Building Anywhere: Design for the 'Impossible Site'

Building Anywhere: Design for the 'Impossible Site'

Maria Lorena Lehman Maria Lorena Lehman
4 minute read

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Living in Uninhabitable Places

Designing products, vehicles, or built environments for extreme difficult-to-access places calls for a different approach to design – where “assembly construction” gives way to “sculptural construction” through the process of 3D printing. It is speculated that such designs can be built in less time and with less effort. Yet, what does it mean for humanity if our designs can be built on impossible sites? What would we gain by living in uninhabitable places? And how would our resiliency levels change? During this launch into the realm of foresight, we will explore interplanetary construction, the unbound exploration of impossible frontiers, and how such design could increase human adaptability to extreme conditions on Earth. Are you ready?

Current Trend: Interplanetary Construction

Will it become possible to 3D-print the needed infrastructure to live on the moon? Or on Mars? Can these interplanetary constructions nurture human life to thrive, not merely survive? And can all of this be accomplished without destroying the natural environment of that world?

The latter questions are important to consider, particularly as organizations like NASA continue to develop technologies and processes for interplanetary 3D-printing:

"NASA and the European Space Agency have some of the most ambitious plans of all: printing on the moon! And Mars! [...] NASA has already started printing in space, making a little wrench with a printer on the International Space Station carried up by a SpaceX rocket. [...] The advantages here are clear: Rather than having to transport construction materials from Earth, printed buildings could use local materials as their substrate. All that would have to be transported would be the printing apparatus, which is a big saver when you consider how much of a headache it is to move stuff between planets." (1)

As you can see, 3D-printing is opening channels for humans to build anywhere. But what comes next? What will limitless exploration into extreme frontiers do for humanity? How will it affect the way we live? And will we take care of planet Earth differently? In other words, will the lessons learned from living in extreme environments help us prevent them from forming in the first place?

Let’s delve even further:

Future Trajectory: Unbound Exploration

One may ask: What deep discoveries would be found if humans could live in extreme conditions? Is there world-changing research-insight to be gained by exploring such impossible sites as the ocean, outer space, or even extreme places on Earth affected by climate change?

The answers seem to be: Yes.

As humanity increases its ability to adapt, our resilience grows – but so too might our understanding of how nature behaves and needs to be nurtured.

By living where it was once impossible, pioneers can send lessons back from their explorations to help improve quality of life for all.  Imagine the first colony on Mars that learns first-hand about what it takes to thrive on another planet. Or imagine an expedition into the depths of unexplored parts of the ocean to learn about new lifeforms, and the many challenges and strengths associated with their natural systems.

Insight from extreme environments can feed humanity with an abundance of knowledge by which we can better life on Earth. Yet, such knowledge is not helpful until it is applied, ethically and responsibly. As we venture into new frontiers, it seems we should explore not simply because we can, but because we strive to nurture the world that nurtures us in return.

The vastness of unexplored places may hold many keys; yet, as a humanity we should carefully decide how we explore, when we explore, and why we explore.

For this, the future awaits.


(1) Morley, Jack Balderrama. Architects: Here’s the Problem with 3D-Printed Buildings. Architizer.

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