SpaceSuits: space architecture at human scale @ MAXXI, Rome

Valentina Sumini

Saturday — Monday
October 1, 2022 —
April 10, 2023

The MIT Space Exploration Initiative has been invited to present a collection of spacesuits in the TECHNOSCAPE, The Architecture of Engineers exhibition organized by MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Art in Rome, Italy

Participating researchers and artists: 

Valentina Sumini, Xin Liu, Rae (Yuping) Hsu, Pat Pataranutaporn, Maggie Coblentz, Manuel Muccillo, Paride Stella, Kate Moll, Nicholas deMonchaux, Ariel Ekblaw

The MIT Space Exploration Initiative’s exhibition for MAXXI presents a unique suite of interior and exterior environment spacesuits designed for day-to-day life in microgravity and planetary exploration—from a cyberbiome wearable to seahorse and ocean-inspired prosthetic tails and gossamer garments, to a meditation on future inter-species living. 

These provocative design concepts highlight novel ideas for our future in-space habitats, human behaviors, and activities—across both aesthetic form and scientific function. Creative re-envisioning of the spacesuit reminds us of the rich history of suit development, highlighted in the exhibit’s inclusion of “SpaceSuit: Fashioning Apollo,” while also pointing forward to the many suit concepts that will ensconce our spacefaring species as we design for and adapt to medium and long-duration human spaceflights to Low Earth Orbit, the Moon and Mars.

Designing and fabricating spacesuits offers us a compelling architecture and engineering challenge, in the spirit of MAXXI’s Technoscape, as these objects function as the minimum housing units for space explorers on Intravehicular (IVA) and Extravehicular Activities (EVA). We showcase the spacesuit as a unique space architecture concept at the most reduced, intimate scale: the human body. Through the MIT suit artifacts on display, we explore the possibility to transform the body in space by providing augmentation, enhanced performance, and functional fashion design that builds on our Earthly origins while leveraging the unique design affordances of the space environment.


Steve Boxall

The exhibit display reflects the unusual nature of our interdisciplinary design and engineering practice at MIT—we test these artifacts on parabolic “zero gravity” flights each year, where fleeting moments of true weightlessness provide the tantalizing opportunity to embody the future in microgravity.

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