Sky is far from limit in NASA architecture project

By Meaghan Sands

A new partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration brings an out-of-this-world opportunity for Cal Poly Pomona architecture students. Over the past months, students have been constructing a massive 30 foot structure in the parking lot of the Interim Design Center.

According to Cameron Jacobson, a fifth-year architecture student, they are participating in a year-long exploration, research and experimentation project funded by NASA. This quarter’s project is a continuation of the progress they made last quarter and will be completed within the year.

“They [NASA] want to get an architect’s point of view of how spaces are designed,” said Jacobson. “So, if you give it to an engineer, they’re going to design it totally different. It’s just the way we think versus how they do.”

The scenario given by NASA was to build a vertical habitat facility for four astronauts that can go into deep space for 60 days.

“Our major obviously revolves around designing stuff on earth that have things like vertical orientations, walls, floors and ceilings, but in space, none of that really exists,” said Jacobson. “So, the concept behind this class is to design spaces that have no particular orientation to what’s up or down.”

This class is an opportunity for students to expand their viewpoints on the future of design and think outside of the scope of traditional architecture.

“With architecture, we’re always designing buildings,” said Garrett Sanne, a fourth-year architecture student. “This is completely different, out of the ordinary and something we would never do before. It’s something I wanted to jump on to get out of the day in day out routine of the architecture stuff. You never get to do something that’s out of this world.”

Students’ outlooks on their future careers have been altered and they understand the impact working with NASA can have on their future careers.

“Everyone gets to put that they did something with NASA on their resume now and everyone thinks that is prestigious,” said Sanne.

This experience has led Sanne to an internship with NASA. The NASA team they are working with at Jet Propulsion Laboratory wanted two or three students to volunteer. He will be one of the students continuing this project with them next quarter.

“It opens up my perspective to what you can do with a design degree like this,” said Sanne. “That it doesn’t necessarily have to be architecture, you could be designing space habitats. You don’t really look outside the box until you open yourself up to something like this.”

Khoe Huynh Tu, a fourth-year architecture student, is looking forward to the patent they will be able to put on their design when it is completed.

“I’ve realized how much it sucks to be gravity driven for everything,” said Huynh Tu. “It would be really interesting to one day be in space.”

The architecture department hopes this will bring more recognition to what students are doing and take them in new directions.

“It’s a 30 foot structure and when people drive by they can see it,” said Brandon Featherstone, a fourth-year architect student. “It’s kind of showcasing architecture and facilitates talk about the architecture program. I just think that’s a really good thing.”

Michael Woo, dean of the college of environmental design, believes that the connection to NASA is wonderful for their department.

“Our students are very interested in concepts related to ecosystems, but in this case we’re talking about design for a physical setting which is literally going to be separated from earth,” said Woo.

Space design is a growing market and companies are no longer on the fringes of it. CPP has forged a path for future students to gain new opportunities in this growing field.

According to Huynh Tu, their future goal is to reach out to local schools and have children come learn about and paint the structure. They also want to open it up so people can go inside and view the bottom level rooms of the structure.

“What I think we will get from this is kind of a deeper understanding of how living in space could be possible,” said Huynh Tu. “The fact that you see something in construction that could be sent off into space is pretty darn interesting. It’s the possibility that maybe in the future architects may be going more toward space design.”

Vertical habitat

Derek Eng/The Poly Post

Vertical habitat

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