Back to the F**kture: Melodie Yashar

type - podcast
In this episode of our Back to the F**kture podcast, The Future Laboratory co-founder Martin Raymond talks to the award-winning technologist and space architect Melodie Yashar about how her work on future Mars habitats is providing Earth-bound communities affordable, sustainable, low-carbon homes – and beautiful ones at that.

Melodie Yashar, and her team at ICON, recently won Builder magazine Project of the Year award for a very modern, very beautiful, very curvilinear 2,045-square-feet house they’ve designed in Austin, Texas. In many ways it is the prototype for a range of 100 future-facing homes they are currently building and launching this year in Texas Hill Country.

Unlike most houses of this size, which generate about four tonnes of brick- and cement-related waste per house, this one, she tells me in my latest Back to the F**Kture podcast with her, left very little residue in terms of rubble, carbon, heat loss, even the usual left-over construction planks and scaffolding we normally associate with house construction and building sites globally.

It is a very modern house, as I say, with three bedrooms, gently stacked walls, two and a half bathrooms, and curved, demountable interior screen walls that owe as much to Mars and the Moon as they do to the Austin clay that they have been inserted into. Yep, Mars and the Moon!

For this, as I soon found out, is a 3D-printed house, one of a line of next-generation Vulcan construction system homes that owe their inception to habitats, landing plates and vertical ice houses that Yashar and her team are already working on, so that we can live on the Moon in readiness for that great leap onto Mars and into one of her award-winning Mars habitat prototypes.

And plans, she tells me, are well under way. In a warehouse at the Johnson Space Center, she and her team at ICON have already printed ‘a 1,700-square-feet structure, which will house four volunteer crew people who will perform and execute a Mars mission for an entire year’.

‘They will be doing various kinds of activities,’ she says, ‘growing crops, using aeroponics, and living and working in and around a large sandbox to simulate what it would be like to walk on soil conditions on Mars.’

Published by:

9 February 2023

Author: Martin Raymond



At present, walls – both for her Mars habitat and her award-winning ranch-style home in Austin, Texas – are constructed from extruded concrete, which lends all surfaces a soft, pliant, thermal mass weighting that reduces heat transfer. But in the long term, on the Moon and Mars particularly, local materials will be mined, milled and combined to create the base materials needed by 3D robotic printers to engineer her fabled habitats.

‘This,’ Yashar tells me, ‘will really enable us to maximise our payload capabilities for the things that are most critical for the mission. ‘And then by using materials from the land, and living off the land, we’ll be able to create a wide range of structures that we would never have been able to accomplish using traditional construction methods.’

You can tell from the way she speaks that she has thought about this a lot. An architect by training, with a master’s in architecture from Columbia University, she is also a designer and technologist. Before all of this, she studied Industrial Design at the Art Center College of Design and Rhetoric at University of California, Berkeley. So when she calls herself a space architect, she isn’t joking. Nor, indeed, are the growing number of scientists, technologists, AI researchers (another of her specialisms) who use this title to describe the breadth, depth and sheer imaginative and aesthetic leaps she takes in her work, which I think is the secret to the success, strange familiarity and harmonious calm of her designs.

And it is all intentional, as she explains. ‘I’m a designer who employs an evidence-based process – so it’s really data and science that drive my initial design explorations. But I also believe that there is so much potential to explore formal ideas, and to create structures that are designed to calm us, inspire a sense of wellbeing, ground us…’ It’s the reason that she thinks technology, space habitation and wellbeing need to be considered hand in hand.

‘After all, we are going to be in deep space, on unfamiliar planets, away from any sense of human scale, so these habitats really need to provide us with holistic solutions, as well as places to facilitate scientific advancement.’

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