Space architect Ondřej Doule designs Martian habitats, bringing terrestrial architecture to a higher level
Ondřej Doule says he goes to outer space to understand humans better, and then returns back to Earth to integrate that knowledge into terrestrial buildings. Much has been written about his Martial habitat models but applying his research into terrestrial architecture is even more interesting, allowing buildings on Earth to become more efficient and user and environmentally friendly.
“We architects do no research. We are paid for delivery of the project and not for research or innovations. And we are bound by normalization,” says the Czech architect, founder of the virtual studio Space Innovations and an assistant professor at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT). In an interview with TV Architect filmed in Prague, Doule disclosed that he uses space as a laboratory, where there are no restrictions. He makes no secret of the fact that the experiments his team conducts at FIT as well as at the University of Strasbourg in France and NASA in the US are solely financed by space research funds.
His research is focused primarily on human behaviors and human physiological and psychological functions. Based on his findings, he develops new sensors, materials and techniques and looks into ways to integrate human into the systems. In the area of cognitive engineering, he talks about integrating artificial intelligence that’s capable of environmental sensing. “The building is then able to respond to your needs,” he says. “The house is kind of an extension of a human -- a peg-leg, a complex instrument -- that improves human functions.” Doule uses the example of intelligent home assistants, which are widely used in the US, to explain cognitive function integration. “They learn to understand your patterns, moods and interests and offer you information you would otherwise look for on the Internet, TV or even outside your home. And they can also teach you to save energies or make your home safe,” he says.
Scientific architecture is also environmentally friendly. Doule says that his team’s research produces systems which can heal external and internal environments instead of harming them. These systems are independent and do not need to exploit natural resources, which can easily be applied on Earth.
This works both ways. While designing a habitat for the Moon, Doule was inspired by a baroque fortress. “Thick walls offer very efficient protection against radiation and falling micrometeorites, which is our major problem on the Moon,” explains Doule, adding that the “inverted bastion” element offers very good protection against solar particles. The envelope of the habitat protected by the fortification, which he calls the dome, is designed to be made from “baked” regolith (lunar dust). The whole system needs to be as light as possible so that it can be loaded into a single rocket carrier to cut down on the high costs of transporting it to the Moon. The internal structures must be inflatable.
From Space Back to Earth
SHEE, a Self-deployable Habitat for Extreme Environments, originally designed for Mars, could also be used in terrestrial locations struck by natural disasters. Its lightweight construction is made from Kevlar, with inflatable bubble structures inside. The habitats typically offer a lot of redundancies or reserve systems. Each habitat is equipped with three energy resource systems, whose operation is based on different principles.
This kind of multiple protection might be used in terrestrial housing during blackouts resulting from breakdowns or natural disasters. The SHEE model has been tested in Spain and at the University of Strasbourg in controlled environments. Doule says it has been quite successful. “Sustainability on Earth means that we can either fully integrate with the nature, like our ancestors, or we will have to artificially recycle natural resources and processes. This seems to be our goal at present,” he says.