, we get stuck in this world of comparing things only to the past and only to the current. Without projecting medium to high risk designs, it is difficult to improve or visualize the future.
This new idea is really just an evolution of the telescoping and core expanding concept. I just combined the two into a new idea that I am referring to as hinging and unpacking. Still not quantified, this begins to convey the idea of expansion that may happen in planes, or tensile ribbed structures.
The idea is that this would be a mutli-launch process, something else I have been considering rather than one single launch from Earth to Ceres. This would launch the module into lower Earth orbit, where it would unpack. The second launch would send a crew module that would dock and launch from there. It's not actually crucial to the design, but just something to keep in mind when considering launching.
This is medium risk. It's two launches, and a vast increase in volume. It also provides a few options for orientation and privacy. Each person would have their own golden rhomb that they could arrange however they wanted. The common area provides direction and the option for interaction and activities: eating, exercising, playing, etc. The expandable cockpit would provide a new interface to lead the long mission from there.
Moving forward, I am going to consider the high risk design, as a new concept. Concurrently, I will iterate a few more expandable iterations with more consideration to structural unpacking/ hinging. I think it can work, it just will take some tinkering to figure out. Well worth the experimenting If I can prove something may have merit. Ultimately, my goal is to eliminate bad ideas and there is only one way of going about that. That is producing a lot of things to think about and consider. By the time I exhaust my visual library, the transition into stage 2 should be relatively seamless considering that I have thought trough things well from the start. It really is just a matter of tinkering, time, and limits of my own creation.
I had to really backtrack from where I was heading in the previous development. I was really jumping the gun a bit, and I let the architectural process rush my own personal process. What I did decide to do was make a clear outline of my parameters that I would be working within, that is a non-negotiable for the purpose of this thesis. In the real world it would always be negotiable, however, I have got to keep on pace to get this thing complete.
The graphic on the left breaks it down pretty clear, but I will try and simplify it even more for the sake of clarity:
1) We launch the hab module into orbit, there it floats around the earth.
2) After a period of time, the hab module is either assembled, or unpacks. Creating a large amount of livable volume compared to that of when it was launched.
3) Humans are launched in crew module, destined to rendezvous with hab module.
4) The entire assembly is launched from Earth orbit and begins its trip to Ceres.
I think also by this time, there may be some type of Mars base that in a sense you would just have a layover. Humans go there, then launch to Ceres. Breaking up the trip into 9 months, then a stop, then another 9 to Ceres. It is obviously much more complicated then that, but for the sake of the project, this is what I am operating under.
Obviously it has to land, and that is a mission in itself, I will get into this later on. The main point is that this thing needs to be reusable. One of the great issues with space travel/design, is re-usability. Why design a Hab module that works in deep space, and then just sits there once you arrive. My new direction will focus on the hab module being able to be a functioning structure once it arrives. The challenge of course is that deep space is much different than the elements you will experience on Ceres. It almost needs dual functioning abilities.
Once thing to remember is that all of the previous work is still applicable. Once concept art is created, it's there to be used or re-visited if the application calls for it. It is all part of the larger aspect of this process. My main goal though from here on out is to work both within this constraint of dual function, but also the human experience. This will be focused around anthropomorphic analysis and considering the adaptability of the spaces.
We started in class the other day with some really quick drawings to start exploring larger concepts of ideas. As this may have been a change up from most people's processes, this was very natural to me. However, I did not prepare anything from previous work. I wanted to start fresh. I also wanted to generate some more natural, fresh ideas.
One of things that concept artist talk about is getting stuck in drawing the same things. As artists, we all have our own distinct style and it is easy to develop the same language throughout these design challenges. The method I tried this time was similar to how I carved the space suits out of the complexity that was generated randomly. The point once again is to get things that I probably wouldn't have drawn on my own.
My professor called these Rorschach test images, which are psychological means of examining someone's subconscious activity. I prefer to think of it as "clouds". We can all look at clouds and see different things. I chose to approach this architecturally by looking at these "clouds" from different human scales. One could be a plan, wall section, site plan, perspective....it doesn't matter. What matters is what I can extract from that.
The first little progression was interesting. I grabbed the drawing on the far left and re-oriented it vertically. I had made the shape in Alchemy in about 4 seconds buy just using 4 way symmetry and some random brush strokes. I immediately saw the result had some potential in section. The 3rd drawing in was a trace over that I did, carving and manipulating what was underneath to function at the scale I was working. 4th drawing was a more thought out and cleaned up version, and the last began to consider how things might pack and unpack. I even am considering views and light as things that will be necessary for mainly the Ceres station, but also a bit of deep space travel. This little 5 minute drawing had seeded some larger ideas that I can now work with in 3 dimensions.
The perspective drawing was a 15 minute sketch I did. This is where I began to look at how things might work tectonically. I considered how the thing may unfold and how it might bolt and attach.
This process is turning out to be a very illuminating one. Just when I think I have something figured something out, another idea sparks a new way to look at things. Last progression was really about unifying this thing into one large unit. But now I am really looking at this in a group of 4 parts: Mobile Research Lab, Hab modules (units), main Hab Module (Community), and lastly the infrastructure pods.
The new challenge is sharing programmatic elements, and also considering mutli-use functions for both orbit, and planetary conditions. I also decided to begin focusing more on the human condition as far as spacial needs. You may notice that my language is changing from a more rigid and mechanical feel to that of a more organic and free flowing nature. This is because some of the feedback I have been getting suggested that in low gravity situations, humans would likely be "bouncing" around a bit. So sharp and jagged edges could be potentially problematic.
So I began to graphically dissect the human and how they experience every day activities. Laying down-sleeping, relaxing.....Standing-bending over- doing activities- stretching....and sitting-relaxing-researching-working. Really all I am thinking about is beginning to determine the human boundaries of the human's motion range.
What makes this a bit different is how I began to think about this from a multi-gravitational aspect. Once I identified a geometric limit, I would flip it upside down and sideways and see how this geometry may be experienced in different ways. In Earth architecture, we never have to consider this. However I have to consider this space in zero gravity, as well as micro-gravity of Ceres.
This is a challenge of space architecture, and a constraint that I think adds to the complexity of the project. These are not static conditions like we are used to designing for. Ultimately though, I have to keep in mind that the deep space flight is only temporary (2 years max). I have to consider these spaces as primarily functioning for Ceres terrain, as this is the benefit of re-usabilty of space technologies for the future.
It is important to consider these basic movements not necessarily from a quantifiable point of view, but more intrinsic to how we function as humans. From that, I can derive actual dimensions from them.
Iteration - 1
This was my first idea of creating an open type layout. This would be a versatile, multi-functioning space. This egg-like space would be a place to sleep, to dwell, to have private time