There have been hundreds of concepts for what buildings in space will look like one day. This assumes, of course, that humanity gets that far. Designing buildings for Earth already provide any number of hurdles to be overcome by architects. However, one university is trying to prepare its students to build for an out-of-this-world space — Mars.
The University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada offers its masters students credit to make Mars stations a reality. The Mars Studio project forces aspiring architects to consider the needs of researchers during their future stay on Mars. It’s part of the larger Faculty of Environmental Design subset offered by the University of Calgary.
[Image Source: NASA]
“Students have been working on two projects in the studio over the past three months,” course instructor Jessie Andjelic said, “firstly to design a temporary settlement for up to six people for the year 2030 and secondly to design a settlement for up to 100 people for 2050. In preparation for that, we spent time considering what the opportunities on Mars might be; why would we go there and what the environmental considerations would be to establish life there.”
As strange as it might sound, these students will certainly have a market for their ideas. NASA wants to introduce a Mars station before 2033. SpaceX plans on getting people to the Red Planet. Even the United Arab Emirates announced a plan to put scientists on Mars by 2117. To provide a better understanding of what these astronauts need, the course invites guest lecturers from NASA officials. One of those guest lecturers is Robert Thirsk. Thirsk holds the Canadian record for longest space flight.
“We’re already starting to consider what is the next human space flight endeavor beyond the international space station and it will likely be the moon,” Thirsk said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a Moon habitat 10 years from now which would be a stepping stone to Mars, which is widely recognized as the ultimate destination.”
“There are two planets in our solar system which have the potential to sustain life, one is earth and the other is Mars,” he noted. “I would envision a habitat on Mars 20 years from now.”
The promise is just as exciting for students, as they could be the ones whose designs grace Mars’s surface. Cody Kupper is a Master of Architecture candidate who took the Mars Studio project.
“It challenges us to design in an environment which is completely foreign to us, forcing us to consider different environmental, social, and cultural limitations than we are used to,” he said.
“The project uses a cultural and social lens instead of the typical technological lens that exists when looking at space travel. The idea of looking at how a colony on Mars would operate culturally and socially intrigued me.”
Instructor Andjelic said the students are technically free from “earthly constraints.” However, it didn’t necessarily make the course easier.
“It’s not that there’s no rules, there’s different rules and we’re still learning what those rules are,” she said. “Because the processes are different; the process of accessing air and water, gravity, the construction process which would likely be using drones or automated robots or 3-D printing, that means the buildings will look very different.”