Set in the hot, Tuscany-like rolling hills of Comfort, Texas, northwest of San Antonio, is a project that is one of sciences’ best kept secrets, although it really isn’t a secret. On a 646 acre property, formerly known as the Bildarth Estate, lays the hopes and dreams of the creators of Timeship.
Timeship has been dubbed the “Fort Knox” of cryopreservation. Its plans are magnificent, and include a 6 acre structure designed to become the first bio bank for long term storage that will include organs and tissue for transplantation, materials to support fertility, tissue for regenerative medicine- DNA, including the DNA of near extinct species, and whole mammalian organisms including humans after legal death for whom all medical procedures have failed. Much thought and love has been put into the design of this project. It not only serves as a functional masterpiece of planning, but it will also be a beautiful testament to man’s quest for immortality. Stephen Valentine, the project’s creator and architect, has filled this structure with rich symbolism and a beauty that will stand out as a beacon of our collective history and vision of a promising future for humanity. Mr. Valentine has also been meticulous in planning the structure to last centuries. It is designed to protect its contents from human and natural threats of many kinds.
Who Is Steve Valentine?
On researching for this interview, I found a wealth of information on this accomplished man. Stephen Valentine is a world renowned architect who resides in New York City, though originally from Norwood, Massachusetts. For more than three decades, Valentine has contributed to the design of major commercial and institutional projects worldwide. He was concept architect for a proposed new Long Island Railroad Station in New York City, located next to the historic Grand Central Terminal. At I. M. Pei and Partners, he served as a senior architect for partner James Ingo Freed’s highly acclaimed United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and New York’s Javits Center, which is the world’s largest space-frame structure. He was a senior architect for the Hong Kong Convention Center; the landmark structure that was the site for the transfer of governmental authority from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. During his tenure as president and design director for the New York office of the Japanese firm Mirai International, Valentine led the design team for Superparadise, a multi-billion dollar environmental science exposition park and habitat located outside Tokyo. He also was a member of a select team of international architects commissioned to design a master plan for the future development of the sacred city of Hangzhou, China, with a population of three million inhabitants. A graduate of Pratt Institute and recipient of the AIA School Medal, Valentine taught at Pratt Institute for more than a decade and has lectured to university groups, professional organizations, and governmental associations throughout the world. Mr. Valentine was approached in the late nineties by Saul Kent, to create plans for a facility to support the works of the Stasis Foundation. At the time he had not yet chosen the site for this facility. Mr. Kent wanted this building to withstand the test of time and operate continuously for at least 100 years- something no building to date had accomplished. They called it Timeship.
It was my privilege to recently interview Mr. Valentine. I have been waiting in anticipation to hear about Timeship’s progress for years, and am very curious about the man and the project he is creating.
Q: What inspired you to create this project? Please tell us about its origins.
A: Saul Kent, my client, was once asked by the New Yorker magazine “Why build Timeship?” Saul’s answer was that Timeship was part of a comprehensive plan to conquer aging and death. As the architect and project designer of Timeship, I realized from the beginning that the ideas of Timeship were both extremely optimistic and dependent on future technologies. I often wondered if these advances would ever be realized. Who could have guessed that in the last century, the many human achievements and discoveries made could be summarized so neatly as to say that the perception of who we are in the universe, what we want to be, and where we are going has changed so radically? More importantly, the year 2000, a milestone in time, and more importantly in science, came to be, marking the time when we were able to map the human genome. Prominent scientists are now predicting that the 21st century will be known as the Century of Immortality.
Q: What has the timeline been like?
A: In 1997 the initial concept design for Timeship was completed, but put on hold for a few years. The science of cryopreservation wasn’t developed sufficiently to start such a project. In 2000 an advanced method of vitrification of mammalian organs was developed, allowing for their cryopreservation while minimizing damage to cells by ice crystals. In 2001 Timeship’s plans were brought back to the table as a result of this breakthrough. In 2003, the successful transplant of a mammalian kidney that was cryopreserved then rewarmed to body temperature took place. In 2007 the site to build Timeship was purchased. It has since been announced in 2011 as the former Bildarth Estate, in Comfort Texas. In 2007 a patent was issued for the advanced engineered cooling system called the TCV, or Temperature Controlled Volume Units, designed to complement vitrification. It is the most advanced method to date to allow for cooling with precise temperature controls, to reduce the incidence of fracturing during the cryopreservation process. In late 2009, the award winning book, TIMESHIP: The Architecture of Immortality, was released. It outlined the concepts and design of this building.
The year 2012 brought us to the point where we are currently working on extensive renovations of the estate buildings and upgrading its infrastructure. A comprehensive Master Plan for the construction of Timeship and its supporting facilities are in progress and should be completed in 2014. Plans for the TCV (Temperature Controlled Volume) advanced cryogenic storage research building will be developed in the coming year.
Q: Tell us more about the facility and its property. Can you elaborate on its features?
A: My goal was to integrate a bold symbolic vision with optimal functionality. I wanted to make this facility and its property the epitome of beauty and careful design. Timeship will be a scientific mecca for life extension research. Our plans include the cryopreservation of the DNA of both humans and endangered animal species. We will serve as a major research center for the cryopreservation of organs for transplantation, including bioengineered organs for which there is currently no real method of storage, and of course, thousands of human patients who wish to travel to the future. The facility makes use of sacred geometry to include symbolic themes of birth and re-birth as demonstrated throughout history. I believe that anyone encountering this building should experience these concepts viscerally. The building will enclose 700,000 square feet, some of it underground, and will cost about $375 million. Much thought and planning has gone into its security both from natural and man-made threats. The property will also include a place for guests to stay when they visit, as well as conference facilities. There will also be land within the research park for other biotech companies.
Timeship will be a very efficient energy consumer, using alternative renewable energy for its power as well as remaining on the grid of two independent energy sources. These alternate energy sources may include geomagmatic devices to draw electricity from ground heat as well as photovoltaic cells to gather solar energy. There will be emergency backup energy onsite in the form of liquid nitrogen (LN2) to allow it to continue to function for months in the event of serious disruption.
Our design team partnered with security consultants to incorporate the best and most efficient security measures possible throughout all phases of Timeship’s construction. Obviously I can’t elaborate too much, but I can say that we used the best medieval and modern strategies in planning and constructing this facility. The medieval features ensure that the building will be secure even if the electricity goes out. The location was chosen to minimize the risk of violent weather damaging or disrupting the facility. Much care was taken to learn from our collective history and plan for short, mid and long range human made threats as well, gleaned from historical fact and likely future trends.
I specifically chose this location in 2007 for many reasons. Comfort, Texas, in the San Antonio region is very welcoming and open to the idea of attracting a scientific community similar to the region of Silicon Valley in California. The area is relatively free of potential natural disasters that may make other areas less suitable. This location is also near two major airports, to facilitate the rapid transport of patients and organs for cryopreservation. It is located fifty miles from a major metropolitan area in a place that would be attractive for researchers and other professionals to live. The quality of life for Timeship staff was considered as seriously as the security of the location. The property is a beautiful expanse of rolling hills very similar in appearance to Tuscany, Italy. It took five years and a lot of careful attention to select the best property and location for this project and I am very happy with the results.
Q: What kinds of challenges have you faced along the way?
A: Every step of this process has been challenging in that the greatest of care and attention has been paid to the details of this project. Timeship is a massive undertaking and is being planned and built to last for centuries. No aspect of it can be rushed or miscalculated. It is important that our timing and how our infrastructure is rolled out be deliberate and meets the demanding standards I have placed for it.
Q: Have there been any recent developments that you would like to discuss?
A: We had a major breakthrough with receiving the patent for the TCV system in 2007. We are currently onsite doing the renovations to the estate infrastructure that are necessary to build this project. One square mile has been set aside for the comprehensive Master Plan for the location at the site of the first phase of the project. This includes the TCV Research and Assembly Building. Boots are on the ground as we speak.
Q: What kinds of resources do you need to accomplish this goal? How can we support your mission?
A: We are always looking for exceptionally creative and technical expertise. Timeship is a serious, large scale operation and it will always be looking for the best talent to add to its pool of resources. From an advisory perspective, contributions from the brightest thinkers in transhumanism, life extension and cryonics are always welcome. As Timeship evolves and its needs change, it will always be in search of assistance on some level. It is important now that we not only continue to move forward with its development as we share Timeship’s promise with the world.
“What can surpass the pyramids of Egypt as a symbol of the strength of mankind’s reach for immortality? Today, Timeship is founded on the bedrock of science rather than merely the symbols observed in the natural world. Ultimately, history may judge the impact of Timeship as more profound than that of the pyramids on the ultimate fate of the human species.”
—Michael D. West, PhD
Timeship: The Architecture of Immortality by Stephen Valentine, 2009