art project by Anna Nesterova
theme: cities in space
The objective of the project “Inside Torus” is to develop a contemporary vision of a Sanford Torus space settlement. The inspiration for this project evolved during my collaboration with a space development enthusiast who wrote a book on space infrastructure and construction techniques of such habitats, for which I created illustration and provided some insights on the design. The work described involved visualization of the construction stages of a Stanford Torus solely and did not touch upon the subject of the habitat's interior arrangement. I decided to take the concept further and speculate on the subject of it's interior architectural solution.
A Stanford Torus is a toroidal-shaped large space station in which artificial gravity is achieved by means of rotation of the colony. The interior space of the torus is used as living space, and is large enough that a "natural" environment can be simulated; the torus appears similar to a long, narrow, straight glacial valley whose ends curve upward and eventually meet overhead to form a complete circle. The idea was first proposed at a NASA 1975 Summer Study at Stanford University and since then have inspired various artistic representations by space artists, in popular culture, sci fi literature and film.
These settlements can vary in size and serve different functionalities from which various approaches to it's interior design may derive. For the purposes of this project I intend to focus on a medium size station that can hold a population of a small town. The curved valley which forms the interior of such station will be 200 meters wide, with its overall length (or, in this case, circumference) 5.6 km. Creating the interior design of such settlement is essentially a challenge in city-planning. It is a city that it at the same time an “indoor” space, with many constraints dictated by safety reasons, the shape and the physical qualities of the space station itself (such as artificial gravity and lighting), yet with more freedom in the choice of materials and shapes of the housing and other facilities which will not need to be protected from environmental factors such as temperatures, rain and wind, which will be absent on the space station.
The theme of the project coincides with the focus of the residency program Artecitya, “to recreate the cities we want to live in” , giving it a radical perspective by taking the city concept out of Earth. The idea is interesting from both aesthetic and social points of view. What type of community will the space dwellers develop within the ecosystem of the space settlement? How to make the living space in this fully controlled, enclosed environment psychologically comfortable for its inhabitants? Should we mimic the earthly landscape or will it create an “uncanny valley” feel that would be perceived as less comfortable then an “honest” look? From the architectural / city planning standpoint the most interesting challenge here is the shape of the environment itself – a valley that “curves upward above your head” and the fact that this environment is effectively an indoor and outdoor space at the same time. A city in a room, so to speak.
Visionary artists of the last several decades, especially those in the 70s, inspired by the age of space enthusiasm, created illustrations of such space habitats. These artworks offer a glimpse into how the exterior and the interior of such space settlements might look like. They also show an interesting transformation of the artistic approach influenced by the aesthetic preferences and social tendencies of their time. Examples of the artists' s concepts of such habitats can be found in modern day entertainment productions such as video games and film (The movie “Elyseum” being perhaps the latest and most detailed example). The difference that I want to make is that my project is intended to be a “broad – strokes” artistic study, rather than an illustration. I want to explore and suggest different approaches with little detalisation rather then creating one very detailed depiction.
Creating an interior of a Stanford Torus is essentially a challenge in city-planning. What makes it most interesting from the artistic standpoint is the the unusual geometry of this environment - a “valley that curves upward above your head” where it is possible to create a ecosystem with green plants and water in some form, yet the “sky” above this valley would have to be the ceiling in which artificial lighting will be provided by a system of mirrors. The other distinguishing feature of this environment is that it is an indoor and outdoor space at the same time. A city in a house, so to speak. This fully (or partially) controlled environment will have many constraints dictated by safety reasons, the shape and the physical qualities of the space station itself, yet accommodate more freedom in the choices of materials and structural approaches to the residential and other facilities which will not need to be protected from such environmental factors as temperatures, rain and wind, which will be absent on a space station.
These settlements can vary in size and serve different functionalities from which various approaches to it's interior design may derive. They can be residential, industrial, scientific. For the purposes of this project I intend to focus on a medium size station that can hold a population of a small town. The curved valley which forms the interior of such station will be 200 meters wide, with its overall length (or, in this case, circumference) 5.6 km.
I see this work consisting of 3 distinct stages.
1. First stage will be research and analysis. As I will study and analyze all the previous attempts at creating this design arrangement by the artists of the past and present, I will compile a textual body of work on the subject. I intend to contact the artists who created depictions of such habitats and ask them to elaborate on their aesthetic and conceptual choices. As my research shows so far, there are some good and some less successful examples of the Stanford Torus interior design depictions, which are both interesting for various reasons.
2. The second stage will be conceptualizing my own ideas. From the creative standpoint, the goal is to implement innovative concepts in contemporary architecture and urban planning into the creation of the space habitat's interior. Modern architecture offers many thought-provoking ideas that can inspire the approach to this design. Parametric architecture, organic architecture, inflatable structures, tensile architecture, 3D printing,etc. In the process of shaping my idea I will be consulting with the scientists and engineers in my circle of space development enthusiasts concerning the technical constrains of the structure. As for the artistic vision, I will collaborate and brainstorm the idea with my fellow designers and architects. As a result I will develop sketches of the concept, and other preliminary visual material. There are specific architectural challenges that would need to be faced in this work, the list of which is not yet defined.
3. The third stage will include the visualization of the concept, which will appear as a result of collaborative work and research in the field of modern architecture and landscape design. It is hard to say whether the resulting vision will be one or several different ideas. The modeling of the environment will be done in 3D software and rendered as still images and / or animation.
The resulting body of work will consist of textual study, sketches, 3D renders, animated visuals and possibly info graphics. Each stage of work may result in it's own final presentation in a form of a short lecture with accompanying visuals. In the final presentation of the 3rd stage of work the viewer will be presented with a fly-around animated model of the space settlement.
One of the main intentions of the project is to inspire artists, designers and architects to apply their skills to artistic goals that stretch beyond the immediate needs of the present day and look into the future. It is hoped that this project will refresh the enthusiasm for the idea of living in space and inspire the continuation of a productive dialogue between art and science.