In this section we will explore various design concepts for the unique microgravity housing of the Asgard habitats. We refer to this as Urban Tree housing based on the basic architecture of EvoHab based habitats featuring a large axial core truss with various branches to which the functional elements of the habitat are attached. This tree-like truss structure would provide the primary conduit of traffic and utilities systems within the habitat while buildings and residence structures would be attached on their exterior and accessed through the interstitial spaces in the sides of the truss structure.
This structure would afford great potential variation in the form of the individual functional structures or ‘buildings’ that attach to it, supporting the full potential diversity of architecture found in any terrestrial community. In smaller habitats, where the distance between the core truss structure and the outer hull structure is relatively small, the volume outside the core truss would tend to be treated primarily as an interior space. For the personal dwelling in these structures design would be focused entirely on the interior. However, with the full-scale EvoHab the outer hull would be light-transmitting and possibly image transmitting creating the illusion of a sky, making the volume outside the core truss structure an ‘interior outside’ space into which the urban tree buildings project and which they use as a view space. Thus for the dwellings in this space both interior and exterior design would come into play in order to create an aesthetically pleasing habitat and, in some cases, to facilitate human access and activity in this large ‘outside’ microgravity volume. The use of plants will also come into play here as a key means to enhancing the aesthetic quality of the EvoHab environment and many of the designs we will explore will feature plant cultivation technology as integral to their structure, making the analogy of the urban tree very literal indeed.
Dwellings in the Asgard habitat exist in a climate-controlled environment and, being in microgravity, bear none of the structural loads associated with conventional buildings. So the primary function of architecture in this environment is the organization of space, privacy, and sound insulation. Though smaller dwellings may be designed as whole unit structures, most larger dwellings will be built-up structures intended for quick assembly and disassembly and a high degree of variability for functional adaptation and personalization. This affords the use of very light materials and structures not typically considered to have a structural role, such as textiles and foams. In fact, textiles, foam, carbon fiber composite, cable, aluminum, Velcro, and other ‘mechanical adhesives’ may be the primary materials in most Asgard dwelling architecture. Surprisingly (and rarely considered in most space habitat design), many simple organic materials may also be employed, particularly sourced from grass plants like reeds and bamboo as these would be potentially easy to cultivate in a microgravity environment and easily used in woven materials or wood-like composites. The classic paper screens of Japanese architecture may find a new role in this architecture and even tatami matting as an all-around wall covering! Transparent membrane materials –elastomerics in particular– are also very likely as a low-mass unbreakable alternative to glass windows, usually tensioned or employing pressure rigidization. Though in general there will likely be less need for glazed enclosures given the climate controlled environment and these will more often be employed in the roll of shades and screens or transparent protective barrier enclosures for wet areas, clean-rooms, or industrial systems.
Let’s now consider some specific possible designs.
Capsule Cabins: Capsule Cabins would have their origins in the Capsule Hotel units common to this unique form of hotel accommodation first devised in Japan to suit the needs of traveling businessmen. (these, in turn, have their origins in railway ‘sleeper’ cabins of the early 20th century which themselves may have originated with the enclosed beds of Asia and medieval Europe) The original Capsule Hotel units were based on fiberglass shells –usually two pieces–enclosing a bed and surrounding the occupant with a collection of formed-in-place accoutrements. These varied with design but typically included TV and radio, air conditioning, a small writing shelf, lighting, and a number of small storage compartments. Most were designed for entry through a single small window/doorway at the foot-end of the capsule with the units stacked several units high along a wall. In use to the present day, more recent designs have been larger, allowing a person to sit up fully in their space, affording more storage and larger appliances, and based on side-door entry. This author has anticipated the likely near-term evolution of these to 1.5x3m-4m units to accommodate the increasing hassles of air travel and their adaptation into rigid-shell cabins with a high degree of self-sufficiency for field deployment and relief housing.
In microgravity such seemingly tiny spaces are comfortable and functional –albeit still not suited to group occupancy– and have the benefit of using more surfaces for formed-in accoutrements, since there is no up or down and sleeping is done suspended or in a tube-like hammock, freeing up ceiling and floor spaces to other uses. Thus we arrive at the basic notion of the Capsule Cabin consisting of a prismatic polygonal enclosure 1.5m wide, variable length, with door and possibly window (or virtual window) at either end, and an assortment of accoutrements built into its surrounding walls. This space would be used in two common positions; a sprawled position where the occupant is aligned parallel to the length of the space and a ‘seated’, ‘folded’, or ‘wedged’ position where one or more occupants are in a position with torso roughly perpendicular to the length of the space and possibly employing straps or wedging of buttocks and feet to remain fixed to one interior face of the space –a position used to perform some kinds of work or to engage in face-to-face conversations. One surface wall of the cabin might be dedicated to this position by featuring storage cabinets along its length with recessed hinges and handles affording a flat ‘floor’ surface over which some types of fold-out tables or shelves might be used.
The basic accoutrements of the Capsule Cabin would be very much akin to that of the traditional Capsule Hotel unit but with some more high-tech updates. A combination computer/communications/video display is likely –designed for flat and fold-out positions in a number of orientations– as well as some simple food preparation and cabin cleaning systems. Early space habitats are likely to rely on shared bathing and toilet facilities but this could be accommodated on the personal level with the Capsule Cabin through the use of side-attached ‘wet units’ the inhabitant accesses through a side panel. In this same way, multiple capsule rooms may be combined side-to-side to form larger dwellings, most likely with dedicated sleeping or storage areas. Sleeping would rely on simply drifting in the open cabin space or the use of ‘sleeping socks’ that are strung diagonally between sides of the cabin.
Early space habitats, which may rely on structures built whole on Earth, are more likely to feature Capsule Cabins based on rigid materials using retrofit paneling of softer surface materials. They would tend to be very tightly integrated into the structure of a prefabricated habitat. Built-up cabins, which are more likely with Asgard development plans in general, would be deployable structures based on foam and fabric materials rigidized by modular framing hidden beneath the softer material surfaces. A capsule cabin may be fabricated whole as a prefab of sorts, based on a primarily fabric shell structure which then uses foam and frame inserts to rigidize it much like a tent –an easy design concept to demonstrate on Earth. Soundproofing would be a key factor in their design, given that they would tend to be used in tight arrays. Generally, Capsule Cabins would suit habitats with small hull volumes where they would be radial arrayed in clusters around a central access corridor. Consequently, like the original Capsule Hotel units, they would be single-sided, lacking in any sort of exterior shell because their exterior sides are completely hidden in their installation between hull and central corridor. However, later designs for larger habitats may feature more unified cabins with a smooth exterior enclosure surface over the back of their formed-in features.
As one of the smallest of cabin designs, Capsule Cabins are likely to be the basis of on-orbit emergency shelter designs, particularly for community solar flare shelters and possibly employing a pressurized shell structure with its own independent life support systems. The basic form factor is also likely to see use a great variety of applications based on enclosed or open-frame structures, including industrial workstations, teleoperation stations, semi-automated medical facilities, the ‘bridges’ of large spacecraft, and the basic cabins of modest small passenger capacity utility spacecraft based on ‘beamship’ architectures.
Hutch Cabins: Largely an evolution of the Capsule Cabin, the Hutch Cabin would be based on taking two opposing faces of a Capsule Cabin and expanding them into opposing planar surfaces over a larger area separated by a gap of about 1.5 meters but with no particular limits in area –though generally they would be within 4 meters square. Rectangular, circular, or complex layouts would be possible. Side access doors would be the norm but the cabins would also be suited to vertical stacking with a central access port in the floor and/or ceiling. This arrangement has the effect of forcing the assignment of a ‘floor’ surface used predominately in a ‘folded’ or outstretched body position with back to the floor or side walls and with radial arrangements of multiple people. In a sense, one might refer to this as the ‘conversation pit’ of space dwellings, intended to make group use of a space more convenient but also well suited in small sizes to the solitary inhabitant in need of more flexible space.
Because this form compels the assignment of a floor plane and the use of walls as back rests in a ‘wedged’ position, most accoutrements would be designed for deployability from the floor and ceiling surfaces rather than being simply ‘built-in’. Pop-up/down designs or plug-in appliances would be likely. This would tend to produce a less cluttered environment with less specialization of built-in features. Sleeping arrangements could be free-floating or sleeping-sock based but may also be ‘sleep pouch’ based where gently elasticized blankets hold individuals to the floor surface.
This form factor supports a great variety of materials and layout designs and one could expect to see an Asian influence in design and the use of quite traditional materials like tatami matting for the floor and ceiling surfaces. Large window areas are also possible with this form, running along the narrow sides, though as a cost in side seating surface. Radial arrangements around a core access corridor like that used with Capsule Cabins would be quite practical, the hutch cabins aligned with the narrow sides to the corridor, and Capsule Cabin extensions would well integrate to the basic Hutch Cabin form for various specialized rooms.
Hutch Cabins are likely to be one of the more common forms for large Asgard habitat dwellings and so are more likely to feature self-contained structure designs with a definite exterior aesthetic treatment. They would also likely feature open exterior terraces along perimeter edges or in circular ‘gazebos’ on top or bottom enclosed in trellises that may double as plant cultivation systems.
Hutch Cabins would be well suited to group activities such as conferences, classrooms, and media entertainment where individuals are arranged radially and focus attention either inward, outward, or toward the ceiling side for their shared activity. Larger launch vehicles of the future are also likely to employ such cabin forms as their cockpits –possibly simplifying future cockpit design to a single control surface plane over a single flat or radially contoured foam mattress.
Pod Cabins: Based on the use of spherical room forms in clusters, this class of microgravity structure would see the employ of some of the largest and smallest of spaces in combination, this because while a sphere may be one of the most efficient of closures for space, they are not necessarily the most efficient spaces for the human body to move around in under microgravity or the best form to array equipment along. However, for the room of specialized purpose and single occupancy, they offer one of the smallest efficient spaces and, when combined with a concentric organization of surfaces, an efficient way to limit spans in large volume structures to make them more functional.
The Pod Cabin shares some of the same perennial caveats of free-form organic architecture on Earth and would solve them in similar ways, primarily by the tight integration of fixtures and furnishings into the enclosing form. For instance, the bedroom and bed furniture of the organic design home are often one in the same, the structure contiguous and ergonomically sculpted. Likewise, the bedroom itself is an extension of another space, either by concentric hierarchy or clustered network organization or a combination of the two –always seeking to keep the span of spaces to within some comfortable human scale like the spaces of a ant colony or animal warren. Pod Cabins would employ this same strategy in a more volumetric way, since they need provide no floor or stairs/ramps. They would employ numerous tiny rooms of ergonomically specialized purpose, reducing them to a kind of large appliance. And they would cluster them alternately in tight ‘knotted’ networks and spherically concentric surfaces with spans between the surfaces limited. In other words, they would employ complex forms very much akin to the hives of wild bees and wasps.
However, their scale would tend to be limited by the desire for light and views and the placement of windows and open ‘balconies.’ A typical small dwelling or one with a more sprawling form may be limited to clusters of a relatively small number of rooms associated with one larger lounge space or a common tubular network. A larger dwelling may enclose such an inner ‘core’ cluster in a concentric outer volume formed itself by a second outer cluster, the span between the two clusters being the primary via and common lounge space. Higher degrees of ‘nesting’ may be counterproductive.
Pod Cabins would likely rely heavily on the use of rigid and semi-rigid variable density foam materials in combination with mechanical adhesives. Typical structures would be almost entirely foam-based with softer material at the surface, harder materials near the core and around functional fixtures, various utilities bus routes tunneled through them, the interior and exterior surfaces scored with a grid of slots to host fabric paneling held in place by semi-rigid tension rods and rings pressed into the panel slots. Their individual pod rooms would be critically engineered in ergonomics and designed as whole units in combination with any electrical, electronic, and mechanical systems used with them. They may be sculpted whole with new processes rather than being ‘deployable’ in the manner of other structures and permanently joined together in custom combinations. They would be less suited to the use of rigid alloy frame systems unless they can be adapted to support modularity through rigid saddle-polyhedra module systems.
Given the more advanced character of their design and fabrication, large Pod Cabin dwellings are likely a later development, though small all-in-one units may be likely early-on. Pod Cabin designs may see increasing use with the evolution of progressively advanced fabber and nanofabrication technology, ultimately becoming a ubiquitous form with the advent of NanoFoam as it would suit that intelligent material’s biomorphic fabrication processes.
Planar Halls: An evolution of the Hutch Cabin and incorporating many of its design concepts, Planar Halls are a likely form of larger microgravity structure suited to large group facilities as well as individual dwellings that parallel the ‘pavilion aesthetic’ of in-terrace dwellings of Aquarian marine settlements. Planar Halls would be based on large parallel planes separated by a 2 meter gap and linked by a grid of hand-hold poles and columnar fixture ‘kiosks’. Each pair of planes could form a ‘floor’ in a stacked structure with large volumes –usually intended to enclose large machines or volumetric garden atriums- created by profile ‘terracing’ of these stacked levels.
Planar Halls would likely be based on light planar truss structures clad in modular paneling, allowing the volume of the planar trusses to serve as a utilities route and back enclosure to flush-surface-mount equipment. Primary columns formed on truss framing would be the main structural supports while hand-hold poles would be placed at various intervals and freely moved as needed. These poles, along with additional primary framing, could double as supports for modular partition walls, though these would also likely be fashioned as self-contained modular units that may often include active systems –very-much paralleling the design concepts of the T-slot based UtiliHab structural system employed in Aquarian development.
Intended as ‘flex space’, the Planar Hall would employ most fixtures in the form of columnar or enclosure plug-ins between the parallel planes of the main structure and other plug-ins mounted to one side or flush-mounted into the plane surfaces. Thus, many ways, the Planar Hall parallels the concept of ‘open plan design’ in terrestrial architecture. However, both planes would have potential as a ‘floor’, partitioning could employ the creation of integral ‘horizontal’ Capsule and Hutch enclosures, and the usual human position when traversing these spaces would likely be ‘diagonal’ except when in a stationary position where handholds are used as anchoring points, individuals using both handholds and an alternating ‘bounce’ between the planes as the basis of locomotion. All modes of sleeping arrangement would be usable.
A typical personal dwelling may be based on a single ‘floor’ pavilion enclosed in elastomeric, fabric, or even paper screen window walls and with functional areas based on a series of functional ‘islands’ installed between the planes. Soft cover paneling interspersed with lighting would dominate most of the plane surface area –tatami matting again an elegant aesthetic possibility for these spaces. Larger ‘buildings’ would employ numerous stacked floors or individual floors of large planar areas, again organized around freely relocated functional workstation ‘islands’. They would be particularly useful as large community activity spaces such as workshops with numerous machine workstations whose equipment and/or production line systems need access from the sides, theaters or conference rooms where couch seating can be plugged into the perimeters of an area of group focus (a ‘stage’ space or display area), as well as ‘dance’ halls where the planar surfaces host lighting and sound systems and support poles would offer locations for people to ‘stand’ and perform their microgravity dance moves. Large theater structures could be based on atrium terracing where a large open central space is surrounded by stacked Planar Hall space allowing for access from behind to balcony-like theater seating using couch-like seats at the edge of the central open space. This could afford the design of a kind of spherical coliseum organized as a terraced central band capped by polar dome framing supporting lighting and other systems. This is also a possible organization for communal residential habitat structures that have not yet achieved the volume suited to an Urban Tree organization and the use of light transmitting EvoHab hull systems, the core truss of the habitat hosting a volumetric garden and public facilities creating a kind of central community atrium surrounded by stacked terrace dwellings in combination with other cabin types along the hull wall.
Gazebos and other ‘Outdoor’ Structures: The space habitat, of course, has no ‘exterior’ in the terrestrial sense of the term. All space within the habitat is technically ‘interior’ with the distinction between interior and exterior space within that space is a function of relative spans, lighting, and hierarchy of enclosure. And large span space is generally of very poor function in microgravity. Yet the apparent dichotomy between interior and exterior and their social/cultural roles are important to the human sense of comfort. Thus one can anticipate the use of progressively large spans in progressively large volume habitat structures as the basis of virtual exteriors providing ambient light and large area views. The EvoHab concept and its employ of light/image transmitting hull systems intended to create an impression of an environment open to space itself is based on this premise. But the use of such large span space presents many issues for their use, usually relating to the hazard a lack of gravity presents when one is out of reach of any handholds. The windows of terrestrial buildings make little sense in the space habitat as there is no weather to provide a light/view communicating barrier against. Yet there is a need to confine the movement of human beings and their loose household articles that precludes simply employing large open portals. In most habitat dwellings translucent and transparent screens based on fabrics, paper, and elastomerics are likely. But for the truly ‘outdoor’ spaces, such as balconies, terraces, and fully open structures in the large space pace other strategies become necessary.
One likely strategy is the lattice or cage structure, which could be seen as an analog to the traditional outdoor gazebo, bower, or pergola. Using geometries with spans between 1 and 3 meters, these structures would afford an open environment that would not seem cage-like or confining yet provide enough density of hand-holds to afford a sense of safety in the large span space. Lattice structures in particular have the added potential to integrate a variety of fixtures within their volume using the lattice structure as anchor points. Tensioned fabric partitions, for instance, akin to the sailcloth partitions used in many terrestrial outdoor structures. Seating in the form of channel shaped benches and alcoves that accommodate a wedge seating position. And also whole smaller cabin structures. An infinite variety of fixtures could be attached to such structures and, given the climate controlled nature of the habitat, could form the basis of residential and work dwellings with a far more open aspect than the more enclosed forms of cabins.
Given the likely strong desire of future space residents to employ decorative plants as a means to ‘naturize’ the highly industrial environment of the early space habitat, many novel systems for the cultivation and integration of decorative plants into interior design are likely. We will be discussing some of these systems in detail soon but one of the most important may be the SkyGarden concept derived from recent research into the use of semi-permeable ceramic pipes as the basis of hydroponics systems. These systems combine plant support with what is essentially a rigid structural element that can potentially be formed into innumerable shapes. Simple systems are likely to be based on single poles and narrow panels that may be installed in the various forms of residential dwelling like a handhold unit and feature their own integral lighting along with plant life supports concealed within their bases. Expanding on this, we can envision these being employed in greater number on the exterior of dwellings, along terraces and in large arrays covering and concealing exterior surfaces. As has been suggested previously, this could ultimately be employed the make the analogy of the Urban Tree very literal indeed.
Combine this technology with the gazebo and lattice structures described above and one would have the basis of a large assortment of very elegant outdoor structures that have the aspect of enormous plants inside which one can reside like birds roosting in a tree. These could be combined with the various forms of cabin structures or be used with larger lattice spans as an enclosure around them, forming a dwelling with a complex integration of indoor and garden outdoor space suspended in the large microgravity volume of the habitat macrostructure. It would seem likely that this combination could become the definitive Asgard design vernacular.
- Asgard Digitial Infrastructure
- Carrier Pallets
- WristRocket Personal Mobility Unit
- RocShaw Personal Mobility Units
- Pallet Truck
- ZipLine Tether Transport System
- MagTrack Transport System
- SkyGarden and SkyFarm Systems
- Meat Culturing
- Microgravity Food Processors
- Pools and Baths in Orbit
- Solar Sails
- Plasma and Fusion Propulsion