A Journey Through Space....and Architecture

Architecture after Earth

Image Credit: Kenny Levick

image Credit : Kenny Levick

Map of Ganymede - Jupiter's Moon http://knowmore.washingtonpost.com/2014/02/13/this-map-could-will-help-scientists-searching-for-water-on-ganymede/

Image of Europa - Jupiter's Moon http://planet.infowars.com/science/21st-century-renaissance-the-planetary-life-cycle

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University, Maas Digital LLC

However, there are other places that we do know the atmospheric and geological conditions.  Some of the most intriguing places to look at are Jupiter's moons Ganymede and Europa.  Ganymede is primarily an ice world with vast oceans underneath the icy crust.  Europa is speculated to be similar, but with water residing even closer to the surface.  With recent studies, scientist can pinpoint places to search for water, which would presumably be able to support some level of life, even if only at a biological level.  Recently there has been announcement for funding a trip to Europa, which would be a huge step in the solar system exploration.  

Image Credit: Kenny Levick

My primary contacts right now for my first hand research interviews are the following:

Dr. Avi Mandell NASA http://astrobiology.gsfc.nasa.gov/mandell/ - exoplanet research

Bryan Versteeg Mars One http://bryanversteeg.com/ - graphics and architecture

William McDonough Architect http://www.mcdonough.com/ - beneficial architecture

Brent Sherwood http://spacearchitect.org/ - space architecture

I have been eager to start updating my website again, and now that my thesis topic seems to be taking shape, I figured now would be a good time to share some of my recent discoveries with those who may be interested in the topic.  These first few weeks of research have been filled with uncertainty and vagueness; but  after making a few key contacts within the world of science and architecture, I finally feel confident in releasing my ideas in a clear, concise method of explanation.  There is little information regarding the issue that I am pursuing, I hope for this be an outlet to help others in the future as their minds may be searching for similar answers, to a very viable, and realistic problem.  My goal with this research has always been focused around 3 aspects:

1) I wanted to engage in something that I was interested in, but had no hands on experience with. Science.

2) I wanted to inquire something that is forward thinking and open for big ideas and concepts.  I want to explore a theoretical approach and attempt to quantify a practical application of that idea.

3) I wanted to continue to examine and test architectures capability of being a beneficial component for life, and all life, not just humans. 

So what is Architecture after Earth?  Well, to be honest there seem to be only a small group of people across the world who even conceptualize about that on any level theoretical or practical.  Sure it may be easy to picture something from a sci-fi movie, but that isn't really the direction I want to focus towards.  Imagine a world untouched by humans, consisting of only nature and animals.  What would the first building be and why would it be that way?

I am questioning what constitutes as architecture in the most purest of senses.  What is the essence of architecture, and why do we build what we build?  Would be out of pure function? Would we care over principles of the Gothic or Greek order?  The reality of the situation is, there are many variables that would constrain the design capabilities: atmospheric pressure, solar radiation, increased/decreased gravity, etc.  So the question takes on two directions: 1) What does architecture become from a theoretical aspect, and 2) How can it become more than just something that just a functioning machine?  I will talk about this more a bit later.

Obviously, my love of the subject did not just spring out of thin air.  For people who may read this who do not keep up with science or discovery, you may be in for a shock once you realize just how far science has expanded.  This journey started by focusing on something I had read an article on a while back, which focused on the discovery and search of "earth-like" planets in the galaxy.  And let me tell you, this is not science fiction by any stretch.  Exosolar planets, or "exo planets" are planets that orbit a star within other solar systems.  In 1994, there were zero known planets that we could observe.  When I started my research on the topic in January, there were then 745 documented exoplanets.  Today, there are over 1,300 recorded, and by the time you read this, maybe even more.  With the advancement of technology and specifically the Kepler telescope, we can observe more than ever about these distant worlds.  There are some targeted planets that reside within what scientist call the habitable zone, which would most likely be able to support life as we would know it.  Despite the amount of wonder and imagination this evokes, we must be realistic.  Although we can tell the general composition (Rocky, icy, water, gas) we still cannot determine atmospheric conditions on these exoplanets.  But, that should change in a few years when the James Webb Space Telescope is released.  

It is amazing to see the progression of scientific discovery and how it has accelerated in the 20 years since we observed the first exoplanet.   But it will be a few more years until we can really determine the living condition of these planets.  Not to mention these are very, very far away (30+ light years being the closest)

Yet, even these worlds are distant to us.  We have yet to actually send any type of machine or person onto these worlds.  But there is a place that we have explored, and are currently exploring with machines.  That place is Mars.

Mars has always been on the radar as far as human curiosity has been concerned.  Rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in 2003, but were only equipped with basic observational tools.  Appropriately enough, the Curiosity Rover was launched in August 2012, and has been doing science, gathering samples, taking video, capturing images, and trekking the martian terrain ever since.  Specifically, the rover is sampling geology looking for microbiological traces and recently determined from evidence that there was at one ancient water on Mar's surface and that more than likely Mars was once very similar to an earth like planet.  

Understanding Mar's is huge for humans, especially with the set launch for Mars One who is sending the first astronauts to Mars in 2024.  What will they live in?  What are the design constraints? Will people building things once they are there?  How will the radiation effect them?  How will the radiation effect the materials?  There are a lot of questions that may have already been considered.  I will be speaking with some members of the Mars One team to delve into some of these questions to get a better idea of the extent of the design constraints.

So where do I go from here, and where does architecture come in?  Well, since I am not a scientist, I really have no business doing any type of actual research.  But I need to have a thorough understanding of the science of which ever world I decide to investigate, as well as an understanding of the limitations and realities of space travel and engineering.  I need to have an above average understanding of the science in order to communicate with the people who are actually doing work within that specific part of the field.  

As my research leads me towards an actual site for design, I will continue to assume that there are many places to consider for colonizing.  It is a balance of pushing the boundaries of design challenges, but keeping it relevant regarding the feasibility of people being able to access these distant worlds.  Not only will this be a challenge of designing something that has to work, but it has to be able to provide for the inhabitant.  There will need to be food on these places, oxygen, water, etc.  Once the fundamental necessities are considered, it starts to create design constrictions.  Architecture should be designed to function, architecture can be beautiful, but architecture must always be beneficial.

William McDonough was particularly intriguing when looking at architecture, because he is really a visionary within the field.  He has a fair understanding of chemistry as well as biology and how they can be applied to architecture.  I feel that his values are rooted in beneficial approaches which really makes his concepts applicable within the realm of planetary design.

Wherever my design approach heads, it is sure to be illuminating and instructive.  Hopefully you can tag along with me on my journey to discovering... what is architecture after earth?