Architecture for astronauts

Last Thursday in Vienna took place the presentation of a new book edited by Springer: « Architecture for Astronauts – an activity-based approach« . I happen to be friend with the author, Sandra Häuplik-Meusburger, and she asked me some months ago if I would accept to be the moderator of that presentation and panel discussion. I did accept and this gives me an additional reason to tell you about the book presentation and the book itself. First, let me introduce the participants of the panel discussion.

The panel

Sandra Häuplik-Meusburger is architect. She has an office and is teaching at the University of Technology in Vienna. She has been working on the topic of habitability in extra-terrestrial habitats for several years and she obtained a PhD on that topic from the Technical University Munich. She has published scientific papers, organized workshops and finally written this book on space architecture with a special focus on habitability.

Mr. Richard Horden is architect, Professor of architecture and product design at Technical University Munich. He has the PhD advisor of Sandra a few years ago. With Stephen Cherry and Billy Lee, he is the founder of the Horden Cherry Lee architectural, planning and design studio in London that has a reputation for delivering high quality architecture since its formation in 1999. He has a wide ranging international lectures and teaching experience on new directions in contemporary architecture…. His name is also associated with the term “micro architecture”, which I will summarize by Lightweight, mobile and ecological buildings for the future (to quote the title of one of his book). Within his studio at the TU Munich, he has also developed space architecture projects.

The two other participants are part of this small group of lucky men who had the chance to travel into space, as part of their career as astronaut or cosmonaut.

After an academic career in physics, geophysics and oceanography, Gerhard Thiele became an astronaut in 1988, first as part of the German space program, then later with the European Astronaut corps. For more than 20 years, he supported the human spaceflight programs through various functions and positions. He flew to space on the Shuttle and later on were from 2005 until 2010, the Head of the Astronaut Division of the European Astronaut Centre. Finally, he is since April 2010 Resident Fellow at the European Space Policy Institute in Vienna.

After a degree in Aerospace engineering and enrolling in the Romanian Air Force, Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu was selected for spaceflight training and flew on Salyut 6 space station. He continued to support space exploration through various agencies and organisations. In 1998, he became President of the Romanian Space Agency, then Director of the Romanian Office for Science and Technology to the European Union, and finally he is currently the Chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space (COPUOS).

The book

The book is brand new, edited by Springer and is available since a few days.”Architecture for Astronauts – an activity-based approach” is the result of researching the interface between people, space and objects in an extra-terestrial environment.

The first part of the book introduces the methodology and the various habitats that were analyzed, ranging from the Apollo spacecraft, the Space Shuttle, Skylab, Salyut, Mir and the current International Space Station. This is a great comparison of the architecture and interior configuration of those spacecrafts and space stations, highlighting the specific design issues, with many drawings and diagrams.

The second and main part of the book investigates the relationship between the environment and the users, cosmonauts and astronauts. The original and specific approach is activity-based with 5 main domains: sleep, hygiene, food, work and leisure. For each of these, the author has analyzed available design, reports and debriefings but she has also, and this is probably the other specific approach of this book, integrated personal experience of the comsonauts and astronauts themselves, as she conducted structured interviews with a number of them, collecting their direct feedback on human activities. This confrontation (or dialog) between the literature  or available analysis and the personal experience of the users is unique and a great feature of the book.

Finally, the book is in itself a beautiful object and demonstrates great design for interaction with the user, in this case the reader, a perfect balance between esthetics and usability. It is just gorgeous!

Who should be interested in this book? A lot of people! Whether you are in the space business, in the architecture business (or both), or just simply interested by those topics, the book is simply a unique comparison and state-of-the-art analysis, and includes design directions for the future.

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