Not many architects will come across the challenge of building in outer space, but who knows what the future will hold... asteroid mining and space photobioreactors? In a recent article, Metropolis Magazine looks into the design of the International Space Station, examining how our conventional rules of architecture become obsolete in zero gravity. Walls, ceilings, and floors can be interchangeable, and "form follows function" is taken to the extreme.
2018 marks 20 years since construction first began on the International Space Station. The satellite is made up of 34 separate pieces, each of which was either delivered by space shuttle or self-propelled into space. With absolutely no room for error, the 13-year construction of the space station was perhaps one of the big success stories of the millennium, seeing 230 astronauts, cosmonauts and space-tourists visit over the past two decades.
For anyone that is used to living on Earth (ie everyone), it can be a struggle accommodating to life without gravity. As the Metropolis article explains, there is a lack of architectural contrast between surfaces as they are concealed by the tangle of equipment and experiments. Due to this, many people suffer from disorientation, confusion, and nausea caused by the psychological illusion of no ground. Although the architecture is austere in the International Space Station, efforts have been put in place to enforce a floor reference plane; lines of lighting, visual cues, signs, and labeling all help to define "up" and "down."
What little home comfort the astronauts do have is provided by a fold-down dining table, taken from the late Russian space station, that each of the crew members need to be strapped to. The private sleeping compartments, too, use restraints to ensure no one floats away in the night. When relaxation is required, there is no living room or lounge, but rather a refuge that features a multi-windowed cupola on the underside of the space station. This, understandably, has become a favorite spot for the crew as it offers panoramic views of the Earth.
Read more about how to design for living and working in outer space in Metropolis Magazine here.