New Mexico

“I am surrounded by little clouds, and as I go through the air I change, becoming spirit only.” —Geronimo

The Eye

The Virgin Galactic eye carries great communicative power. Aside from this powerful graphic aspect, it can be interpreted at deeper, metaphysical levels. Our Spaceport Terminal, although far from becoming a literal “eye,” symbolizes extremes from cosmic vision to personal introspection. The vertical gaze from the Hangar’s center towards the New Mexico sky and space beyond is juxtaposed to the post-flight transcendental eye of the astronaut in the Garden of Contemplation. Although a public relations tie from the building form to the Virgin Galactic logotype is intended and apparent, a far deeper mission of the project has to do with this inner eye. Bridging the universal to the personal are many internalized and outward looking vantage points in our proposal that relentlessly underscore episodic visual experiences. At the center of the Fibonacci spiral, fossilized in a stone from the site, we diagram and collapse a 300 million year span from that seashell to the iris of Everyman into the heart of our proposal.

A Virgin Experience in Space

Spaceport America is a collective Spiritual Eye open to the future of space travel. With “child–like awe” it looks down into the earth and up into the infinite frontier of space. Growing out of the folding and torsional uplifts of the Jornada del Muerto, the Spaceport continues a tradition of passage begun with Mogollon, Mimbres and Apache peoples. The Spaceport Terminal, with earthen arms, reaches out to the world and embraces a new paradigm of human experience. Through an expansive valley the Spaceport Terminal comes into view: a base of fossil-strewn faults, rising low and long out of a desert mirage… an ascending spiral inside a heavenly body — an artifact of a long departed culture? …or a portal to another dimension? It awaits to fulfill a dream. It lives in and with the desert, celebrating vastness while defining intimate spaces to support personal reflection and public spectacle. With accommodations for myriad encounters it provides a specialized setting for the aspiring citizen astronaut. Anticipating the astral thrill of flight, extreme acceleration, floating through space and views of earth, the Spaceport Terminal orchestrates dramatic journey preparations with spatial atmospheres that heighten the senses.

Sir Richard Branson’s vision and ethic embodies the daring poetry of stepping into the void and sharing it with the world. Our proposal parallels the aspirations of the space adventurer. Like spaceflight, the Spaceport Terminal is a thrilling physical and intellectual ride. The conceptual armature of the Spaceport Terminal is both literal and abstract, an inhabited mythic space embedded with cosmic content and gestural hints of blasting-off, zero gravity and a sheltering home. The Spaceport introduces a kind of Omega Point — a convergent personal, transcendent and irreversible event — previously experienced by very few astronauts, to the rest of mankind. Galactic connections beckon. Our collective longing is focused upward by the space of the hangar like an eye into the unknown. The Spaceport Terminal enhances our perception of the Earth as our home planet through the heightening of contrasts — Mother Earth amplified as a rugged, yet womb-like realm symbiotically connects to Father Sky.

“This mesa plain had an appearance of great antiquity, and of incompleteness; as if, with all the materials for world-making assembled, the Creator had desisted, gone away and left everything on the point of being brought together, on the eve of being arranged into mountain, plain, plateau. The country was still waiting to be made into a landscape.”

—Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

Mysterious from a distance, but iconically appropriate as it is approached, the Spaceport Terminal leaves a mark in the consciousness. Its physical character manifests in the duality of earth sensitivity and technological mastery, allowing the Terminal to be an integral part of the desert setting; yet functionally and expressively it celebrates the action on the tarmac. From the air on approach, the Spaceport Terminal is an unmistakable landmark, a symbol of home. The earthen base emerges from the site’s ancient geologic origins. The Hangar sheathed in recycled aluminum patinated like an asteroid or a Pleiadian interstellar vessel is embedded and emerging. A slowly spiraling procession of viewing stations is suspended within — a parallel universe that anticipates
unknown worlds and experiences. Apertures, celestially derived, project natural light on curved surfaces, sometimes fleeting and disappearing. Digital video (like retinal projections in an eye) of the cosmos and the space journey internally activate the hangar’s diaphanous lining, a dynamic advertisement visible from the Lobby. The Lobby caters to visitors with guided tour ticket sales, a VG gift shop, VG equipment exhibits, and VG Concierge stations.
The tremendous marketing value of a Virgin Galactic Spaceport Terminal can be reaped in many other ways, including biofuel spin-offs and educational collaborations. The spiral ascension culminates at the Virgin Galactic Observation Lounge, a rarified refuge, affording views of Virgin Galactic Mission Control, the runway, the Jornada del Muerto, and the expanse of space. In addition to the hangar’s fundamental missions of storage and display of the WhiteKnightTwo/ SpaceshipTwo marvels, it functions as a thermal chimney generating cooling inductive airflow for the entire Spaceport Terminal. A passive cool tower, beneath the Spaceport Authority Mission Control, funnels southern prevailing winds through moistened evaporative media. Opening the Hangar’s glass oculus releases rising warm air and induces the cooled air from the tower to flow into the ground-borne spaces before exiting the top of the hangar. Capturing the anticipation of a singular personal event while taking family and friends along for the ride in a special setting for observation, Virgin Galactic’s home base is made selectively transparent. The clustering of training and operations spaces around the space of the hangar allows for moderated visual eavesdropping by visitors ascending the spiral ramp. For the public and operational users the opportunities for intimate observation of procedures and hardware offer an unparalleled learning experience for future space virgins.

“The world itself looks cleaner and so much more beautiful. Maybe we can make it that way — the way God intended it to be — by giving everyone, eventually, that new perspective from out in space.”
— Roger B. Chaffee, Apollo Astronaut