New Breed of Architects Specializes in Off-Planet Living
Burbank, CA (April 30, 2007) Candy Feuer has developed a new design for a greenhouse on Mars. Her fellow students are working on lunar outposts and space exploration transfer vehicles as well designs for other structures that would be habitable on the Martian surface.
While most of their counterparts specialize in houses, apartments and skyscrapers, these students deal only with the most extreme environments. And they attend the only institution in the world that offers a Masters Degree in Space Architecture.
In a special documentary released today on its website, The Futures Channel takes viewers inside the design labs of the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA), part of the University of Houston’s School of Architecture.
SICSA was founded by space architecture pioneer Larry Bell in 1987. Professor Bell and his team of students tackle a variety of designs for structures suitable for the extreme environments of space. “We work on different projects every year. It’s very hands on,” said Bell. “They run the gamut from launch vehicles to launch sites to orbital habitats.”
Candy Feuer is a fifth year architecture student heading into the Masters program. In the movie, she shows her design for a unique hydroponic garden that can be transported in a spacecraft for the six-month voyage to Mars. Her greenhouse design required her to extend her studies over a wide span.
“There’s just so many parts involved. Allocating space is one of the most important factors as an architect, but in order to allocate space, you have to understand so many different fields,” Feuer explained. “I had to research biology to understand the plant growth structure. I had to research engineering and how these things hook up together and the life support systems and the gases that are needed for breathing and that’s definitely a challenge. There’s a lot you have to know.”
In the movie, Feuer is joined by fellow space architect Christopher Loyd. He says that the rules of traditional architecture don’t always apply. “In microgravity, when you can float around, everything can become a floor or a wall or a ceiling,” he explained.
The students at SICSA are not the only ones working on developing architecture for space. The documentary also takes viewers behind the nearby Johnson Space Center where NASA space architects are testing several possible models of the lunar outpost. “We design, we test, we build, evaluate, and we learn from that,” said NASA Space Architect Kriss Kennedy. “We’re a very dedicated group of people that want to ensure the safety of the crew members but also to explore and provide the concepts of design to help them explore.”
It’s possible Candy Feuer and Chris Lloyd could end up working at a NASA facility. Kriss Kennedy studied at SICSA and was one of Larry Bell’s students.
“Tomorrow we present our work at NASA,” Feuer says, “so that’s exciting. But I’m a little nervous.”