The Mars Underground City
The architecture presented this thesis is told in two parts. Part one is a narrative -- a “future history” -- that would make possible an eventual settlement on Mars. As part of this narrative, mission architectures, landing locations, and Martian phenomena were understood, synthesized, and made to align with a credible timeline for exploration. This included an argument for the type of exploration that would be done and its timescale, and where a settlement might be situated based on the narrative.
The benefits of a colony situated underground in naturally-occurring caves called lava tubes were elucidated during the formulation of the narrative, and a site was chosen that aligned with the “future history” and lava tube locations – Jezero Crater. Next, an in-depth study was attempted in order to size a Martian lava tube section (which haven’t been measured) based on their terrestrial counterparts and comparative data from lunar studies.
Part two, the architectural intervention, responds not to the benefits of this underground lifestyle, but to its drawbacks. Lack of connection with the surface, of light, and ultimately of spatial or temporal waypoints all present issues for settlers. This thesis proposes the erection of “solar monuments” in each segment of pressurized cave which, through their unique forms, allow both the play of light to transmit temporal information and illumination, while providing a physical way-point and identity to each segment. The goal of this concept is to give astronauts the agency to build with in-situ resources, help establish a timekeeping devices, and ultimately help settlers create a vernacular that is inherently linked to uniquely Martian phenomena, rather than linking vernacular back to Earth. This would catalyze the creation of a primitive Martian culture, complete with vernacular material, form, calendar, holidays, and urban expression, which could ultimately combat the “colonial” shortcomings of Martian settlement.