By Gideon Fink Shapiro
Space travel and exploration have fascinated generations of scientists and engineers, but architects are becoming mesmerized as well. In 2018, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the European Space Agency (ESA), the MIT Media Lab, and the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics formed a collaborative research agreement—sparked by shared mutual interests—to develop a vision for a permanent human settlement on the moon’s surface.
Beyond the obvious technical challenges is the human-centered design needed to make extraterrestrial living functional and tenable, notes Colin Koop, AIA, a design partner in SOM’s New York office. For example, astronauts on hypothetical 500-day missions would need areas for fitness and recreation, and windows to enjoy views from the proposed 2-kilometer-square site on the rim of Shackleton crater at the moon’s South Pole, where near-continuous sunlight would be harvested to generate electricity and grow food.