CHUA MING HAO & ANG JEE KIAT VICTOR
Since the dawn of the anthropocene, architecture has always been depicted as a struggle against the forces of gravity, from the likes of the classical Pantheon to modern megastructures like the Burj Al Arab. What is interesting for an architect then, would be to relook at the fundamentals of architecture, at the very force which governs the principles of built form: Gravity.
The design of microgravity spaces has been at the forefront of science fiction since the 19th century. Omnidirectionality in microgravity spaces has the greatest potential to disrupt the conventional terrestrial design paradigm. Doule (2014) represents this most succinctly by stating how the concepts of ‘floor plane’ and ‘ceiling plane’ lose meaning in microgravity. By moving out of the terrestrial environment, the architectural grammar of the “wall”, “floor” and “roof” cease to exist as singular unique entities, but as intertwined realities. Hall (1994) states that conventionally, due to gravity, three directions consisting of up, down, and horizontal exist, giving rise to four bodily orientations. However, in microgravity, orientability increases up to twenty four positions, due to four bodily rotations multiplied by each of the six possible axis of orientation (Hall, 1994). The massive drawbacks of disorientation and confusion means that designing with omnidirectionality must be taken on with great care, to maximise its potential.
A play on Escher’s Relativity as well as the six degrees of freedom afforded by Virtual Reality technology, Relativity Six is an ongoing research into microgravity spaces. By Harrison (2010)’s framework, the investigation seeks to understand the design of the humane space habitat, catering to the biological, psychological and sociocultural needs of the future spacefarer. By delving into architectural proxemics, affordances and relationships of extra-terrestrial spaces, the investigation seeks to generate a set of meaningful guidelines for user-experience centred orbital space architecture design.
Based on our findings, users are predisposed to spaces being accessed only on local vertical. Ceiling plane and ground plane are often assumed to be non-functional or usable unless other wise indicated. Moreover, it was observed that there is often a contextual reading of navigational tools and affordance placement which guided the designs.
The prototypes were designed based on functionality, habitability as well as practical considerations borne from behavioural patterns observed from physical trials. The final iteration comprises a deployable frame structure as well as an inflatable fabric mesh which allows for maximal livable area beyond the ferrying capacities of orbital shuttles. Main circulatory spaces and its accompanying ancillary spaces were designed to accommodate the local vertical whereas more liberty was taken with functional and recreational spaces with respect to their omnidirectionality.
Doule, O. (2014). Ground control: Space architecture as defined by variable gravity. Architectural Design, 84(6), 90-95. doi:10.1002/ad.1838
Hall, T. W. (1994). The architecture of anti-gravity environments for long-duration space habitation (Doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, 1994) (pp. 259-286). Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan.
Harrison, A. A. (2010). Humanizing outer space: Architecture, habitability, and behavioral health. Acta Astronautica, 66(5), 890-896. doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2009.09.008
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