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The Real Deal Behind the Dangling “Asteroid Skyscraper” Proposal

09:10 - 30 March, 2017
© Clouds AO
© Clouds AO

There’s a decent chance that in the last few days, you’ve seen images of Analemma, the futuristic proposal from Clouds AO to hang a skyscraper (or should that be “earthscraper”?) from an asteroid in orbit of the earth. The project has been difficult to avoid, having been picked up not only by much of the architectural media but also by NBC, CNN, Forbes, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Mashable, IFLScience—the list goes on almost as long as the building itself.

Is the design realistic? Obviously not, and it’s obviously not intended to be. It’s intended as a utopian thought experiment. Clouds AO has something of a pedigree in this field, as winners of a NASA-backed competition to design a Mars base with their idea for a building made of ice. As a result, it would be facile to join the internet’s collective bottom-of-the-page comment mob to point out that it would be prohibitively expensive, or that it might be more enjoyable to live on the ground anyway.

But is the design a useful utopian thought experiment? There are some design failures that better technology, or a lot of money, or the changed mindset of a futuristic society just won’t fix. So without further ado, here are a list of the problems that this out-of-this-world design would face, in chronological order, with the issues that make it impractical in our current world marked as “minor” and the ones that would undermine the proposal in any universe marked as “major.”

© Clouds AO © Clouds AO © Clouds AO Initial construction of the tower in Dubai. Image © Clouds AO +14

Clouds AO and SEArch Win NASA's Mars Habitat Competition with 3D-Printed Ice House

13:10 - 2 October, 2015
Clouds AO and SEArch Win NASA's Mars Habitat Competition with 3D-Printed Ice House, ICE HOUSE. Image © Clouds AO and SEArch
ICE HOUSE. Image © Clouds AO and SEArch

NASA, who recently confirmed evidence of flowing water on Mars, has deemed SEArch (Space Exploration Architecture) and Clouds AO (Clouds Architecture Office) winners of the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge for Mars. Sponsored by NASA and America Makes, the teams were asked to use indigenous materials and 3D printing techniques to build a habitat for four astronauts on Mars. SEArch and Clouds AO's first prize proposal, ICE HOUSE was awarded $25,000, ahead of 30 other shortlisted practices

"Recognizing that water is the building block to life, the team used a ‘follow the water’ approach to conceptualize, site and construct their design," said SEArch and Clouds AO. "[Our] proposal stood out as one of the few entries not to bury the habitat beneath regolith, instead mining the anticipated abundance of subsurface ice in the northern regions to create a thin vertical ice shell capable of protecting the interior habitat from radiation while celebrating life above ground."