We have probably mocked some writers, artists, architects that was a bit utopist, or maybe would we want to call “dreamers”. However, in 1969, the first men went to the moon: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin. Afterward, there was a lot of project of science-fiction that came out from people minds. Did you remember of the Martian or even The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley? It was not only a fiction, it was also a possibility for the future.
Recently, a lot of Mars Analog Missions happened around the world. Flashline Mars, MDRS, Mars 500 for a trip of 520 days to Mars and to return from it, HI-SEAS was a mission in collaboration between the University of Hawaii and the NASA. Finally, a lot of challenges to build another habitat on Mars was made by the NASA, and a lot of architecture studios has responded to the challenges. There is many other Mars Analog mission, like one week ago, a simulation (HERA) done by the NASA and that will end one year later.
European Space Agency work together with Foster+Partners to build a lunar base in 2020. Of course, with new technologies for rockets made by Space X, we could possibly afford to go to Mars. BIG, an architectural firm, also work with Elon Musk to build the future of a space habitat on Mars by making test domes on Earth (just go and see the World Summit 2018). Every Mars Analog mission needs to take care of a lot of criteria. These criteria are needed to be used to build a functional and habitable environment. Marc Cohen has listed some criteria in this table below, and there are still a lot more. In fact, it is really complex and hard to make an environment on Mars or on another planet since the criteria will change radically.
What is really interesting in this kind of project is that there are a lot of criteria to take care in the design, and the human is also an important part of the design: how do I live on some place, how can I interract with people, how can I be close or far from someone? Etc. There is a lot of question concerning human design. Psychology is a great part of it, and of course, the physical impact due to gravity and impacting your mind too. So, if you want to build for human, you need to solve a long list of issues. And it is not possible to solve it in one year with only one student like me. The great deal is to be able to improve state of mind with architecture. But it is really complicated to understand the psychology of confinement if you don’t experiment something similar. So, I’ve tried to confined myself for one month. The result wasn’t really scientific, but I had the opportunity to have a disscussion with Tristan Bassingthwaigthe, one of crewmember of HI-SEAS IV and architect.
So, how can we improve the hab?
In fact, Mars and the Habitat are two extreme scales: Mars is really vast compared to a confined habitat. What human need, is a possibility to go through the interior to the exterior by transition. Architecture can play a great part on making different sizes scaling to adapt the spatial perception of each individual to the vastness of Mars.
A great part of the lighting inside tlhe hab is artificial, and it is not a great point. In fact, if you are able to let natural light enter the hab, it would be beneficial to human for his circadian rhythm. In fact, the quality of light in Mars is really dimmed, so it would be a complementary point with the artificial light. It also means that the lack of natural light is due to a lack of transparency to the outside. View to the outer environment is really important to improve your space, especially in a confined space. Imagine for one second to be trap in a rock with opacity, and a translucent material rock; the second one would be more interesting if you can see light and what happened outside.
This lack of interraction between environment and human leads to an “sensibility” issue. Touch, smell, view, hear, everything need to be overstimulated. In fact, when astronauts come back from a mission, they can sense better their environment after all this confined time.
Promiscuity can also play a big part to the design because intimacy is important to make a personal space. This personnal space can then be able to give a sense of “home” to the crewmember. So it is necessary to build habitat with distances.
Finally, but not least, Mars gravity is a third compared to Earth and it means 1/3 effort to go up. However, it also means you will lose muscular mass and bones density; so it means you need to build higher to be able to inject the 1/3 lacking effort… And that also means to change dimension standard for stairs and all technical/ergonomy stuff.
I want you to make an exercice for me: just imagine an forest, where you can leave in the trunk of the trees. These trees are built on hills and outside, a disk where you can grow what you need to live. To connect the two areas, bridges and archways create a between space where you can enter down the hills and down the disk. Down the disk, the airlock to get outside to the vastness and inexplored space of Mars. What I had presented you is the project [Canopy],
The idea is to be able to create a place to live and an environment where you could possibly have food for the crewmembers. Biophilic architecture is used to make a relationship between people and the environment, in that way, you can make a place where you will feel “safe” and inside an ecosystem. The trees are the place where you can live.
When you enter to these habitat, a transition place, neither interior nor exterior is presented to you. It is a between place where you can feel the vertical structure to get you upstair, where you can sleep and rest.
Two bedroom for two persons each, but you can subdivide the room into small space or extend the mezzanine, where lied the bed, to separate space for each person. This bedroom is open to the outside, but with materials gathered by rocket, you can use them to build your own room depending on what kind of level of intimacy you need or want.
Between the two bedrooms, the technical area with the vertical circulation. You can access to the second floor from there: the living area with the living room, kitchen, dining room, sport area. It is a place where you can gather and share your story, a social place with panoramic view to the outside.
At the top, the largest level where you can grow what you need to live. From that point, you can observe the surrounding space, and getting a greater perspective to the other trees. You are basically experimenting the life in a tree house.
But remember the hills ? Yeah that ones. What happens inside of them?Well, the idea is to builld a polyvalent place where you can have some labs, workspace, habitat extension. These spaces remind the large dune of Mars, the beautiful curves and their light reflexion give sensibility to the overall volume.
When you are outside, a “between” place where you can walk down the bridges, making shadows dancing on the floor. This place is needed for mobility and circulation, somewhere people can walk, run, in circle and to be able to meet and talk in motion.
Finally, the “Discworld” is an agriculture area with ECLSS (Environmental Control And Life Support System) that could manage the waste and water, it can be a place to stock food or materials. Of course, four airlocks gives access to the outside, and could be the linking module to other domes.
Outside, you can see the overall view of the dome. It is built with 3D printed regolith made by rover that you can send to Mars in advance to print the dome before the explorers can settle down their arriving. The outside shell is made by Ice between ETFE and inside coated with aerogel. The pressure from the inside can then maintain the ice inside the cavities and make a reliable protective transparent layer.
So, the project can be settled to 45 different places in Mars, but it is difficult to make a good habitat to each specific habitat at a time. The idea is to be able to make an adaptive place that can change its ambiant light depending on these 45 potential manned mission area. Depending on the lattitude-longitude coordinates of all these places, the solar angle will be different and so will be the sun diagram. The idea is to make a parametric model to get the right solar angle depending on the different places. That way, the sun diagram used on Mars could be “hacked” for architectural purpose.
Of course, the shadow projected will be different depending on these different places, so it means the structure needs to be adaptive too. So the trees can change of place on a grid depending on their shadows. If you want to focus the light on a particular point of the grid, it can be possible by using the parametric model. That way, you can also be able to generate different height for the trees: bigger trees need more light and will have wider meshes to be able to let the lighting going through it and light the smaller trees.
The parametric code is a bit too large but here it is. Behind the settings, the genetic code.
I want to conclude this big article to say that architects can have their word and not by imposing their own ideas. They can work together with scientists, artists, writers, and other field to make a better place in this world and somewhere else. The real goal is to be able to work together on a common project that can be exported to another world and to be able to pass the ideas through the next generation. In reality, I wanted to tell you that French, English, Japanese, Russian, Afghanistan, or whatever, it doesn’t matter. The real deal is to be able to work together to improve our technology and walk forward with all the humanity. In fact, it is the real mission of our generation.