Alumni News, Awards and Honors

Özel '02 Wins NASA Prize for Mars Housing Solution

Guvenc Ozel's design for Mars Housing

What do you do with a degree in architecture, philosophy and sculpture? For one, you win a NASA competition to design a 3D-printed habitat to be used in Mars exploration.

That’s what a team led by Bennington alum Guvenc Özel ‘02 did recently.

Özel’s team, Hybrid Composites, secured fourth place out of 165 in the competition, which challenged entrants to create a housing solution that would be light and compact enough to transport to distant planets without taking up precious cargo space on a space vehicle. Winners were announced on September 27 at the New York Maker Faire.

In their brief for the competition, NASA suggested that a winning design might incorporate “indigenous materials” -- such as sand from Mars -- into its design. Özel and his team proposed instead to use a combination of locally harvested composite fibres soaked in fast-curing polymer resins.

The design grows out of Özel’s current research on the use of robotics and sensors in architecture and on the use of composite materials in building-scaled 3D printing.

Özel came to the U.S. from his native Turkey to study at Bennington. He went on to earn a master’s degree in architecture from Yale University. He worked in the architecture offices of Rafael Vinoly, Jürgen Mayer H. and Frank Gehry, among others, before starting Özel Office, “an interdisciplinary design firm creating spaces, objects, and experiences at the intersection of architecture, technology, and media.”

He is currently director of the IDEAS technology lab for cross-disciplinary research at UCLA Arts and Architecture.