New Nomadic Architecture


Nomadic architecture was a forte of the Plains Indians.  Europe’s introduction to the iconic Plains Indian house type, the tipi, came in the Spring of 1541 when Francisco de Coronado followed squiggly lines scratched into the ground alongside what he assessed to be well-worn trails.  The lines in the ground were traces of portable architecture, drag marks from the tent poles being dragged by packs of dogs.  These conical tents were usually wrapped in tanned and sewn buffalo hides.  Some of the oldest archaeological traces of these structures are “tipi rings” or circles of rocks about 5 feet in diameter.  The rocks were used to hold down the hems of small hide-covered tents.  Over time tipi rings got bigger.  With the introduction of Spanish horses to the North American continent the tribes began streamlining old traditions to suit a new, more mobile, way of life.  Coronado initially estimated that packs of dogs would each carry loads of 30-50 pounds—after the Spaniards came, the scale of nomadic architecture could match the available horsepower.  Rather than go into detail about the ingenious design of the tipi (it surely is efficacious) I propose this historical example for us to consider in relation to potential contemporaneous advancements that could contribute to “nomadic” architecture or temporary shelters.


What has changed in technology or design that can contribute to more economical and streamlined nomadic architecture?  When is it most efficient to construct with fabric around a supporting structure like would be found near a basecamp?  Is it more practical to build folded cardboard structures like would be found at a music festival?  Should these structures (of any material) be coupled with an available local material like sod or brush in order to meet their insulation requirements?  What of building on Lunar or Martian habitats?  Weight is particularly important when the nomads in consideration are exploring space.  In this situation is it perhaps most efficient to build with a fabric and 3D print any necessary components on site?




Images courtesy of tipi caravantentKarTentlunar tent


One comment

  1. lucasewing

    I think, in some way, society never truly abandoned the ideals found in nomadic architecture. If you look at both the nomadic and “modern-day nomadic” (aka, the tent) you can see there is quite a resemblance in concept: a strong yet thin interior structure with some sort of covering/enclosure. In this way, all architecture resembles that notion, especially in skyscraper design (which is now stereotypically steel framing with glass enclosure).

    I like your thoughts on applying this type of architecture into interplanetary travel, which is becoming much more possible as time goes on. I think that for that sake, the simpler the structure form is the better and more efficient it would be for such a untouched environment. I also agree that yes, 3D printing would be a useful tool to utilize in martian development, assuming you’re using materials on the planet and turning them into the structure/buildings. I think the outcome from that would be a combination of both nomadic and earthen architecture styles and development merged with modern-day (and futuristic) developments in 3D printing technologies.

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