BOSTON—The moon has long loomed large as the next logical site for human expansion, a frontier land still lightly explored but visible to all throughout human history. With the recent discovery of a significant volume of water on the lunar surface, the idea of the moon as a livable habitat has become just that much more plausible. A new competition, Moon Capital, turned the question of what that habitat will look like over to the imagination of architects, engineers and artists. Let's say it is the year 2069, exactly a century after the first lunar landing. The colony has finally been built. What does it look like? What do the moon-dwellers need both to survive and to enjoy their new surroundings?

The competition was sponsored by SHIFTBoston, an organization dedicated to the future of the urban environment, together with the Google Lunar X PRIZE and the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), to name a few.

The call for ideas encouraged applicants to propose submissions ranging from the practical—what will people need to live, and how will they do so?—to radical, creative solutions for the moon as a travel destination. More than 100 designs poured in from around the world. Some planners built entire cities with detailed descriptions of how to fulfill the inhabitants' living needs. Others took a more fantastical approach, designing whimsical sports venues or suggesting the modification of DNA to create organisms better able to function in an extraterrestrial environment.

The goal, say the sponsors and jurors, was to inspire a new generation to turn their creativity to the heavens, and perhaps, in the process, to arrive at visions that might inspire current space engineers and architects. "It's a great opportunity to dream," says juror Guillermo Trotti, an architect who has worked extensively with NASA on projects such as the International Space Station. "Missions start with dreams, and the whole future of NASA is in the dreams of the people."

The winning designs, awarded October 21, will become part of a Moon Capital exhibit at JSC and at a location to be decided in Boston.

Click here to tour some of the entrants' conceptions.