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NASA 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge: Ice House

Clouds Architecture Office, Space Exploration Architecture



  • Christina Ciardullo
  • Kelsey Lents
  • Jeffrey Montes
  • Michael Morris
  • Melodie Yashar
  • Ostap Rudakevych
  • Masayuki Sono
  • Yuko Sono

Project Status

Concept Proposal



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Project Description


SEArch (Space Exploration Architecture) and Clouds AO (Clouds Architecture Office), an architecture and space research collective, were awarded the $25,000 top prize Sunday, September 27th in the NASA and America Makes sponsored competition 3D Printed Habitat Challenge for Mars. The competition asked teams to design a habitat for four crew members while highlighting 3D printing techniques and using material indigenous to Mars. Recognizing that water is the building block to life, the team used a ‘follow the water’ approach to conceptualize, site and construct their design. ICE HOUSE was born from the imperative to bring light and a connection to the outdoors into the vocabulary of Martian architecture. The winning proposal stood out as one of the few entries not to bury the habitat beneath regolith, instead mining the anticipated abundance of subsurface ice in the northern regions to create a thin vertical ice shell capable of protecting the interior habitat from radiation while celebrating life above ground.

ICE HOUSE was one of 30 designs to advance to the third round finals from an original 162, ultimately taking home first place ahead of entries from the European Space Agency and international firm Foster + Partners. A 3D printed scaled model of the design was presented to the public at the Maker’s Faire September 26th and 27th. Throughout the challenge, the team also experimented with 3D ice prototyping, redefining traditional methods of 3D printing by instead relying on the physics of phase transition between solid and vapor states. Some of the results of this research and experimentation may be found at

The SEArch / Clouds AO team, with ties to Pratt Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Princeton University, and Parsons School of Design, is comprised of eight noted designers including: Christina Ciardullo, Kelsey Lents, Jeffrey Montes, Michael Morris (project team leader) and Melodie Yashar of SEArch, and Ostap Rudakevych, Masayuki Sono, and Yuko Sono of Clouds AO. Consulting on the project are fourteen leading space related subject matter experts (SME’s) comprised of scientists, astrophysicists, geologists, structural and 3D printing engineers.

SEArch’s collaboration builds upon a ten-year portfolio combining teaching and practice through academic space projects and research at Columbia University and Pratt institute in association with the Human Factors division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC). SEArch’s collective work has made multiple presentations to international space and architectural symposiums and design programs Including: NASA’s JSC Constellation Program (Ciardullo, Lents), participation on the 2015 Caltech Challenge winning design (Montes), and the 2016 X-HAB Innovation Challenge award for Human Centered: Designs for a Mars Transit Habitat at Pratt Institute (Morris), which evolved from his 2014 participation as an SME in the Net Habitable Volume Consensus Session for a Mars transit habitat for NASA in 2014.

Clouds AO has produced a number of built and speculative projects distilled from research and analysis that explores the intersection between conceptual and experiential approaches to the built environment. Their work includes the publication of 'Third Sphere,' an article describing a suspended city based on the principle of the space elevator (Kerb Journal, 2012) and 'Comet Runner' which envisioned harnessing a comet for interplanetary exploration (Dezeen, 2015). In 2014, they were nominated for the Iakov Chernikhov Prize, and in 2015 Clouds AO received the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter Honor Award.

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