On the 3rd of December we held a workshop in London as part of our ongoing design process for Building A Martian House. It was a meeting of the core team; Professor Lucy Berthoud, Bob Myhill, Hugh Broughton, and two of Hugh’s architectural assistants. Also in the room were two of the trustees from the Edward Marshall Trust, who have been funding this part of the project along with the Global MBR Space Settlement Challenge Grant.
We don’t normally write about these types of meetings – we have had a lot of meetings and phone calls alongside the projects public outcomes. But this one was different because it was a chance for some decisions to be made and to move the project forward. The group that attended are all people we have met within our research process. We started talking about building a Martian House three years ago and these are people that we’ve met along the way. And right now they are a core team that are helping make the project happen.
We spent 4 hours going over all of the documentation from our public workshops that we’ve been holding this last year. We were looking for common themes that have come up – thinking about what things were mentioned again and again, what things people always say would be important to their well being on another planet, and how could this help us decide how our Martian House might look.
It was a really exciting day for us all, particularly because for the first time we had a sense of an overview of what we’d achieved the last year. Seeing all of the documentation laid out in front of us and remembering people’s ideas and contributions gave us a real sense that this process of public consultation and collective imagining is now coming together. For years we’ve been talking about how to best create an arts practice that uses a participatory, open approach, and have experimented with lots of ways of creating projects that allow people to get involved and contribute on their own terms. This is our largest scale attempt yet to make something where the process – the journey of getting there – is equally as important and as much the work itself as the outcome.
The most important themes we discussed, which will be incorporated into the design for the house, are:
Personalisation and Identity: The importance of being able to customise and personalise your space will become even more important on an isolated, alien place. How do you make your space your own? How can the inhabitants of a house on Mars make their mark?
Not just functionality: We don’t want an institutionalised space. The house will need to offer more to its inhabitants to sustain them than just pure functionality – aesthetics, art, colour palette all need to be considered.
Celebrate Mars: One participant used this particular phrase in a workshop and it stuck with us. An important part of maintaining good mental health is to appreciate your surroundings and live in the moment. While we want to create reminders of Earth and home, we need to embrace a new home and live in the present, not the past.
Sensory input: Textures, smells and colours take on an increased importance in settings where sensory input is otherwise limited or feels alien – such as in Antarctica. The design should incorporate sensory elements to combat sensory deprivation.
Nature: Can the house incorporate and embrace nature – both local to Mars and familiar nature from Earth? Can we create a juxtaposition between the two environments?
During the meeting we also spoke a lot about the fictional setting of our Martian House. Is it one lone house on Mars or one of many? Who lives in the house? Is it us, or a family or a group of astronauts? And what year is it set in? We have talked a lot about these questions with the public throughout the last year. The answers make really big differences to the design of the house. Some will help us answer questions of well being – for example if our house is one of a community it will be a lot better for inhabitants to maintain good mental health.
So we decided our Martian House will be the first community on Mars, the first time humans are living rather than just surviving. The year was decided on a calculation based on if everything from now went to plan with every Mars mission, and if governments joined private companies to make a push to make it happen. Taking into consideration a two year gap between missions, due to the position of Mars in relation to Earth. The date that we have decided our house will be set in is 2045.
From all of this, Hugh Broughton Architects are now currently drawing the first set of designs. We are learning what an architects process is within this project. The first designs that we get will be the conceptual designs – they are the first ideas that will be modified as we add in technologies when we start working with engineers next year. We’ve got two funding applications in to hopefully allow this phase to start mid way through 2019.
Next for the project – we’re looking forward to seeing these first drawings and releasing some of them. We’ll also be releasing a short film about the work so far and the fictional story of our house on Mars, to get ready for the next stage of prototyping and then building.