A proposal conceptualised by an NSW architect for an international design competition that sought ideas for sustaining life on Mars, has won the top prize.

Giuseppe Calabrese, the senior architect at Council Approval Group – a small Australian town planning and architecture firm – was placed first at the international competition launched by Californian smart city development company, Mars City Design, and backed by NASA. The primary objective of the competition was to source ideas to sustain human life on Mars for more than two years.

Calabrese’s submission outlined how rockets would send robotic self-building farms a year prior to the first human landing. Using Artificial Intelligence and 3D printing, these buildings, preloaded with seeds, would then assemble autonomously and begin growing enough fruits and vegetables to sustain nine astronauts for up to two years.

Last month, Calabrese was shortlisted in the top 10 designs, competing against international firms from the USA, Germany, United Arab Emirates and Taiwan. On the live streamed awards night recently, his submission was announced as the winner for ‘Mars City Design Urban Farming Challenge 2020’, which was presented by NASA astronaut, Col. Terry Virts.

Image credit: Aleksandar Vuksanovic / Aenima.

Until less than a year ago, Calabrese spent his time designing granny flats, duplexes and boarding houses for investors. Following the COVID pandemic, he was able to keep his job thanks to the Job Keeper program. During this period, he was also able to use his surplus design time on a passion project – town planning on Mars. When the competition came up, he decided to apply his architectural skills to the challenge.

Competition founder Vera Mulyani was very impressed with the Australian submission, not only for the visually appealing designs but also for the fact that every detail was supported by hundreds of pages of research and scientific data.

“Our next step is to secure funding, so we can build a prototype of the winning designs, which include Calabrese's proposal, in the Californian desert,” Mulyani added.

Calabrese’s smart farm idea couldn’t have come at a more perfect time given that NASA’s latest high-tech Rover will be reaching Mars in February 2021 while Elon Musk is considering a mission to the red planet as early as 2024.

Image credit: Aleksandar Vuksanovic / Aenima.

Image credit: Aleksandar Vuksanovic / Aenima.

“Australia already leads the world in many farming practices. So why not in space? And when billionaire Elon Musk needs an architect to design his mansion on Mars, he now knows who to call,” Calabrese said with a smile.