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NÜWA - Mars city-state


Competition by The Mars Society. 

Status: Completed. Top ten finalists out of 176 teams

City design for  1 million people on Mars

Team: See below

Rover arrival view.png

ABIBOO studio | SONet

Welcome to Nüwa, the capital city on Mars. Human settlers would live here and in four other vertical cities on the cliffs of the Red Planet, which provide protection from radiation but also exposure to sunlight. The buildings inside the cliffs would be mix-use, able to hold 200,000 to 250,000 people. Comprising areas for living and working, lush gardens in the so-called Green-Domes, “public squares” at the bottom of the cliff, underground sports arenas and music halls, as well as areas to lodge art displays. 


Settlers would eat a diet based 50% on agriculture, 20% microalgae, and 30% coming from animal meat, insects, mushrooms, and cellular meat. The work per person should be eight times higher than for the average human on Earth. This could be resolved by imposing automation, standardization, and the use of Artificial Intelligence methods at the design level.

Water would be mainly extracted from clays, and the oxygen mainly produced by crops and microalgae. Mars would eventually become a democracy, with its constitution and laws. Each citizen would be a shareholder of Mars’ cities. Society would evolve to a model based on community and sustainability.

Nuwa Green Dome view 2.png

ABIBOO studio | SONet

Interior Green Dome.png

ABIBOO studio | SONet

Nuwa-Urban-Interior View.png

ABIBOO studio | SONet

Nüwa and the Cliffs of Mars

The urban and architectural solution provides:

1. Total protection from ionizing radiation.

2. Access to indirect sunlight.
3. Efficient use of resources.

4. A low-cost solution for the skin of buildings that solves the difference in pressure between the inside and the outside air.
5. A sustainable settlement that integrates local conditions and that is dense enough to minimize its environmental and economic impact.

Mars has hundreds of cliffs, many with inclinations higher than 45 degrees. They provide a broad structurally stable “vertical” surface, which is a unique opportunity to create a “vertical city” inside the cliff. It provides 24/7 protection from radiation, while still having many perforations in the cliff wall’s facade to bring indirect sunlight inside. All five locations proposed have a direct orientation to the Sun (south-facing cliffs are in the northern hemisphere), so each urban sector is maximizing access to sunlight. The pressure from inside the buildings is structurally absorbed by the surrounding rock, reducing both cost and risk of failure of the buildings’ skin.


Building into the cliff provides proximity between the city and all of its supporting infrastructure. Cliffs have large horizontal areas at the Mesa (top of the cliff) and the Valley (bottom of the cliff), which in this proposal houses the city’s supporting buildings. This solution creates an efficient and concentrated urban development that reduces the amount of infrastructure required to provide a fully functional city.


Although craters and other geological features may also offer some of the advantages of cliffs, they usually do not provide the rock’s structural stability, unidirectional orientation to the Sun, and the opportunity for a dense urban development that cliffs provide. Using knowledge about the geology, geography, and atmosphere of the Red Planet, as well as complex human sociological and psychological research, we have imagined a sustainable evidence-based and technologically viable model for life on Mars. 

Nuwa valley cliff and wall view from abo

ABIBOO studio | SONet

Nuwa Cliff and Valley Cover Image.png

ABIBOO studio | SONet

The proposal was presented in the Mars City State Design competition of the Mars Society, the world’s largest and most influential space advocacy organization dedicated to the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars. The team was selected among the 10 finalists from over 175 submitted proposals. 


This design proposal was initiated and promoted by SONet (the Sustainable Off-world Network), which is a community of mainly European professionals interested in multidisciplinary approaches to the sustainable exploration of space. Participants include researchers and professionals from Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, the USA, Venezuela, and Argentina.


The project touches on all aspects of human life: the materials used to build settlements, the mechanisms for ensuring oxygen and other life support systems, money, art, childcare, education, politics, workload, death, and even inheritance on Mars. 

Sonet_Nuwa-Large-Parks at the Valley.png

ABIBOO studio | SONet


• Project Coordination, Economic model & High-level concepts: Guillem Anglada-Escudé, Ph.D.; RyC fellow in Astrophysics.

• Co-coordination. Space, Earth-Mars transportation & Socio-economics: Miquel Sureda; Space Science and Technology Research Group, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.

• Design. Architecture & Urbanism:

Architecture & Urban Design: Verónica Florido, Alfredo Muñoz, Gonzalo Rojas, Engeland Apostol, Sebastián Rodríguez.

Identity & Graphic Design: Verónica Florido. 

Design Strategy & Coordination: ABIBOO Studio.

• Life Support, Biosystems & Human factors: Gisela Detrell, Ph.D; Institute for Space Systems, Universität Stuttgart.

• Mars Materials & Location: Ignasi Casanova, Ph.D.; Prof. Civil and Environmental Engineering; Institute of Energy Technologies (INTE), Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.

• Manufacturing, Advanced Biosystems & Materials: David Cullen; Prof. of Astrobiology and Space Biotechnology; Space Group, University of Cranfield

• Energy & Sustainability: Miquel Banchs i Piqué; School of Civil Engineering & Surveying, University of Portsmouth.

• Mining & Excavation systems: Philipp Hartlieb; Prof. in Excavation Engineering, Montan Universitaet Leoben.

• Social Services & Life Support Systems: Laia Ribas, Ph.D; RyC fellow in Biology, Institut de Ciències del Mar/CSIC.

• Mars Climate modeling & EnvironmentDavid de la Torre; Dept. de Física, UPC.



Jordi Miralda Escudé (ICREA Prof. in Astrophysics - Ground Transport, UB, EU); Rafael Harillo Gomez-Pastrana (Lawyer, - Political Organization & Space law, EU); Lluis Soler (Ph.D. in Chemistry - Chemical processes, UPC, EU); Paula Betriu (Topographical analysis, - UPC, EU); Uygar Atalay (Location, temperature & Radiation analysis, UPC, EU); Pau Cardona (Earth-Mars Transportation, UPC, EU); Oscar Macia (Earth-Mars Transportation, UPC, EU); Eric Fimbinger (Resource Extraction & Conveyance, Montanuniversität Leoben, EU); Stephanie Hensley (Art Strategy in Mars, USA); Carlos Sierra (Electronic Engineering, ICE/CSIC, EU); Elena Montero (Psychologist, EU); Robert Myhill (Mars science – U. Bristol, UK); Rory Beard (Artificial Intelligence, UK) 

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