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There Is No North Arrow in Outer Space
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Space architecture is already a bona fide specialty within THE PROFESSION. its lessons will infiltrate the mainstream, changing the way we DESIGN, build, AND … THINK

By Sara Hart


Use the following learning objectives to focus your study while reading this month’s ARCHITECTURAL RECORD / AIA Continuing Education article.

Learning Objective:
After reading this article, you will be able to:

1. Describe how research and innovations for outer space are currently being used in architecture.

2. Explain how sustainability and life cycle will be different for structures in outer space.

3. Identify types of construction suitable for structures in outer space.

Take away gravity, atmosphere, orientation, natural light, sound, and context, then add dangerous radiation, abrasive planetary dust, and orbital debris, and design and construction of habitable environments of any kind becomes baffling and disorienting. To be fair, living on the third rock from the sun requires that we obey the laws of physics, which govern, without exception, all the possibilities of sustaining life on Earth. Granted, since the Industrial Revolution technological advances have given us the mixed blessing of defying some of these laws. But it was the launch of Sputnik in 1957, and the fierce international competition it sparked, that inspired us to imagine living beyond the “surly bonds” of Earth and to apply our considerable ingenuity and will to make it inevitable.


Proposed TransHab Module as it would be attached to the orbiting International Space Station (ISS).

Progress has been astonishing in just a few decades, as evidenced this October at the World Space Congress 2002 (WSC) in Houston. The WSC convenes only once every 10 years, but it is vast, with 20,000 participants from scores of nations. Hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), one purpose of the nine-day Congress this year was to bring together scientists with engineers and architects to initiate collaboration for future Earth-based and interplanetary exploration.

The concept of an interdisciplinary approach to extraterrestrial design and construction prompted the AIAA Technical Subcommittee on Aerospace Architecture to organize the First Symposium on Space Architecture, a three-day event that preceded the WSC. Forty-seven architects, designers, and academics delivered dozens of papers covering a dizzying array of topics from the emerging aerospace curriculum for architecture students to the design of orbiting space hotels.

The symposium concluded with an all-day workshop in which participants, including students, conceived a philosophical foundation for the nascent field of space design and construction. Their product, dubbed “The Millennium Charter,” is a manifesto for space architecture. The workshop organizer, Constance Adams, space architect and human factors engineer at Lockheed Martin Space Operations, says that the group chose as its model the 1928 Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM), at which an international group of architects gathered to deflect criticism by certifying a bond between modern architecture—specifically the International Style—and a world in transition.

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