by Jerry ElengicalDec 12, 2021
Plan C. by Makhno Studio is a vision for a future settlement on a partially terraformed Mars where humanity is equipped with the technology to process the red planet’s resources, eliminate residual surface radiation and obtain sufficient oxygen and water to produce food and sustain life. A successor to the practice’s well documented Plan B concept for an underground house equipped with a helipad, Plan C. imagines a life away from our species’ original home. Resembling an environment ripped straight from the pages of a science fiction novel, the project, headed by Ukraine-based architect Serhii Makhno, merges the monumental, brutalist forms of Arrakeen’s desert architecture in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, with flashes of the artificial gravity carousel aboard the Discovery One in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The team at Makhno Studio relays in a press statement, “Plan C. is our vision of the aesthetics of the future that may never come. There is currently no evidence of possible Mars colonisation. It is unknown whether this cold, distant planet will be able to accept people.” Nevertheless, with a diameter measuring just over half that of the Earth, the red planet is, without a doubt, the most feasible first stepping stone in our species’ lofty goal to colonise the solar system. A particularly challenging aspect of building such a settlement is the cost and energy required to transport vast amounts of building materials to a planet whose average distance from the Earth can vary greatly from 50 million km to 400 million km - a concern that has been tackled through ventures such as Mars Dune Alpha by ICON and Bjarke Ingels Group.
As per Makhno Studio, Plan C. can only be assembled by the means of large scale 3D-printing, since the inhospitable atmosphere on Mars will prevent workers from participating in construction without spacesuits and life support systems. Moreover, owing to the harsh dust storms that periodically ravage the Martian surface, the settlement’s ideal location would be in close proximity to the equator, along the slope of a crater. Consisting of a torus-shaped form that shields inhabitants from winds and radiation, the settlement’s layout comprises a lengthy public hall that extends throughout most of its interior, connecting sleeping quarters with technical, research, and communal zones.
Trees are an ever-present aspect of the landscape design throughout the length of the communal space. Grow lights placed here aid in accelerating plant propagation, to recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen, and recreate the feeling of an open-air walk within these areas. Perhaps the most vital of all the spaces in the self-sustaining settlement are the agricultural zones for food production.
The highlight of these zones are the spherical greenhouses reminiscent of miniature planets floating in space - developed as ‘designer capsules’ for plant growth. Makhno Studio states, “The ambience of the interior design combines two worlds - the unknown Mars and the near-and-dear Earth. Sandstorms were responsible for the color scheme, plants for the ability to breathe deeply, and the science of the future - for the ability to live on a dead planet.”
Since it hosts essential spaces such as a medical centre, an isolation ward, an atmosphere monitoring research centre, chemical and biological laboratories, a control area, and an administrative block that require special design considerations, the development will employ buffer zones and gateways for inhabitants to store and don space suits when entering or exiting the complex. Furthermore, it will also contain meeting spaces and semi-outdoor areas for residents to lounge on boulders beside a hologram of the earth, or make use of the neon lighting fixtures for an otherworldly Martian soirée.
Residential areas have been emptied of excessive furniture to create an immersive space free from all superfluous decoration. Designed for single or double occupancy, these spaces feature a panoramic screen along the ceiling that displays the landscapes of a cloudy sky or the Milky Way galaxy itself. As part of the project’s wellness facilities - a crucial consideration for extended stays on an alien world - the designers have included an area dedicated for exercise bikes as well as a mountain valley-themed swimming pool design to aid in preventing muscle atrophy among residents. Finally, as part of the studio’s intriguing proposal, a dedicated immersion chamber, crafted as a floating capsule has been conceptualised as a space for inhabitants to relax, reset, and realign their minds to the notion of potentially being among the first to settle on a new home for the human species.
While the proposal’s ambition, scope, and stylistic cues are commendable, the technology required to bring it to life is still far beyond our reach in many respects. As with most concepts depicting a future for the architecture on Mars, there is still a long way to go before such extensive colonies see the light of day on the red planet.