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Competition: Moonception

An open international ideas contest has been launched for a new visitor centre and science complex on the surface of the moon (Deadline: 30 May)

Open to students, architects, engineers and space enthusiasts – the competition seeks bold and innovative proposals for a new permanent base on the moon capable of accommodating five researchers and up 10 tourists in a ‘self-sustaining’ living environment.

The call for concepts – organised by Mumbai-based collective Volume Zero – aims to generate ideas for potential new habitation solutions which could be deployed on future expeditions to the lunar surface. Proposals should include a cooking area, research station, sanitation facilities, farming zones, recreational spaces, an exhibition space, observatory, medical centre and maintenance workshop.

Lunar habitation concept by Foster + Partners

Lunar habitation concept by Foster + Partners

Lunar habitation concept by Foster + Partners

According to the brief: ‘Today, the moon is the only celestial entity beyond the Earth that has been visited by humans. With new waves of technology reaching new heights, now is an appropriate time to envision the presence of humans in space on a permanent and sustainable basis. Space exploration, with human habitation at is centre, will now become one of the next great steps in innovation.

‘July 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo landing on the Moon and Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps on its surface; this would also be a momentous occasion to start the movement of introducing Architecture on the Moon. We invite visionaries from all professions, Architects, Designers, Engineers, and Space Enthusiasts to envision and design this near yet unseen future.’

The Moon is the earth’s only permanent natural satellite and was the focus of six US manned landings between 1968 and 1972. This July will mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing by Apollo 11 team members Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

There have been no crewed expeditions to the moon in more than four decades but exploration of the lunar atmosphere and surface by robotic satellites has continued. It also thought the Moon possesses basic materials with the potential for human habitation, such as oxygen, iron and aluminium.

The Apollo 11 first step on the Moon

The Apollo 11 first step on the Moon

The Apollo 11 first step on the Moon

Space tourism is now a growing sector with major players such as Virgin Atlantic, SpaceX promising crewed expeditions to the Moon and Mars, raising the prospect of permanent human habitation on other worlds.

Three years ago Foster + Partners developed plans for the European Space Agency for a multi-domed Moon base constructed from 3D-printed lunar soil. The latest contest invites participants to imagine a future visitor and science centre on any part of the lunar surface.

The visitor centre will offer interpretation facilities to first-time lunar tourists while the research complex will allow scientists to pioneer sustainable habitation on the satellite. Proposals should harness natural light where available, innovative materials and prioritise positive human psychology.

The overall winner, to be announced 20 July, will receive $2,000 while a second prize of $1,200 and third prize of $800 will also be awarded.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 30 May


Early Registration until 18 April: $75
Regular Registration from 19 April to 30 May: $95

Contact details

Volume Zero
Flat No-6
Ganeshkrupa Chs Ltd Meghwadi
Jogeshwari (East) Mumbai
Mumbai City Mh 400060


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Team Volume Zero

The organisers discuss their ambitions for the competition

Why are your holding an international ideas contest for a new lunar experience and research centre?

We at Volume Zero believe that there is an immense amount of design talent around the world, and giving these talents a chance to work on futuristic architectural and design ideas would be beneficial for the architecture and design community as a whole.

As we enter a new era for space technology and with major space companies announcing ambitious plans for a future on the moon, there is an opportunity for architects to think about how will things change in the future and what areas have to be worked on to create spaces for humanity in the future. This gave us the idea of creating a challenge, which will encourage designers across the globe to think beyond conventional methods.

Lunar habitation concept by Foster + Partners

Lunar habitation concept by Foster + Partners

Lunar habitation concept by Foster + Partners

Many design entries being submitted have great potential and only the eye of seasoned professionals will be able to identify and judge the best among them as we have to choose the winners for the $4,000 prize money. So, the jury panel has to choose across a range of submissions.

The many ideas coming from different reference points and contexts around the world for a particular problem offer a huge opportunity for our community of designers to learn from each other, and that’s why we’ve held the challenge as an international contest.

Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon during Apollo 11

Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon during Apollo 11

Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon during Apollo 11

What is your vision for the theoretical new complex on the moon?

As space exploration is one of the next great steps in innovation, we are looking at extensive imaginative ideas from the participants as per the parameters mentioned in the brief. Architecture that respects the quality of the space and light, shadow and materials has a great impact on the human mind. As we consider expanding the human footprint beyond our planet, we encourage participants to identify and explore how will lunar architecture could impact human psychology.

The participants have the liberty to choose the site on the lunar surface after studying it. Design innovation is a very important factor to be considered and so too is the quality of space, with atmospheric and topographical constraints on the lunar surface. Participants will have to expose themselves to domains outside their purview and to devise an imaginative design solution.

Sustainability is also a critical factor for consideration.

'Earthrise' image taken during Apollo 8 orbital mission

‘Earthrise’ image taken during Apollo 8 orbital mission

‘Earthrise’ image taken during Apollo 8 orbital mission

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We encourage architects, students, practising firms, engineers, designers and space enthusiasts from different disciplines to participate. Teams may be from the same disciplinary background or cross-disciplinary, as sometimes cross-disciplinarity results in some of the most innovative ideas. The top three winners of the competitions will receive a total prize of $4,000 USD, and will also have their designs published on various international design blogs.

What other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We are always in the process of identifying areas where architecture and design solutions can have a considerable impact. Some of the areas previously addressed in our challenges were educational, urban, social, and aquatic architecture. Based on current world scenarios we would be coming up with new topics that would encourage designers to think of architecture and design as a tool to solve some of the problems the world is facing today.

Are there any other recent extra-terrestrial projects using you have been impressed by?

The projects and concepts that have been developed by Space X, Nasa and other leading space organizations for Lunar and Martian development have been really inspiring and fascinating.

1995 Mooncolony visualisation by NASA

1995 Mooncolony visualisation by NASA

1995 Mooncolony visualisation by NASA