'Neuro'; a finalist in the Mars City Design competition
When we imagine the cities of the future, they frequently feature driverless cars and pods zipping effortlessly between buildings. They are often dominated by imposing buildings constructed of shining steel and coated in glass. And they sometimes even hint at the realisation of the age-old dream to travel by hovercraft.  But our imaginings of the places our grandchildren’s grandchildren might one-day call home almost always have one thing in common. They are on Earth.

Vera Mulyani is an architect and designer who has dared to challenge the norm.  Founder and CEO of Mars City Design, Vera has brought together some of the world’s best architectural and engineering minds.  Her goal; designing and building the first city on Mars.

Growing up amongst the pollution and political turmoil of Jakarta, Vera set her sights on a better world at a very young age.  She was determined to escape the poverty and corruption her parents had faced throughout her childhood, and shared space mogul Elon Musk’s dream to escape planet Earth as well.  Following Musk’s vision to set a million people on Mars by 2100, Mulyani is determined to ensure they have a safe and sustainable place to call home when they get there.

A “Marschitect’s” vision

A self-proclaimed “Marschitect”, Mulyani founded Mars City Design as an innovation platform, designing the blueprints for sustainable living on Mars.  An annual competition run by the organisation draws entries from across the world. Each year the theme of the competition focusses on a different challenge of life on Mars.  This year’s contest saw more than 150 applicants submitting their proposals, with 25 selected as finalists.

Although the colonisation of Mars may seem a far distant vision, Mulyani is keen to develop the proposed technologies.  Plans are already underway to 3D print full-scale replicas of the winning designs in the Mojave Desert.  The printed cities will be rigorously tested on Earth and it is hoped they will be ‘habitable’ in just 3 years.

Speaking to the QEPrize, Vera said: “Mars City Design prioritizes the role of architecture and engineering in creating the cities of the future on Mars, that can be applicable on Earth.  Engineering new concepts is crucial to the tangible realization of these designs. Vice-Versa, new ideas will propel breakthroughs in engineering and technology.

Therefore, we plan to build 3D prints of our prototype in the Mojave Desert, where the harsh climate conditions will support our research and development steps.”

Why Mars?

When it comes to designing the cities of tomorrow, there was one question that really stood out to us. Why Mars? The competition draws together some of the best minds in design and engineering from across the world. Teams from prestigious institutions like MIT and Carnegie Melon submit their suggestions; so with all of this brain power on the case, why not use it here on Earth?

“We set our sights on the red planet as a way of inspiring innovation”, said Vera.  “We believe that imagining our lives ‘expanding on other planets’ can stimulate new ideas, and creatively overcoming some extreme conditions to survive on Mars will spur sustainable solutions which can benefit life on Earth immediately. The technologies being suggested can also be implemented into future cities here on earth, to improve the way we live by always thinking ahead of time, turning problems creatively into unique innovations.”

Looking towards the future of the project, a recent Kickstarter campaign has raised over $30,000 dollars to go towards holding a workshop for competing finalists. The unique, expert-led workshop will be held at the University of Southern California in September.  Over two weeks, the workshop will unite teams with aerospace engineers, cultivating designs and developing technological solutions.

Top scoring contestants of this year’s competition will attend, including Local Positioning System, Dandelion and Galactic Farms.

Image of “Neurosynthesis” project courtesy of Karan Gandhi.