Oct 102014
 

I have been fortunate to have some images that I created for the Maribor: 100 Year City project, Venice Architecture Biennale 2012, used in a fantastic article written by Rene Van Meeuwen for KERB 22.

KERB is landscape architecture journal produced by the RMIT University School of Architecture and Design. You can find a copy here;

http://www.melbournebooks.com.au/kerb22.html

kerb-22

 October 10, 2014
Oct 102014
 

This small article is a review that was published in the CLOG: Unpublished edition last year.

 

A Distant Architecture

Admission to the International Space Station (ISS) is by way of capability; capability to get there and capability to remain there. This is no Laugier’s hut. Only 208 people have visited the ISS. Such is the exclusivity of experiencing architecture in space. The implication is in its nomenclature; that this is a station does more than hint at its military origins, suggesting an extremely practical employment. This is the property of a consortium of institutions. It was not named the International Space City; or the International Space Platform. God forbid that people might just turn up on its doorstep; or would it be hatch?

Or it may be the escalating cost that is prohibitive to a space architecture boom. The ISS is the twelfth in a short list of thirteen habitable space stations. Of the space stations that were never realized, exponentially mushrooming cost was the primary factor in aborting the projects. By the time that the ISS is decommissioned and doomed to a fiery grave upon re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, it will have cost a rumored US$200 billion. This makes it the most expensive piece of manmade architecture ever constructed, far surpassing the Marina Bay Sands’ measly $5.5 billion in comparison. This cost does however include the US$1.4 billion transfer from Earth.[1]

The ISS is 72.8m long and 108.5m wide. Its width consists primarily of the mega-truss, the principal structure that ties the majority of the solar array units to the station. The habitable modules are attached perpendicularly from the centre of the mega-truss, along with the remainder of the solar array units. It serves as both a laboratory and as an observatory, with only the most necessary of additional programs. It is a simple, yet extremely high-tech architecture. Viewed from the right angle the ISS resembles an abstract, robot-like dragonfly, its not-quite-static solar array wings catching the sun’s light as it orbits the Earth at 27,800kmph.

The assembly of the ISS is the largest and most complex space architecture ever undertaken. From the initial module placed in orbit in 1998 to the final robotic arm in late 2013, it will have taken over 1000 hours of spacewalks to assemble. Its construction required the production of two 1:1 replicas to allow for the training necessary to complete the assembly in space; one underwater for simulated spacewalk training, and one ground to test the internal systems.

The ISS is an amalgamation of past international architectural good will. It is a curious and unequal blend of American modernist aesthetic, from its pure white surfaces and black Helvetica typeface; Russian Constructivism with gravity-defying trussed structure and bold, angled construction; and a dash of Europe’s Archigram inspired techno-utopian aesthetic in the form of ‘plugged-in’ technology including solar array systems, and articulated robotic arms. And while it is its very creation and of course its dramatic location that allows for its deserved inclusion within the canon of architecture, it does possess the most desirable view from a window ever constructed by man.

1. Claude Lafleur, “Costs of US piloted programs”. The Space Review. {2010} : accessed 15 May 2013, http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1579/1.

 

image 1 - the International Space Station

image 1 – the International Space Station (2011), NASA, “no copyright”

 

 

image 2 - the cupola

 

 image 2 – a view from the cupola, aboard the International Space Station (201), NASA, “no copyright”
 October 10, 2014
Oct 102014
 

The following text was intended to accompany the drawings that were published in the CLOG: SCI-FI issue from 2012. The drawings obviously spoke for themselves…

 

The 100 Year Starship.

What started out as an exercise in the fiscal stability needed to support such a venture, strangely enough materialised. Nobody, not even those that instigated the project could have imagined that it would actually be built. Even the dreamers.

And so, over the course of a hundred years (give or take) a starship was constructed in a high earth orbit, keeping it beyond the ever expanding belt of debris, but also as was widely acknowledged at the time, beyond threat.

First world nations, supported by their largest multi-national corporations, mined the Moon successfully creating 3d printed silicate structures and panels. This technology combined with the use of abandoned space stations to form a skeletal structure, ensured the slow but steady construction of what resembled a city, taking shape in space.  Gigantic, extruded, square profiled sectors grew from a central mega-truss, the birth just within eyeshot on a cold, clear night.

The starship was sent out from its orbit to slingshot through the gravities of other moons as it made its way to uncover possible second homes. It mined as it circled these celestial bodies, supplying a new religion of architected construction that provided some form of occupation for those generations forging an existence aboard. 3d printing machines became churches, to a background of air-conditioning hum, unpredictable mechanical clanging, and revolutions…

The heliosheaths of many suns and stars have been passed through by the one hundred year starship. The solar sail that once caught solar winds from within the Milky Way has been tossed and turned so that it now resembles swaddling, wrapped over the platonic form.

It appears motionless in a distant galaxy. A traveller from an antique land. A colossal wreck, boundless and bare. Intact for the most part, there are moments when life once struggled to escape it’s greebled carcass. No passengers are left now. They are all long since departed. The last one died thousands of years ago. The last of his species.

A reliquary of progress, it has outlasted its creators. Technology has triumphed over man. It has left him for dead. It is now utopia incarnate. At least for another five hundred thousand years or so. Its course will be interupted by the supernova of an aging star. The starship will travel directly towards the gravitational collapse and be intercepted by the star’s expelled material at a combined velocity of sixty thousand kilometres per second.

A product of the Enlightenment, it will end in a burst of radiation that will outshine stars.

starship construction

internal fit-out

starship death

 October 10, 2014