Wednesday, October 02, 2019


Moon: Architectural Guide
Paul Meuser
DOM Publishers, October 2019

Paperback | Page Size inches | 336 pages | 500 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3869226705 | $39.95

Publisher Description:
Architecture on the moon is no longer a naive fantasy dreamt up by space-flight pioneers. In fact, various building typologies for lunar architecture have emerged in recent years. Their prototypes are being tested in hostile regions on Earth and are waiting to be deployed on the moon.

This book’s publication marks the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon. It examines all artefacts that we have sent to the moon, from bizarre technologies to habitation modules for astronauts. This architectural guide thus offers a full retrospective of the history of lunar missions, from the space race during the Cold War through to the missions being prepared by China, India, and Israel in the present day. All of these are considered under the rubric of architecture. At the same time, efforts to commercialise space travel have come to the fore in recent years. New players have entered the stage, competing to utilise the moon’s vast and untouched resources.

This book also presents essays by and interviews with space experts, including a discussion with Galina Balashova, renowned architect of the ­Soviet space programme, and a piece by Alexander Glushko, son of Valentin Glushko, legendary head engineer of the Soviet space programme. Brian ­Harvey, Gurbir Singh, and Olga Bannova provide an insight into current and future developments in lunar architecture, writing on China, India, and the US, respectively.
dDAB Commentary:
As of this week, DOM Publishers has published 109 guidebooks. Although this large number does include multiple translations of some guides, clearly DOM is one of the most prolific publishers of architectural guides these days. I've reviewed a bunch of them (New York City, most recently) and can say the consistency of the covers and formatting is welcome, as are the varied voices writing the guides and the widespread locales featured, many of which I'll never see in person (I'm thinking specifically of Pyongyang, North Korea). So when I saw that DOM was publishing an architectural guide to the Moon, I was more than intrigued. A few questions jumped to mind: What would a guide to an uninhabited place be like? (Even though the moon landing 50 years ago made the prospect of life on the Moon seem inevitable, humans are still not lunar creatures.) Who would be an expert guide to a place that has not been literally touched by humans since that same landing? And what does the guide say about the future of architecture for the Moon and other planets, such as Mars, which must be dramatically different than on Earth but is increasingly discussed as happening in the not-too-distant future?

The first question is answered by the first contribution to the guidebook: an English translation of the late Hans Hollein's 1968 essay "Alles Ist Architektur" (Everything is Architecture). Asserting that everything is architecture allows author Paul Meuser "to categorize the probes and space capsules as works of architecture," as he states in the guide's Preface. So any artifact that was designed by humans on Earth and landed on the moon as part of a lunar mission is fair game for inclusion in this so-called architectural guide to the Moon. As a young boy who was space-crazy (along with all my friends), the grown-up me appreciates seeing the many probes, capsules, rockets, etc. (most from the US and USSR), but as an architect I'm not convinced they're architecture nor that an architectural guide to the Moon makes sense in this guise.

When Meuser — a twentysomething "3D artist, Roboticist, illustrator, neighborhood painter, outer space expert (who’s too young to be an astronaut)," in response to the second question — and his contributors occasionally include speculative habitable environments, I find myself nodding in agreement over the book's premise; but too much of the book focuses on equipment engineered for the Moon and outer space, not designed for human habitation beyond the Earth. Even though Meuser approaches the artifacts "under the rubric of architectural design," arguably the only times architectural intentions come into play are when crews were involved; even then, calling a crewed rocket architecture is a stretch. Lastly, what does the book say about the future of design on the Moon and other planets? Well, not much. Meuser acknowledges the privatization of space exploration in the last chapter and presents in-progress rockets, rovers, and capsules by SpaceX and the like, but it's more of the same: lots of engineering and technology but very little actual architecture.

Author Bio:
Paul Meuser was born in Berlin in 1996. Studied art at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence between 2015 and 2019. Student at the Yale School of Architecture in New Haven since 2019. Participated in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge in 2018 at the Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville.
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