We’ve recently been introduced to the work of Galina Balashova – an architect whose work became the defining aesthetic of the Soviet era space programme. Balashova was initially asked to create designs for the interior of the Soyuz capsule as the only architect working for OKB-1 (the Russian space agency). Until then her work had been designing residential quarters for the scientists and engineers working on the space programme.
Balashova produced many watercolour designs that pay close attention to the experience of the cosmonauts and their need to feel at home, as well as to composition of space and ergonomics.
Furniture is designed to look domestic and homely as well as functional.
It was initially thought that in zero-gravity conditions, cosmonauts wouldn’t need to feel orientation in the spacecraft. Balashova thought this would matter and set precedent by introducing colour schemes where floors were dark coloured and ceilings light so cosmonauts could get their bearings. Colour generally became very important in her designs, especially in her early Soyuz designs which chose a mainly pastel palette. Hugh Broughton Architects – who designed the Halley VI British Antarctic Research Station, and who we’re working with on our Building A Martian House project – have also highlighted the importance of colour to us. For Halley VI they worked specifically with a colour psychologist who came up with a palette of colours that would help people overcome seasonal affective disorder as well as promote different activities.
Above: corridor inside Halley VI British Antarctic Research Station
Below: Balashova’s colour palette
Balashova’s design work continued right through to the era of MIR Space Station (above) and has had much influence on the design of the International Space Station today.
We’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the design of our Martian House will serve it’s imagined inhabitants. What will we need and why? Our current design phase is an opportunity to think beyond functionality and more creatively to what we might need to feel well, happy and human when living away from Earth. In a way a big part of the project looks at how aesthetics relate to our feelings of home, and how our feelings of comfort, home and familiarity have an impact on wellbeing. Balashova’s design work was pioneering at the time because it went beyond serving only the functional needs of it’s inhabitants. She included touches such as a series of pictures for the capsule walls, of remembered landscapes of her childhood, which she thought would be a reminder of home to the cosmonauts who were leaving Earth so far behind.
Balashova’s beautiful watercolours and sixties/seventies colour palette are also a visual reminder that our imaginings of the future and futuristic environments are very much linked to our present time and culture that we live in. How will our current culture influence our designs? What visions of the future do we draw in 2018?