Prototype II: a modular shelter for living in space

Countless of books have been written about space travel and living on other planets. We now seem to be closer than ever to actually realise the latter so we need to be prepared. A while ago, NASA developed a 3D printed space chainmail, but if you’re off gallivanting in space, you need a place to stay as well. For the Techtextil ‘Living in Space’ exhibition, UNStudio and MDT-tex created a modular shelter called Prototype II that envisions how we might one day live on the moon or on Mars.

The installation is a self-supporting pavilion, of which the primary component is PTFE membrane (polytetrafluoroethylene, commonly known as Teflon). This textile has a high performance, is durable even in extreme weather conditions, but also lightweight.

PTFE is a great material for use in space, as it can withstand temperatures between -160 and 327 degrees Celsius (-256 to 620.6 degrees Fahrenheit). In addition, it is non-flammable, and has low electrical and thermal conductivity.

According to UNstudio, PTFE as a textile provides more uses and formal flexibility than other architectural materials, such as composites or lightweight metals. However, like any textile, PTFE can be custom woven, with open weaves and colour integration, to match the needs of any project. The material is translucent, letting through 40 per cent of visual light while filtering out UV radiation.

The design of the self-supporting pavilion was inspired by foldable structures and the need for lightweight and compact transport into space. Of course, textile used in architecture generally needs a frame to hold the material in position. Prototype II uses an aluminium and steel frame in each panel to stay upright.

At Techtextil, Prototype II served at a space where guests could experience a trip to mars in virtual reality, as represented by co-exhibitors the European Space Agency (ESA and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

Photos: Olaf Becker
Images: MDT-tex (via Archdaily)