‘Redwood Forest’: MIT’s Winning Concept For Mars City Design 2017 International Competition

An MIT team has developed an urban design for the planet Mars called “Redwood Forest.” It won the Mars City Design 2017, which is an international competition with the theme of building sustainable cities on the Red Planet that may be built in the coming century.

The team is composed of nine students from various departments and research groups. They were led by MIT postdoc Valentina Sumini and Assistant Professor Caitlin Mueller, both from departments of Architecture and Civil Environmental Engineering (CEE), according to MIT News.

The winning concept features domes, also referred to as tree habitats, that could each accommodate about 50 people. The domes are planned with open, public spaces that are arrayed with plants and abundant water that could be harvested from the northern plains of the Red Planet. Underneath the habitat is a network of underground tunnels that connect the domes. It also provides protection from the impact of micrometeorites, cosmic radiation, and intense thermal variations. The domes are designed to house around 10,000 inhabitants.

Sumini explained the details of their design. She said that on the Red Planet, the city will physically and functionally resemble a forest, utilizing local Martian resources like ice and water, regolith or soil, and sun to sustain life. She further explained that designing a forest signifies the potential outward growth as nature spreads across the Martian landscape.


Each dome has a branching structural system and an inflated enclosure that is anchored by tunneling roots. The concept is parametric, meaning each habitat is distinct and contributes to a diverse forest of urban spaces, according to Sumini.

George Lordos, a doctoral student from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, added that each habitat in Redwood Forest will collect energy from the sun and use it to process and transport the water in the tree. Each tree is conceptualized as a water-rich environment. He continues that water fills the soft cells inside the dome that gives shelter from radiation, and manages heat load, and supplies hydroponic farms for growing fish and plants.

In addition, the solar panels generate energy to split the stored water for the production of rocket fuel, oxygen, and for charging hydrogen fuel cells. These are essential to power long-range vehicles and deliver backup energy storage in case of dust storms, according to Lordos.

The team also thinks that the concept could be useful to planet Earth. These include the tree habitat design, hydroponic gardening, and electric vehicles, among others. This concept won first place in the Architecture category of the 2017 Mars City Design Competition, according to New Atlas.

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