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Futuristic Urban Mega-Structures
October 14, 2011 9:29 PM   Subscribe

Futuristic Urban Mega-Structures
posted by Trurl (48 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
In the future everything will look like bone tissue.
posted by The Whelk at 9:36 PM on October 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


The future is looking a lot like psilocybin.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 9:56 PM on October 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the future Jane Jacobs will still be sadly ignored.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:03 PM on October 14, 2011 [15 favorites]


I used to roll up designs by Bucky Fuller and Paolo Soleri into giant blunts and smoke them, but I've soured on the whole megastructure enterprise when I realized they were all BS, with no supporting calculations, no structural analysis, no nothing. Just wet dreams for out there thinkers.

If you want to see a real Archology, here you go: Marina City, Chicago
posted by Chekhovian at 10:19 PM on October 14, 2011


Okay, The Hydra is awesome. I wouldn't want to live in it, but whoa! Can you imagine that thing on the coast of Newfoundland, or Scotland or somewhere?

And floating cities will always be neat. Love the Water-Scraper.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:20 PM on October 14, 2011


You've got a good point, Chekhovian. A lot of these look cool, but they'd be hard to live in, with areas spread out all over. Livable designs need a lot of internal area, so you can can put things fairly close to each other, or at least put them in places where every part of the building can be reached fairly easily from every other part.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:24 PM on October 14, 2011


And dear lord, imagine if we ever started building these things, that would mean that Frank Gehry would probably get to build one...that asshole is the Michael Bay of modern architecture
posted by Chekhovian at 10:36 PM on October 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


There's an idea that visionary architecture is a male thing. That the urge to create bigger and bigger organic cylinders thrusting up to the sky comes from something organically male. There is also a complementary idea. That interior design is a female thing, that creating a womb-like nest is organically female. You need both. People see buildings from the outside, but live in them in the inside.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:44 PM on October 14, 2011


So is this what happens in Sim City after you push through the boredom ?
posted by the noob at 10:59 PM on October 14, 2011


The trick in Sim City is to build a start city that just barely eeks out a profit, but is stable, then let it run over night, or for a couple days if you're really looking for something amazing, then bulldoze everything, and use the millions you've now stored up to build your hypersymmetric perfect work of art city.
posted by Chekhovian at 11:02 PM on October 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


the noob: "So is this what happens in Sim City after you push through the boredom"

No, I think this is what happens when architects know nothing about engineering possibilities or livability. It's fun, like looking at pictures of airships or starships, but essentially meaningless in the end.
posted by barnacles at 11:39 PM on October 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


I really like Dark Roasted Blend, but it does not like my iPhone. Too bad too, I really wanted to look at these structures.

Ah well. *saves to pinboard*
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:14 AM on October 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


These are, honestly, very beautiful, but I think it's quaint, perhaps even cute, how the renderings suggest that things such as trees and whales still exist in this fantastical future.
posted by tumid dahlia at 12:35 AM on October 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Buckminster Fuller has a couple of really wild megacity/structure ideas, and one of the wildest was probably the "floating sphere" concept - and it's in the same vein as Soleri's Arcologies - or the basic romantic idea of creating a civilized utopia where mankind can be the tool-using perverted monkey that he is with minimal footprint or environmental impact on the land below.

If humankind is metaphorically a cancer, this tendency for futurists to design giant cocoons of safely contained humanity is metaphorically a voluntary benign tumor.

So. The basic idea is if build a geodesic sphere large enough - say, several kilometers wide/tall - leave it to warm in the sun and it would theoretically float on the atmosphere like a giant hot air balloon the size of a very large city.

If I recall correctly he did actually do the math on that part - you could build a very heavy but very large sphere of a certain minimum diameter by weight, let the sun warm it enough to create enough of a pressure/temperature differential compared to the outside atmosphere - and then it would float. It wouldn't have to be particularly light or made out of exotic materials - aluminum and glass will do just fine. The sphere wouldn't even have to be completely sealed. You could have gaping windows or galleries - especially near the bottom - and the air wouldn't leak out faster than it heated. You'd likely have to continuously spill hot air to avoid floating too high in the atmosphere anyway.

But as others have mentioned I don't think he did the math for how many people would actually want to live and work or spend most of their lives in a giant floating overheated greenhouse weighing Archimedes only knows how many megatons suspended a few miles above the ground on hot air and drunken fairy wishes.

Designed and conceived by the same incorrigible drunkard that brought us the three-wheeled, single-tail-wheel rear-steering carbus and his infamous "rotating house on a stick".

Much less when you consider the idea that window seats were at a geometrically perfect premium, because it's a goddamn sphere. And you can't very well cool or air condition the hulking thing or it'll plummet to the earth, assuming you can even carry an air conditioning plant large enough to make a difference.

Though I have to admit it would make a fine set for Logan's Run 2. Try running away from Carousel now, you recidivist freak!
posted by loquacious at 12:43 AM on October 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Chekhovian: I've soured on the whole megastructure enterprise when I realized they were all BS, with no supporting calculations, no structural analysis, no nothing. Just wet dreams for out there thinkers.

These buildings would ostensibly be comprised of materials that don't yet exist. The artist has license to imagine virtually any structure (within reason; excepting, for example, something like a half-moon-sized sphere balanced on the tip a small pole) because technology and engineering will eventually match it. I suppose one could assign arbitrary properties to a hypothetical material and calculate its limits; or, working backward, derive the necessary material properties from a structural design; but otherwise, it's shortsighted to dismiss the plausibility of futuristic structures based on the inability of modern materials to form them.
posted by troll at 1:41 AM on October 15, 2011


barnacles: No, I think this is what happens when architects know nothing about engineering possibilities or livability. It's fun, like looking at pictures of airships or starships, but essentially meaningless in the end."

I'm not interested in space - as far as I can tell, it's a mathematically defined non-place - but what I am interested in is the human exploration of space. The same goes for back here. I'm not interested in a dotted line future, measured and defined by numbers like temperature and population and gdp. I'm interested in a maturation of humanity defined by an embarkation into an unknown in a way that inspires the next generation to be brave enough to embark into their own.

Looking at these pictures gives me the same sense of hope and awe that I get when I read about Voyager, a 700kg piece of metal powered by a little bit of radioisotope thermoelectricity and a whole lot of human tenacity. Without frontiers, there are no pioneers.

So, we should all cheer up, spend a few minutes every day imagining futuristic urban mega-structures, and maybe reconsider our adherence to the Wile E. Coyote School of Architecture which dictates that ideas be discarded on the basis of a single failure. Airships and starships are still great ideas, and so are giant floating aluminium spheres.
posted by doublehappy at 2:39 AM on October 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I mean

they've got spheres
they've got geographical integration and organic replication. (haha)

but let me ask
where is my dream
the sphere at the bottom of the ocean
which is a dance club
think of those beam lights spraying into the deepwater blackness as you approach
maybe you'd turn half-fish and everyone would love those scales
posted by past at 2:52 AM on October 15, 2011


And basing future structures on organic shapes isn't actually a bad idea at all. There's a reason why the capillaries of a plant or the veins of a mammal are specific shapes - it's because they're efficient.

Those forms, shapes and design principles or philosophies can be mimicked and tapped for use in structures for advantages like strength with less materials or mass, more structural fault tolerance, or even features like passive cooling, ventilation or illumination. Foams and bubbles are lovely structures, really, however difficult it may be to fit a bookcase to the wall in one.

For all we know in 100 years we could be growing our buildings out of genetically engineered bone materials or something. And maybe we could actually get along well enough to be healthy and happy living 10-100 million people deep in a giant mountain of a self-sustaining structure, which could leave much of the surrounding land free and wild and looking real pretty.

In the last book in Arthur C Clarke's 2001 series, 3001 they've collected the imploded-core diamonds from Lucifer's ignition in 2010 and built an orbital ring around the Earth. In 3001 most of humanity lives in the hundreds of miles-wide towers that rise 40-60,000 miles to support the orbital ring, or in the ring itself. You can choose what gravity level you want to live at in the towers. So, they've effectively created more than enough surface area for humanity to live and grow in for some time to come. And most of the surface of Earth is now one giant preserve and park.

But there is also a bad trend of architects making pretty or impressive or clever buildings that would be an absolute nightmare to actually live and/or work in, and not just in concepts. There's been some real stinkers that have actually been built. *suddenly turns and hucks a wad of tinfoil at Gehry, beaning him on the head*
posted by loquacious at 2:56 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite mega-engineering project recently is Atlantropa. You have to love any project where the first step is emptying the Mediterranean.
posted by DU at 4:03 AM on October 15, 2011


Crazy buildings like this do occasionally get built. I'm guessing they usually don't start with concept art like this, though. The wind conditions in the area of Aqua determined much of its shape, for instance.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:03 AM on October 15, 2011


Nice Minecraft projects...
posted by Harry at 4:32 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think these sort of projects should only be allowed to be built if the starchitect involved agrees to be entombed, still living, within the walls of the structure once it is complete.
posted by ennui.bz at 4:38 AM on October 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The homes of the elite circa 2150? (Whilst us peasants starve in poverty and degradation.) Victoriana v2.0.
posted by marienbad at 5:14 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


And you can't very well cool or air condition the hulking thing or it'll plummet to the earth, assuming you can even carry an air conditioning plant large enough to make a difference.

According to the Wikipedia page on the things, BF calculated that the internal temperature would only have to be 1 degree Celsius higher than ambient. If you stay in the tropics (presumably you've got enough motive power to nudge the thing?) you should be perfectly comfortable.
posted by pharm at 5:20 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


s/tropics/temperate zones/. Sigh.
posted by pharm at 5:22 AM on October 15, 2011


I think the structures of the future are going to look a lot like the structures of the now. Maybe weathered a bit.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:39 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am fairly sure that I have fought my way to the top of these structures in either Final Fantasy or Shin Megami Tensei games. It doesn't matter who designed them; by the 3rd act, they are always full of demons.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:58 AM on October 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's really a lot more practical to build arcologies underground or in the sides of mountains. No futuristic materials needed. Low heating/cooling loads. No worries about natural disasters or structural failures or terrorists with airplanes. A tremendous amount of space, just keep digging. You could make huge parklands on the top levels with easy elevator walkouts every hundred meters or so.

It would be a tough sell, though.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:06 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


A lot of these remind me of "Blame!" with its omnipresent, cancerous mega-scale architecture.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:12 AM on October 15, 2011


A tremendous amount of space, just keep digging.

Because this works so well in Dwarf Fortress.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:55 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's all fun and games until Block Mania breaks out all over.
posted by GavinR at 7:51 AM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


As he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:31 AM on October 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Gardiner Expressway in Toronto is proposed to become the site for mutating "living organism" mega-structure"

Nice to know there's some kind of plan behind the cluster-poop of condo towers being built along the Gardiner.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:04 AM on October 15, 2011


I really like Dark Roasted Blend, but it does not like my iPhone. Too bad too, I really wanted to look at these structures.

Reassuring; I thought it was just me. Every time I try to scroll it takes me to a random page on the site -- is this some weird way to increase page views?
posted by ook at 9:45 AM on October 15, 2011


Are you accidentally swiping sideways? I just did that on my iPhone and it took me to the next post. Swiping in the opposite direction takes you back. It is rather annoying though.
posted by brundlefly at 11:31 AM on October 15, 2011


Ugh, it appears you're correct. Would be less of a problem if they didn't have the screen zoom set to cut off the right-hand portion of the page...
posted by ook at 12:36 PM on October 15, 2011


It's really a lot more practical to build arcologies underground or in the sides of mountains. No futuristic materials needed.

I disagree. There's a reason why they don't do this, and it's because it's fantastically expensive and dangerous.

There's a couple of good documentaries about Cheyenne Mountain (AKA NORAD command) and the technical challenges they faced building it underground. The location for that base was chosen because it was supposed to be a monolithic block of granite, but when they mined into it it was full of fissures and soft spots. To complete the main/central hall (which really isn't that large) they had to build a concrete shell to support the roof during mining and then bolt the entire rock structure together to keep it from collapsing. They almost had to abandon the site because of these problems and the costs required. And keep in mind this is a cold war era Department of Defense balking at the price.

And despite the rumors it's still not actually capable of withstanding a direct nuclear strike. It's only designed to withstand near-misses, a calculated gamble that was based on the inaccuracy of ICBMs at the time.

Building something equivalent to a large condo or apartment tower underground would be prohibitively expensive.

The exception to this would be the remains of salt mines which can leave large spaces available underground for cheap. There's a salt mine somewhere in the US that's huge and has lots of space - relatively speaking - but the adoption rates were pretty low.

People really just don't want to live deep underground. Rightfully so because it's dangerous. You have the potential for cave ins. A small fire can suck the oxygen out of an enclosed space and suffocate you. Escape routes are long and easily blocked.

Then there's the lack of sunshine or fresh air and the general malaise and discomfort of living deep underground. Near the surface in an underground house is one thing, but a few hundred meters in and things get really weird and claustrophobic. And too hot, generally speaking. The deeper you go, the warmer it usually gets. Keeping mines cool and ventilated is a huge problem in mining.
posted by loquacious at 1:09 PM on October 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Underground/underwater: I think the biggest new life-threatening issue (that isn't already true of skyscrapers) is flooding. Most people don't think of flooding for underground, but there would be a lot of fluid piping. Potable water, chill water for A/C, etc. A pipe rupture in a restricted space would not be good.
posted by ctmf at 1:45 PM on October 15, 2011


Belgian Architect Vincent Callebaut dreamed up a combination of skyscraper and airship, where the skyscraper itself floats in the air, feeding on a green "algae" energy: the "Hydrogenase" project is as eco-sustainable, as it is beautiful - more info:
I don't think those would work very well in the wind.
posted by delmoi at 1:52 PM on October 15, 2011


Let me just put in a plug for HELSTROM'S HIVE here. Fun book - lots of interesting ideas. Not really a ready-for-Hollywood movie. Kind of a book about an underground arcology, sort of.
posted by newdaddy at 2:33 PM on October 15, 2011


The Hoover Dam reimagining looks like it should be holding an iceberg-sized urinal cake. I do like the "horizontal tower" concept down the page, though, as well as the giant horn design like the Moscow tower. The horns do have the problem of what to do with all that interior space— industry? cube farms? parking lots for aircars? enormous IMAX theater? wingsuit room?
posted by hattifattener at 2:37 PM on October 15, 2011


Then there's the lack of sunshine or fresh air and the general malaise and discomfort of living deep underground. Near the surface in an underground house is one thing, but a few hundred meters in and things get really weird and claustrophobic. And too hot, generally speaking. The deeper you go, the warmer it usually gets. Keeping mines cool and ventilated is a huge problem in mining.

This is true. Even in natural caves, which have the advantage of relative stability, air quality can vary greatly. It's entirely possible to crawl into a dead-end tunnel with bad air, and of course it takes an unusual person to wedge themselves through ten-inch gaps in the rock five hundred feet underground in the first place.

I have seen someone have a panic attack in an open, well-traveled cavern with no exposure to severe constriction or danger.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:28 PM on October 15, 2011


Ok, I've never understood architects - at least architects who get screamingly mad money and who architectural undergraduate students aspire to be.

What's their job? Draw beautiful buildings? And they get paid lots of money for it? And then engineers have to make it work?

How much engineering knowledge do they need to qualify as an architect?

I'd imagine that multiple engineering degrees would be required before one can even *think* about being a qualified architect.

Or is "architect" like being a "banker" - as long as your parents can pay for you to get the degree and know the people who'll pay you to be one... you can be an architect too!
posted by porpoise at 7:56 PM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


So the whole reason people hate the gardiner Expressway in Toronto is because it's effectively a huge wall of cars between the city and the waterfront.

And whoever did that one design would replace that with... an actual wall.
posted by GuyZero at 9:31 PM on October 15, 2011


The future is looking a lot like psilocybin.

Los Angeles, 2019 D.M.T...
posted by thescientificmethhead at 9:32 PM on October 15, 2011


I'd imagine that multiple engineering degrees would be required before one can even *think* about being a qualified architect.

Basically. The undergrad portion is often "civil engineering".
posted by LogicalDash at 5:18 AM on October 16, 2011


Ok, I've never understood architects - at least architects who get screamingly mad money and who architectural undergraduate students aspire to be.

What's their job? Draw beautiful buildings? And they get paid lots of money for it? And then engineers have to make it work?


In a better world, architects are the people who are able to understand all the different issues which are relevant for a given task, and bring it all together in harmonious forms. The issues can be extremely different from task to task - a hospital, for instance, is immensely complicated, with both several layers of technical problems, social issues, environmental issues, problems of organization and different types of security. An office building, less so, but depending on the site, there can be questions of context, and public planning.
The way you deal will all of this complexity is by constructing models, and gradually, through a long process of iteration where you discuss the issues with clients, officials, contractors and engineers, resolving everything and creating a beautiful whole. (Models can be physical or digital or hand drawn). During this process, the models will change several times, sometimes dramatically, but the good architect will be able to maintain a general idea or concept throughout, which will guide the various conversations. This is why the ability to imagine and represent complex forms is a core competence for architects, as is the ability to conceive and visualize an architectural concept. Such a concept will often be based on some basic structural principal, so of course, structural knowledge and imagination are also very important competences. But obviously not more important than understanding spatial organization, or climate, or logistics. When working on the basic principles of a building, the architect can choose to focus strongly on one of many such basic form-determining approaches, depending on the task.
This is in the best of all worlds. In the real world, there are bad architects as well as good.
Building is complicated and expensive, and buildings have a very long life. For most clients, wether they are a private family, a public institution or a big corporation, investing in a building will be the most important and costly investment they ever make. So architecture carries a very basic significance for those involved. Often, but not always, this means the client wants a spectacular building, so all the world can recognize his investment and courage. Of course there are many different opinions on what a spectacular building might be. This is kind of an egg-hen thing, but within society as a whole, the appearance of buildings is an important part of how that society represents and thus understands itself. This makes architecture a public agenda, discussed in the media and regulated by government. The way architects engage in that public discussion is by presenting alternative models - images of buildings or cities meant to inspire and inform the debate. It makes a lot of sense, because this is what architects are good at. Architects have proposed utopian architecture since antiquity. and more often than not, there has been an element of silliness in these utopias. Some architects have been known to have a sense of humor about it, with others, not so much.
Sometimes, utopian models become really strong images of the future, images that clients or political bodies want to implement. Sometimes, the results can be scary, even if the original intention was good, as when le Corbusier's visions became suburbs around the big cities across the world. And sometimes the results can be beautiful, even as the vision seemed a bit chilly, as when Hilberseimers Grossstadt was translated into settlements like Siemensstadt.
The inspiration for architects' visions come from all sorts of places, from the arts, from technology, from societal changes, and combinations of these, and in my personal opinion, it becomes a little boring when the main source of inspiration is some new software. I like my utopias richer, please. And the older I get, the less grand visions I prefer. But architects without visions are worthless. Visions are what drive architects to solve real life problems and to innovate. It's a good thing when architecture students design crazy, unbuildable stuff, because the will to actually build crazy unbuildable stuff is what will make them work hard at achieving new and better solutions when they get to work, even if the work is designing bland office buildings.
posted by mumimor at 6:51 AM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


...four kilometers high, 800 floors, the tallest building ever envisioned...

I just envisioned a five kilometer high, nine-hundred floor building. SNAP.
posted by miyabo at 10:48 AM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


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