As you might imagine, from time to time, the ISS National Lab gets some very interesting inquiries. Granted, most of those range in some very out-of-the-box ideas to utilize the station through scientific investigation. However, we received a very interesting inquiry from the Yale University School of Architecture that was unlike any request the ISS National Lab had received to date.
Each year, the Yale School of Architecture tasks its second-year graduate students to design a complete building as a semester-long project. Effectively asking, what would your company desire in a first-class facility? They invite members from high ranking companies, or museums (ex. The Smithsonian) to come and speak about what a new, state-of-the-art facility could include. Over the course of the semester, these organizations will check in on the progress of each student’s work and provide insight and recommendations for how this hypothetical headquarters might be better designed.
This year, the Yale School of Architecture asked if they could create a state-of-the-art, 50,000 square foot facility in the heart of uptown Manhattan, right next door to the United Nations. The the ISS National Lab response? What a great opportunity to think out-of-the-box with some of our country’s finest creative minds, while providing these students a glimpse into how the ISS National Lab functions as an organization.
We were asked by Yale to think of the possibilities. How would a new the ISS National Lab headquarter facility in New York look? What would it include and why?
the ISS National Lab Chief Operating Office and Yale alumnus Duane Ratliff and I embarked on the university this week to discuss at a high-level, what exactly our organization is tasked by Congress to perform and to provide basic elements to any headquarter facility that the students should include.
An email chain ensued in which the ISS National Lab staff mentioned their ideas for the “perfect” facility that would lead to utilization and promotion of the National Lab. Staff recommended everything from mock ups of the ISS, to laboratories that allow researchers access to test their research in as close to in-situ environments as possible for easy integration to the elements available on station.
The class, with 55 total students, took the information provided by the the ISS National Lab staff and will begin to individually design the building according to their personal research, technical requirements and creative intuition into how they best feel that the National Laboratory manager’s “new” headquarters facility should be visually represented. Each student will provide their own renderings, drawings and physical models and at the end of the semester, the ISS National Lab will get to see each of the finished products, in mock-up fashion, that is.
But why the ISS National Lab? Why would the Yale School of Architecture have any interest in creating a “headquarters” for our organization? Mark Foster Gage, Assistant Dean for the Yale School of Architecture and class instructor felt that the ISS National Lab was a “fascinating organization, and could be a transformative voice for space-research. With such responsibility, we felt that our students, in collaboration with the ISS National Lab representatives could propose a next-generation type of facility that a next-generation organization like the ISS National Lab would require. It’s a very contemporary problem and we felt that unlike more traditional design problems—museums, libraries, performance spaces, this is a new problem that would require more progressive and innovative solutions.”
In reality, this is a 9 unit class with the intention to cultivate and enhance the creative intuition of Yale’s 50-plus architecture graduate students – a class that the ISS National Lab is incredibly flattered to be a part of. However, in talking further with our COO, Duane Ratliff, it also put into perspective the incredible duty that the ISS National Lab is tasked with each day. Yale could have chosen any company or organization to put their students’ attention towards. They chose the ISS National Lab because we represent the opportunity for inquiry and groundbreaking discovery that can inspire a nation to do more. To create more. To think beyond what we have previously thought was possible here on Earth.
I suppose it is ironic that I am writing this blog currently on an airplane, and the in-flight movie is “Star Trek: Into Darkness.” It was mentioned in our meeting with the students, and not to sound over-the-top, but through the investigations the ISS National Lab is able to potentially foster on the ISS, it in large measure can potentially determine how the United States chooses to move forward with space exploration. As the quote goes, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
Our only hope is that when all is said and done, the ISS National Lab as an organization is able to return the respect and flattery that Yale (and the American tax payer) has shown by choosing us as the entity to use as a model for their students, allowing their creative juices to run wild.
Much like their work, we look forward to seeing how things ultimately develop… And who knows, maybe someday, a hypothetical facility that houses all the needs for the ISS National Lab that demonstrates the full capabilities of space-research might not be so implausible.