Book Review: International Space Station: Architecture Beyond Earth by David Nixon, CIRCA Press, 2017, 400-pages +, $75.00 hardcover.

This is an incredible gift of a book that tells the history of the International Space Station, through the lens of its architectural design. Written by David Nixon, an architect with a particular interest in designing for space exploration, this impressive volume is the result of seven years of research.

As detailed in the book, In 1984 President Ronald Reagan kick-started the space station effort in 1984. Broken down into time chunks, this work describes the station’s evolution: Diversity and vision (1984-1988; Ambition and grandeur (1984-1988); Crisis and resolution (1989-1993; Anticipation and preparation (1994-1998); and Endurance and achievement (1999-2011).

“The International Space Station is the most ambitious habitat contrived by mankind to support its existence beyond Earth,” Nixon writes. It has become of vital importance to enable humanity’s leap across the solar system.

Credit: David Nixon

While modular infrastructure is one thing, the political, diplomatic, and financial glue needed to hold the facility together is also explained in the book. The author has pieced together an impressive portrait of the inner and outer workings of the ISS. The reader will not go wrong here by reading this volume and gaining a full appreciation of the orbital outpost’s conception, development and then assembly in Earth orbit. ISS is an incredible engineering feat, a story well researched and documented by Nixon.

“This book is a starting point,” the author writes, “and I hope that it will stimulate others into delving more deeply into the station’s fascinating story before the trail begins to grow cold.” While the mega-project’s life may be secure until 2024, the author notes its future after that is murky, perhaps headed for a deep, destructive dive into the Earth’s atmosphere and scattered into ocean waters.

NASA astronaut, Nicole Stott, a resident aboard the sprawling facility, offers her thoughts in a nicely written “A home in space” essay early in the book.

Credit: NASA

There are many fascinating twists and turns in this great book – made that way by a variety of architectures considered over early planning years. All those decision points are nicely detailed by Nixon – adding to the value of this volume.

I’m not aware of any book on the ISS that comes close to what Nixon offers here. After reading his words and eyeing some 250 color and 150 black and white illustrations, you’ll see the ISS in a different light as it crosses the night sky!

By the way, hat’s off to CIRCA for publishing this book. CIRCA is a new press, founded in London by David Jenkins, who over the past twenty-five years has conceived and edited critically acclaimed books on architecture and design for some of the world’s leading publishers.

For more information on this unique book, go to:

https://circapress.com/books/architecture/international-space-station/david-nixon

 

 

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