Project Persephone Advanced Virtual and Technological Architecture Research (AVATAR) Laboratory

Team members

External partners

  • Icarus Interstellar
  • Institute for Interstellar Studies
  • Phil Watson
  • Elizabeth Anne Williams
  • Mark Garcia


Project Persephone is a collaboration with Icarus Interstellar's group work on the catalysis of a crewed interstellar craft to be assembled in earth’s orbit within a hundred years. Rachel Armstrong, who is responsible for the design and implementation of the living interior to the Icarus Interstellar world-ship, leads project Persephone.

Aims and objectives

Persephone aims to theoretically and practically investigate the conditions for the construction of a sustainable world-ship taking a bottom-up approach to design through constructing the world-ship’s soils.

Persephone's community are working with designing and engineering a physical network of chemical exchanges to establish the liveability of the non-terrestrial space and establish what a 'sustainable' lifestyle may involve. Yet the world-ship does not simply aim to address a far-future scenario but provides a forum for challenging liveability issues within our cities, especially as we are learning how to deal with significant resource constraints in our urban environments.

At the start of the third millennium 'Space Ship Earth' is not situated in a condition of abundance but faces the challenge of serious resource constraints through the global uptake of modern industrial processes. These practices are dependent on natural cycles which are being progressively disrupted with the pressure of people on the planet and the speed at which resources are being drained from natural cycles to support them, such as fresh water, fertile soils and minerals, like phosphorous. Therefore, the issues that face space engineering and architecture in providing habitats that effectively serve as life-support systems are converging around the issue of 'sustainability'.

Sustainable development is a relatively new concept that has been intensified by an awareness of resource constraints and invites questions about how the current generations can meet their own needs as well as securing the welfare of future generations. Yet, there are already many different interpretations of what constitutes 'sustainable' design. Approaches range from the metaphors of biomimicry, to the decoration of our living spaces with elements from rural vistas in green roofs and walls, material conservation and various approaches to improving the mechanical efficiency of systems. Of course, each of these approaches is valid when framed by their internal logic, but when considering a long term pathway for establishing models of sustainable development, it is worth remembering that the concepts and practice that form sustainable narratives are still very much in evolution.

Specifically Project Persephone's aims are to:

  1. Establish the parameters in the design and construction of a living interior to a world-ship.
  2. Build international multidisciplinary partnerships between academia and industry as a hub of research and development.
  3. Develop designs, prototypes and models to propose solutions.
  4. Apply innovations to real-world urban contexts to address current challenges of resource constraints, biodiversity and design of urban ecologies.
  5. Explore new technologies in developing architectural prototypes.
  6. Establish possible new paradigms for urban development that are successful within resource constrained environments

Impacts and benefits

Project Persephone is less than a year in development and has already established international partnerships that includes a network of world-leading architects, designers, engineers, sociologists, creatives and scientists who are collectively exploring how to navigate these challenges. Academic organizations include, Eindhoven University, The University of Warwick, RMIT and the University of Sothern Denmark. Corporate partners include Sustainable Now Technologies, Autodesk and A studio architects. Its outputs include:

  1. Publications
  2. Talks
  3. Projects
  • Rachel Armstrong, Project Persephone, Starship Congress, Dallas, Texas, August 2013.
  • Rachel Armstrong. Age of Impossible, LIFT, Newcastle, March 2013.
  • Rachel Armstrong, Discussion panel at the Arthur C Clarke Awards on the link between science and science fiction. Royal Society, London. April 2013.
  • Star-ships and cities, In collaboration with SCI-FI-LONDON, The Institute for Interstellar Studies and Icarus Interstellar, The Crystal, London, October 2013.

Advanced Virtual and Technological Architecture Research (AVATAR) Laboratory is part of the Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities, University of Greenwich.