by Shailaja Tripathi Nov 20, 2020
How can we make design that is about living well on Mars rather than just surviving? How do we build the house for the future, now? Should we be taking our history or culture with us or should we start anew?
These were some of the inquiries that fuelled the idea of a full-scale house for future life on Mars - an outcome of a public art project conceived by Bristol-based artists Ella Good and Nicki Kent. The project titled, ‘Building a Martian House’ hopes to create a people’s version of a habitat on the Martian landscape by bringing together artists, architects, engineers, scientists, and the public in the creative process.
Architect Hugh Broughton, founder of the London-based eponymous firm that specialises in the design of buildings in remote locations, describes the project as an ‘alluring egalitarian concept’. Having partnered with multidisciplinary design studio Pearce+, the two firms conceptualised a conducive built space and a flexible design to suit the extremities of the red planet.
The prototype visualises a two-storey structure in which the lower level is to be built under the ground and the upper will sit on the surface. External access to the house is provided via a scaffold staircase and a platform lift, while internally the floors are connected through an inbuilt ladder.
To keep the structure lightweight enough to be transported to Mars, the upper level will be shaped using a pressurised gold-coated foil, which upon arrival on the planet will be inflated and filled with Martian soil to insulate the structure from galactic and solar radiations.
“It might seem quite science fiction to think about living on Mars but actually the practicality of how you live has relevance to all of us,” says Nicki Kent, who together with co-artist Ella Good will be installing the project besides Bristol’s M Shed in April 2022. The five-month public programme will host various workshops, talks, events and research to further ideate the interiors of the house.
Broadly the spaces within the house, as per the design by Hugh Broughton Architects and Pearce+, follow a simple format with emphasis on minimal yet essential resources.
The lower level is designed for flexible, private living spaces where two rooms separated by flexible partitions can be used as the family’s bedroom and dining. Other facilities include a kitchenette, toilet, and a storage room.
The upper level will have a workshop and a hydroponic living room to ensure a circular energy cycle within the house and a healthy living environment for its people. Services to support the system including air filtration are kept on the lower level.
The prototype in Bristol will feature a scaffold hoarding on the lower level, printed with information about the work along with quirky illustrations on space travel.
“It’s essentially like providing people with this scenario of going to another planet to live. It’s also about looking at what would happen if you start all over again,” adds Good, who believes the overall effort has been like working on a blank canvas.
‘Building a Martian House’ seeks to invite perspectives on rethinking life on Earth through exploring the challenges of life on Mars. Funded by The Edward Marshall Trust, the project once installed in Bristol in 2022, will be on view for four months.