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City as a spaceship.

Fairburn, Susan Marie; Mohanty, Susmita; Imhof, Anna Barbara


Susan Marie Fairburn

Susmita Mohanty

Anna Barbara Imhof


While past visions of future cities were often inspired by space and exploration of the unknown, and thus based in science fiction, we propose future visions of the city based in science fact; that which is known and learned from our accumulated space exploration experience. Technological spin-offs from space design could integrate into our daily lives, but the confined conditions of extraterrestrial shuttles seldom serve as Earthly inspiration. If Earth were a spaceship and we were the Astronauts, how would we live differently? What if living conditions in outer space informed and exchanged the cramped social environments down below, such as the worker-housing and informal settlements in our mega-cities? How can space systems inform the structure and workings of extreme urban environments? We are exploring the City as a Spaceship and the reciprocities it offers by mapping extraterrestrial experiences onto earthly settings. Half the world's 7.25 billion inhabitants (Population Clock at 11.41 GMT on 15/08/2014) live in urban settings. Sao Paolo, Tokyo, Mexico City, Mumbai, Moscow, New York City, Hong Kong, London are the big cities, the Megatropolises, which all have rapidly growing populations within their densely packed urban centres with equally densely packed peripheries. Living conditions on Earth must change, irrespective of economic or social status, so that we can equalize opportunity and achieve a better standard of living for all. We propose that the (mega)City and the Spaceship be viewed as parallel and reciprocal case studies to think about contemporary forms of working and personal engagement; compact spaces, multifunctional spaces, public-private spaces, resource management, alternative energy harvesting, waste management, health management and inclusion of nature into our built-up environment. City As A Spaceship (CAAS) inspires technological humane innovation by positing the spaceship as an analogy of the modern, densely built urban space, with its complex structures and technologically advanced infrastructure, where the designed intention is to configure all systems to eco-efficiency to optimize the use of available resources. We believe the time is now to meet our primary needs through CAAS architecture and design, using technologies for space that can immediately impact the humane retrofitting of these cities. The CAAS City can be an inspiration, an alternate view, for a future city and a way to project and achieve our dreams and visions of an equitable and environment-friendly urban life.


FAIRBURN, S., MOHANTY, S. and IMHOF, A.B. 2014. City as a spaceship. Presented at the 65th International astronautical congress (IAC), 29 September - 3 October 2014, Toronto, Canada [online]. Available from:

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 65th International astronautical congress (IAC)
Conference Location Toronto, Canada
Start Date Sep 29, 2014
End Date Oct 3, 2014
Deposit Date Jun 8, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jun 8, 2017
Keywords Future cities; Space exploration; Space design; Architecture; Megatropolises
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