“Structurally, zero gravity means that we do not have to contend with architecture’s greatest arch-nemesis, gravity. This opens up a new world of possibilities where we can deploy structures that no longer have to counteract/resist gravitational force. We would like to explore new forms of rapid inflatable prototyping. Most importantly, this prototype explores surfaces utilizing materials that would normally fail on Earth, yet flourish in zero gravity.
This year the MIT Media Lab’s City Science group had an opportunity to think of architecture at the scale of the body that was literally out of this world. These are the results.
A seamless pneumatic surface that morphs to embrace the human body in zero gravity
Space is precious in confined quarters—whether in outer space or a dense urban area. The creation of temporal architecture—architecture that coexists with the body yet ceases to exist when the body no longer requires it—is fundamental to the design of tomorrow’s city. Zero gravity (space) could be a fundamental stepping stone in the way we approach design, as it forces us to critique architectural language itself; for example, in zero gravity there is no such thing as a floor. What’s more, the architectural material we would normally employ to create a “floor” now becomes ambiguous. A material that was once “floor topside” and “ceiling underside,” no longer has “sides.” The material, this surface, now lies somewhere in between—a surface in flux with temporal possibilities. Without gravity to dictate our relationship with surface we have the opportunity to reconsider these relationships.
In the City Science group, we explore the diversity of formal arrangements necessary to accommodate the spatial gradients of our lives—at work, rest, and play. We are in the process of developing a full-scale, multi-modal kinetic space (escPod); the moment the human body surrenders itself to space is our inspiration: sitting at a desk, lounging on a couch, or in a deep slumber.
How do we define surface architecturally when our current gravity-based vocabulary was not born of zero gravity and will not suffice? What opportunities can this state of flux provide for architects when designing for the body? Architects are married to an XY (north/south) cartesian grid, with Z (gravity) being the main point of reference for many architectural elements. We would like to force ourselves to imagine these elements without an XYZ reference, rethinking our descriptions of them.”