“THE GREEN MILLON CITY” Challenge: Mars Home Planet 3D Modeling Challenge. Powered by NASA & HP. FIRST PRIZE.

El concurso consistía en diseñar una ciudad para un millón de habitantes en Marte. Era un concurso que organizaba la NASA y el Innovation Lab me propuso presentarme junto con un grupo de alumnos y exalumnos seleccionados del IED.

Fueron dos meses muy intensos de investigación donde aprendimos mucho sobre la tecnología actual que se puede aplicar para vivir allí. La propuesta surgió uniendo esta tecnología e imaginando una sociedad utópica que comienza desde cero. 

Así nació Algi. La ciudad que inventamos y que ganó el primer premio de diseño y el primer premio de la liga internacional de universidades.

panel 4
_ Algi

Everyday we see the possibility of living on Mars more clearly. But in our haste to find a way to live on the red planet, we must take a step back and ponder how we can create a new society on Mars, having learned from our mistakes on Earth. On Mars we have the opportunity to learn, innovate and experiment with a desolate terrain and its obstacles. We can create a society which implements smart systems and ethical resources, a society comprising of happy and responsible communities, we can create a society which gives and recieves.

Our vision of the 1 million city on Mars is to create a utopian collaborative society, brimming with nature, whose advances not only affect the improvement of life on Mars, but can also transmit those advances back to Earth, creating a symbiotic interplanetary relationship.


Our Objectives

1. Create a happy, responsible and community driven society
2. Make a sustainable society which implements smart technologies and closed loop cycles, generating its needs on a decentralized and healthier scale
3. Coexist with each other and nature
4. A city model we could bring back to help Earth
5. Use existing and developing technology, and a large dose of imagination



The problems we face on Mars

On Mars we are presented with many challenges, challenges which we know of and
challenges which will come once we have settled on Mars.
Obstacles we face are;
-Atmosphere = 100 times thinner than Earth’s’ + 96% CO2
-Fault of magnetic field
-Fault of Atmosphere creates
+High cosmic radiation
+Sublimation of known H2O
-Desolate Top Soil
-Desert Sandy Terrain
-Strong wind storms


The way the world is moving : 2018-2150

In the midst of the 4th industrial revolution, we see advances moving at an exponential rate. Within our team we are a mix of young generation Y and old generation Z. Between us we have people who grew up with dial-up internet on the singular home computer and others whose first phone already had 3G. When we began this project we decided that the day there is a city with 1 million humans on Mars, one can only imagine what kinds of technologies will be available. To place a date we decided upon the year 2150.




Give & Take / Mars a testing ground

On Mars we have the opportunity to start a society from scratch, a society which can give and take, a place where the main goal is sustainable and intelligent solutions of which we can test on Mars and send back to Earth.


The way the world is moving : 2018-2150

In the midst of the 4th industrial revolution, we see advances moving at an exponential rate. Within our team we are a mix of young generation Y and old generation Z. Between us we have people who grew up with dial-up internet on the singular home computer and others whose first phone already had 3G. When we began this project we decided that the day there is a city with 1 million humans on Mars, one can only imagine what kinds of technologies will be available. To place a date we decided upon the year 2150.


++ 1 more person on Mars = 2.4 tons less plastic in Earth’s ocean

How can Mars and Earth help each other symbiotically ? With around 8 million metric tons of plastic dumped in our oceans each year, we can take our waste on Earth and use in to build our city on Mars. In recent years many companies around the world have been testing filaments made with recycled plastic waste, companies have even started creating 3D printers to use in zero gravity. Parts of the city will be constructed by using 3D printing technology which would take Earths plastic waste from the ocean, transform it on the way to Mars, to then be used as construction material. Advancing material investigation and 3D technology is already allowing us to print all kinds of materials. At Northwestern university they have been investigating making concrete with Martian materials, sulphur being the key added component.



++ The Mars City Laboratory

More challenges thus more innovation thus more intelligent city models. Algi will be a testing ground for creating a utopian society, a model which can be applied on Earth.

On Mars we will create a society whose structure does not benefit from individual gain but from collective gain. Coexisting in a participatory society, Martians will be accustomed to responsibly discarding their waste, choosing sustainable transport, working on community gardens, volunteering a their local school.

Among all the kinds of people who will be on Mars, many would include, scientists, engineers, programmers, astronauts, biologists, systems designers and many more qualified people who have decided to live on Mars. This concentration can create more focused innovation on creating a society which could help Earth. Mars could be the incubator of innovation and testing.

Bringing the advances back to Earth, where it’s needed first With such concentration of innovation on Mars, we want to create a city model which could be transmitted back to Earth, where it counts. Between wars and climate change we now have millions of social and environmental refugees. We have seen the desertification of Earth starting, concentrated in undeveloped regions, regions that are underprepared and neglected by the world’s developing countries. The Algi city model can be the testground to later be applied to the places that need it on Earth.



The Beginning: Sweet spot on Mars. Oudemans Crater .

Oudemans Crater, located on the edge of Noctis Labyrinthus on the equator is a perfect spot where we can have higher and more stable temperatures. We are also protected by the crater from the tempestuous weather on Mars. The area of Noctis Labyrinthus is full of steep edged valleys, it sits upon one of the greatest reservoirs of water found on Mars to date.




++ Exploration, First Settlement & Drones

Drones programmed in swarms, will locate the most promising places for the development of all the activities humans will require. They are the true explorers of the terrain since 2023, the workforce and the maintenance and surveillance of the environment. Thanks to the trips that will take place between 2023 and 2040 the new settlers, alongside the drones, will start the first semblance of a society.


drones y globos


++ Obtaining H20 + Renewable Energy & Autonomy / Jump starting our city

There any many different technologies which have been created throughout the last 20 years on how to obtain water on Mars, extracting frozen H2O and CO2 ice from the subsurface of Mars, combining CO2 and H2 to make H2O and CH4, extracting vapor from the subsoil, water regeneration systems. On Mars we would use a variety of these systems, however starting with the University of Washington’s Water Vapor Absorption Reactor, pictured below.

Upon arriving on Mars we will start by implementing photovoltaic panels (See Biological Membrane) and windmills to jump start our energy source. We will have less than half the amount of sunshine however lots of wind from Mars wind and sand storms. With battery packs to save the energy generated we can create large reserves of renewable energy. The algae cycle and organic waste cycle can be fed by these energies sources, as a jump start, these cycles can create energy for the city as well as energy to make their cycles energy autonomous (see, Organic Waste Cycle).


The Biological Membrane / Artificial Atmosphere

Keeping in mind the complications on Mars, we can assume that until terraforming, a process which can take hundreds of years, we will be living in an artificial atmosphere. We created a multifunctional protective membrane, containing water and microalgaes, that will protects us from the dangers of Mars atmosphere as well as serving other functions like our water cycle, oxygen cycle, agriculture, and alimentation.

++ In & Out

Water is extracted and then introduced into the membrane circuit after it has been filtered. When the water enters the membrane it separates into two conduits, mixing with the algae in one of them. Water protects us from radiation, while algae transforms that radiation into O2 and electrical energy. The membrane also provides algae as food for citizens and bioluminescent light throughout the city. The ambient water vapor that is generated inside the city is absorbed by the membrane to be reintroduced back into the circuit.



++ Microalgae

We use the various properties of algae to perform many functions of the biological membrane. The algae is the most productive resource in the membrane, it serves as a nutritional spot as well as transforming CO2 into O2 while simultaneously absorbing the radiation and transforming it into electrical energy.

++Advantages from MicroAlgae (Algae Energy, 2017):

– Feed off of CO2
– Unlimited source of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, Omega-3 fatty acids
– High productivity = Daily harvest
– Can grow in all kinds of water and infertile land
– When harvested multiple times it can be used as fertilizer.

++ Farming

We will arrive as settlers, starting our civilization much like human beings did on Earth, by becoming farmers. On Mars we have to be much more conservative with our resources, and use systems in which every byproduct can be used. By using closed loop farming techniques like algae farms and organic waste transformation sites, we can create sustainable multifunctional systems. We can decentralize our agricultural system, dispersing our resources throughout our city, creating a stronger connection between nature and Martians and preventing exploitation of resources. Returning to a healthy and non-exploitative scale of production. Algae in Farming On earth we have already seen the transversal benefits from algae farms, algae can grow in a variety of climates in a multitude of production methods . We can farm with less requirements and more efficiency, create biofuel from our farms, create fertilizer, grow food. Organic Waste Soil Alongside algae farming we will implement traditional farming techniques within neighborhoods and public space with efficient modifications like using all organic waste and treating it to be used as fertilizer. (see Organic Waste cycle)



++ Gastronomy / Vending Machines on Mars

Apart from eateries, on Algi we can find food at Algae Spots as well as Honey Points, algae and honey dispensers which provide a great sources of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and antioxidants, giving Martians the energy they need to get on with their day.



Urban Life

What will our daily lives be like on Mars ? What kind of citizens will we be ? When we began this project we kept asking ourselves how Martians would differ from Earthlings and how Algi could incite us to be better citizens. Creating a role model for Earth.

++ Daily martian life

This is Julia, she is 13 years old (24 Earth years), she was born in Algi, she finished university and a master, now she is working as a freelance designer through her coworking. “ After work my friends and I went to talk to our Earth pals to feel the beach for while. Since they installed the virtual reality center it’s been amazing to see all the beautiful landscapes on Earth. After we played basketball for awhile and stretched before going home to rest for a bit. I need to get more MarsTokens, the bathroom exchange and biking to the coworking has been getting me by, but to have some extra MarsTokens would be great. I was thinking about signing up for the community algae gardens in town. In a community where participation is so important for our continued conviviality, I can’t be letting myself sit around. Kevin said he was going to go the Algae bar, I think I’ll go join him when the sun goes down, I’m going to watch the sunset from my room, the city at my feet. Tomorrow I’ll go sign up for the farms !”




++ Martian Citizen Participation / Do a good deed win a MarsTokens

Apart from their daily jobs, citizens in Algi are encouraged to participate in community activities, discard waste responsibly, choose sustainable transport, volunteer in their local schools. These incentives are throughout the city. Participation is rewarded through MarsTokens. These MarsTokens would pay for services around the city, like taking the hyperloop or eating out. This way we subtly create a society in which participation becomes second nature.

Ways to gain MarsTokens

-Farm in the algae farm for a few hours = + 5 MarsTokens
-Use the exchange bathrooms = +1 MarsTokens
-Use the bike transport instead of the hyperloop = + 3 MarsTokens
-Throw away a banana peel = +1 MarsToken
-Teach a crafts workshop at your local school = +10 MarsTokens



Organic Waste Cycle

On Earth we have been using Biogas plants to create energy from organic waste, this cycle is highly effective as it allows us to create slurry and biogas, which can be used as fuel or converted into electricity. On Mars we can create a closed loop cycle of our own organic waste, including food waste, agricultural waste and our own feces. We take the slurry created through the biomethanization process (above) we mix 60% of our own organic waste with 40% of martian soil we then add earthworms* to enrich the slurry and create Vericompost, a nutrient rich fertilizer, for farming. One Martian would have around 90kg of organic waste a year (earth year !), with that waste a human can create 45 kg of gas or fuel and be converted into 13,5 kWh of electricity, in addition they would make 22,5 kg of vericompost. Our organic waste cycle is incentivized by our MarsToken, where one can throw away a banana, use the restroom, or throw plant wastes and receives tokens in return. (See Martian Citizen Participation)



Different spaces, different places!

We have three tiers of spaces in Algi; Private, Semi-Public and Public space. In our private space each Martian has their bedroom, private or shared, the private space are towers which hover above the city giving Martians a view when they wake up. In semi-public spaces, sub-communities similar to our neighborhoods on Earth, we have an autonomous division of resources. In each sub-community we have schools, farms, restaurants, workspaces, leisure spots, gyms. A Martian can find their basic needs in their sub-community, transport is providing in bike form only. Later in the diaphanous public spaces we find our extensive hyperloop transport and all kinds of restaurants, public spaces, farms, green spaces, algae spots.



++ Martian Physiology

Our bodies on Mars will have many challenges, due to 1/3 gravity we will have to exercise constantly to maintain bone and muscle mass. The limited amount of light will make Martians eyes increase in size. Our blood pressure change from a normal 80/100 to 100/100. It would be easy to have low energy levels, algae and honey supplies in addition with other proteins accompanied by exercise would help the Martian. However the colonists of Mars would probably move culturally and technologically away from heir terrestrial ancestors. They will be experimenting with genetic engineering and self-modification to adapt better on Mars. This technology would have more reason to develop on Mars than on terrestrial society.


G3 / Exercise meets Entertainment

In 1/3 of Earth’s gravity we will have to be excercising constantly and we can´t lift weights, so we need to use tension and movement. This obligatory maintenance of our bodies has turned exercise into entertainment, a daily activity for martians providing strength and energy during their daily life.




Tutor: Manuel Alvarez-Monteserín Lahoz

Alumnos IED:
Christina Schwertschlag
Lucia de Ancos
Andrés Espinosa
Eduardo Fernandez
Isabel Alvear
Charlotte Smulders
Aman Rai

Company: IED Innovation Lab