Thesis Reflection

Space X dragon, docking the ISS

Space X dragon, docking the ISS

International Space Station

International Space Station

Primitive huts

Primitive huts

We live in exciting times.  We are in the second space age, where access to our solar system is becoming an every day phenomenon.  The MAVEN mission just recently launched an instrument that orbits Mars, measuring atmospheric conditions and other weather patterns. Space X dragon just docked at the International Space Station, unloading cargo and a 3D printer, which has huge implication for the future of designing in space.  The New Horizon Mission, which launched in 2006 will finally be reaching Pluto next July, while Voyager 1 and 2 are still moving further out past our solar system's edge. 

All of these missions are part of a larger, human journey.  One that seeks to understand our origins, attempts to construct an understanding of our cosmic identity, and examines the inter-connectivity of everything we see.  This is a journey that we began over 50 years ago, when we first stepped off of our planet.

As humans, we all have an inherent need to ask questions, to wonder.  Even as children, we perform our own experiments.  Each time we touched jumped off of the swings, we were testing gravity's effects on us.  And just as we have an inherent need to explore, we have a natural need to design.  In Ann Cline's, "A Hut of One's Own", she compares how children build forts, club houses, tents, and other structures as "primitive huts" as a form of mimicry of the architectural process.  "Like designers, they obsess over the details that seem meaningless to others." 

I believe that humans have an inherent desire design, create, and build, just as we have the need to explore and to discover new things.  As we explore more of these worlds, it is inevitable that humans will be following.  The time to question whether or not there will be architecture in space, or if it is possible is over. 

The question now is where do we go? when do we leave? and how do we do it?

Thesis Paper

My Process began very broad, looking at exoplanets.  It took me a while to focus on what I was actually trying to accomplish.  Ultimately, the goal is to colonize outside of our earth, and this poses huge questions about both space travel, and architecture.  I am approaching this through an architectural lens.  First, I had to try and understand the built environment in space.  There have been many space stations throughout history: Skylab, MIR, Tiangong, and the International Space Station.  Although China's Tiangong 1 is newer, The ISS offered more resources, mission logs, and data regarding research.

The argument I am constructing involves two larger concepts.  The idea of the machine, and the human dimension.  I want to define clearly what I mean.  So let's take a look at something:

In part 2 of "Out of This World - the New Field of Space Architecture", Brent Sherwood compares the orbital space architect's challenge to that of a submarine designer: to ensure survivability, efficiency, and habitability in a lethal environment.  Thom Mayne examines architecture, as he criticizes the Osaka Follies for their sculptural qualities, “To me the essence of architecture is to be found in its connection with daily life."

There is a reason these images do not look like places in which we can envision living life.  We cannot picture carrying out our daily life in a place like this.  The reality is, that some people have to live in places like this, and for periods of long time.  Up until this point in time, space design has been a "machine".  A logical, functioning, rational piece of machinery that provides the minimal amount of need for the occupant.  But, architecture is for people, it must be capable of being more than just a machine.  Even as attention turns to designing places for humans to live in outer space, architects are not the first professionals called to help.  I believe that as designers, architects can offer a beneficial perspective when designing in space.

Thesis question: What can Architects contribute when designing for extreme conditions, and how can they infuse the human dimension into the process of design for these rigid constraints?

It was clear through my research, that the machine and the human dimension were battling it out, over which one held precedent regarding space design.  Let's take a look at the machine, by examining a brief period in history.  The early 20's and 30's were a very exciting time for both science and architecture. The Vienna Circle was formed as a collective group of scientists who purged the idea of metaphysics in science.  Concurrently, the Bauhaus was the birth of architectural modernism, which was loss of detail and ornament in architecture.  This led to a reductive, minimalist, pure, logical, architecture, or as I like to think of it, a scientific conception of architecture.

Martin Pawley discusses the relationship between science and architecture in his book, “Theory and design in the second machine age.” Pawley examines the progression of both. “Unlike Science, which grows by the accumulation and cross-fertilization of a stochastic pattern of new discoveries, architecture comes out of actions and beliefs that have grown out of previous actions and beliefs.  Pawley identified the conflict between the two, especially the threat of infusing design by means of painstaking accumulation of factual data; the artistic identity is lost.  Pawley states, "Before they died, the mutineers [early modernist] came to realize that their art was at the mercy of the machine, and not the other way around.”

Ann Cline addresses primitive hut and examines the essence of architecture.  She relates architecture to humans need of ritualistic tasks.  The primitive hut is a deconstructive process, the same as tents, forts, etc.  She words it quite poetical, “Only in a hut of one’s own can a person follow his or her own desires”, Ann Cline states in the final chapter of her book, “here in a hut of one’s own, a person may find one’s very own self, the source of humanity’s song."  Architecture formed around the relationship of the human and its needs.  Until space architecture can embrace that pure and simple philosophy we will continue to have people living in machines.

 I jokingly say, well if we could just design space huts, we would be fine.  But really, it's almost that simple.  

Thesis Statement: Designing for new worlds will require the embracing of both the machine and the human condition.   If we are to achieve a genuine architecture in space, we must synthesize the two into a more complete, and rich approach to beneficial design.

Reflection and Analysis

I took a look back at all of my research, and all of the issues both architecturally and psychologically.  I came to the conclusion that the machine and the human dimension needed to be in balance with one another.  The idea of a space hut, couldn't work alone, because it couldn't protect from the vicious conditions that would be faced in space.  And the machine couldn't do it alone, because then the human dimension is sacrificed for pure function.  

Thesis Statement: Designing for new worlds will require the embracing of both the machine and the human condition.   If we are to achieve a genuine architecture in space, we must synthesize the two into a more complete, and rich approach to beneficial design.