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Q&A with Mars City Design Winners 2016

What is your project specifically?

My project is an architecture proposal for the first permanent facility on Mars. This building serves as a research/testing facility to learn what it will take to develop larger habitable colonies on Mars leading to future cities. The project attempts to solve the issues that come with living on Mars; such as inability to rely on Earth for building materials, the need to be self-sustainable, and the human desire to live a healthy and happy life.

Mars Research Colony by Matthew Jennings
Mars Research Colony by Matthew Jennings

What differentiates your project from others like it?

The largest differentiating aspect of my project is the concern for quality of life. Most proposals for Martian settlements address only the physical aspects of living on Mars. There is only concern for allowing life to exist, but no concern for what type of lifestyle there is to live. My proposal includes skylights to connect the inhabitants with the outside world, large open interior spaces to promote a sense of community, and plant life growing in the living spaces to provide a connection to nature.

 What inspired you to create this?

This project was also my thesis for Ball State University. I wanted to question the design process architecture usually goes through on Earth by designing a project on Mars. I believe humans will live on Mars during my lifetime, and my architectural education and experience has shown me what architects can contribute to the process. 

How could this design also benefit Earth?

As I mentioned before, my thesis project wanted to question the current design process. Often times, buildings begin with assumptions and decisions being made solely because it has worked in the past. I feel this prevents buildings from reaching their full potential. How we design for Mars will show us how we should be designing for Earth. Sustainable technologies exist but are not fully implemented in the industry. New construction techniques, such as 3D printing, are becoming more available and will need to be implemented into the arsenal of tools architects have to create buildings. When planning for a structure on Mars, each aspect of the building will have to be considered to create buildings that support life in such a hostile environment. If this same mentality was used for building on Earth today architecture would look much different, and much better.

What was your favorite part about the Mars City Design experience?

Meeting new people was by far the best part of the Mars City Design experience. This workshop brought people together from all over the world with different backgrounds all uniting over a shared interest in putting humans on Mars. Getting to share my own ideas and abilities with creative writers, engineers, urban planners, and business developers helps create new discussions and ideas. This workshop was a great networking event allowing me to form new contacts and friendships that expand my understanding of what living on Mars will look like.

Did you learn anything new at the Mars City Design experience?

I had finished a year of research about what it takes to live on Mars prior to the Mars City Design workshop and thought I had a pretty strong understanding of all things Mars. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Each speaker that presented was an expert in their field. They knew answers to questions I didn’t even know existed. The most interesting thing I learned at the workshop was other ideas of what a city on Mars might look like from both guest speakers and other contestants. The creativity and research that went into developing proposals is always inspiring and helpful to create new questions about my own proposal.

How did your project evolve based on what you learned at the experience?

A new understanding for the important factors of living on Mars was developed from this workshop. As each day passed, I realized how far along our knowledge of living in space has become. Most issues humans will face on Mars have been solved or are well on the way to being solved. The quality of life aspect that my project addresses seems to be falling behind. There is much less discussion being had about how it will feel to live on Mars compared to how can we make it so people can live on Mars. This realization affirms my belief that quality of life on Mars needs to be considered and tested just as much as the physical challenges of living on Mars
Matthew Jennings
Matthew Jennings

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