Photo Courtesy of RQAW.

The realization that humans occupy a small place in a universe enveloped by the vast outer reaches of space can be daunting. But Ball State University graduate Malequi Picazo is fascinated by outer space, impressed by its apparent limitlessness, and intrigued about whether humans can someday live there.

“It’s just fun to let the mind wander and see what humanity, as a civilization, could be in a couple hundred years or a couple millennia if we’re able to access the farther reaches of space and travel through it—or live in it, among the stars or on distant planets,” said Mr. Picazo, a 2021 graduate of Ball State’s five-year Architecture program at the University’s Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning (ECAP).

So, it’s no surprise that Mr. Picazo was over-the-moon excited when he learned that he was accepted to YACademy—a three-month space architecture education program based in Bologna, Italy.

An Indianapolis resident who works for the architecture and engineering firm RQAW in Fishers, Ind., Mr. Picazo was one of 750 applicants chosen for the program in late 2023. Twenty spots, five online and 15 in-person, were available. With him and his wife expecting a baby around that time, Mr. Picazo declined the in-person spot offered to him. He was later offered an online spot, which he accepted. He completed the program in mid-February 2024.

Architecture Across the Universe

A relatively new field that’s been in existence for approximately 25 years, space architecture involves the theory and practice of designing and building inhabitable structures and environments in outer space. The International Space Station is an example of what engineers and experts can design and build—and what space architects hope to improve. Projects that large usually require an extra amount of collaboration that can include many space agencies from various countries.

It is in this niche field that Mr. Picazo found the perfect marriage of two of his favorite subjects: architecture and space. After all, his ECAP undergraduate thesis project was about designing a home on Mars.

“Space architecture is an evolution of architecture because we are also designing a safe haven for inhabitants,” he said. “In space, there are a lot more things that can go wrong, and a lot more things we need to protect humans from.”

Still, his love of this new frontier in his field will never eclipse his love of architecture on Earth.

“I think designing space—not outer space or outdoors on earth, but internal space—is very meaningful because we spend 80-90 percent of our lives indoors,” Mr. Picazo said. “Almost every wall, window, or ceiling that a person has ever seen, touched, or been in has been designed by architects. It’s an interesting sort of legacy that architects have with their decisions because we build spaces in which people can live, work, spend time together, have fun, worship, and have all sorts of other experiences.”

Mr. Picazo said his Ball State education and ECAP experience equipped him with skills he applied to his YACademy program, and uses in his architecture career. Among those skills: effective collaboration, efficient note-taking, establishing creative workflows, and information extraction and analysis.

“I learned all of that and more at Ball State and ECAP, and I am so grateful for my time there,” he said.

Those lessons Mr. Picazo gleaned from his Ball State experience will continue to serve him well—whether his architecture work is aimed at the outer edges of the universe or developed on Earth’s solid ground.

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