The Shape of Space

What the orbital space habitats designed for NASA in 1975 can teach us about living in new geometries

Too often, we take for granted the apparently solid, stable, planar ground of our home planet. We also take for granted that its spatial metaphors will translate to other states, forms, and spaces. On or near the surface of the Earth, we enjoy a correspondence between our spatial precepts and concepts. The nature of “outer” space questions those assumptions, and breaks apart those alliances.

So do the strange geometries and spatial conditions of O’Neill’s Cylinders, Spheres, and Toruses. If Bucky Fuller is right, that the spatial schema we use on Earth is inherently limited and limiting, then the conception of new “outer” spaces is vital. The split Fuller identified in his riff on instairs and outstairs is one of many fractures opened during the process of thinking about and designing spaces for humans off of Earth. Glaeser’s position, which takes for granted the hard shell and the static nature of humans, might conceal still more splits yet to be explored. New images of space are necessary, but so are new systems, open-ended, within and without.

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