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|"QUANTUM SHOT" #466|
This article is written by author M. Christian (from "Meine kleine fabrik"). M. Christian loves to write about the odd, weird, and wonderful things hidden all around us.
Architecture on a dramatic scale... Cities the size of mountains.
Whatever happened to the future? It's still around, of course, mostly in Europe and Japan, but over the years the Fantastic World of Tomorrow's gotten ... cheaper, simpler, and -- most tragically of all -- the future's gotten too damned small.
Luckily there are a few visionaries left who aren't frightened of a future that doesn't fit in your pocket, a tomorrow with a vast scope, a monstrously dramatic scale, a time of awe-inspiring dimensions: they've dared to look over the horizon and visualize a truly big tomorrow.
(Example of a dramatic scale - "Continuous Monument" concept, by Superstudio)
One of those more special of special minds, someone who's imagined a future world that’s big on almost a geologic scale, is Paolo Soleri. (All images are copyright and by permission of Paolo Soleri, Cosanti Foundation)
(on the right - self-made caricature portrait)
Born in Italy in 1919, Soleri studied with Frank Lloyd Wright (you might have heard of him) before setting up his own architecture studio in Arizona. It was in Scottsdale that Soleri began to dream big.
Very, very, very big.
Soleri created the concept of an "arcology," a combo of architecture and ecology. The idea is pretty uncomplicated, though what Soleri did with his concept is wonderfully elaborate: cities have traditionally been urban slime mold, grinding away at the planet as they’ve crawled across the landscape. So why not create cities with as many people as possible in a small as possible footprint? And not only that but why not also make these super cities magnificently, tremendously, elegantly … beautiful?
One of my treasured belongings as a kid was a copy of Soleri’s Arcology: The City in the Image of Man. I would spend hours carefully turning page after page, mesmerized by Soleri’s majestic future, imagining myself strolling under immense vaults, along astounding spans, gazing up at soaring rises, down into artificial canyons of homes, stores, schools, businesses, living in a city the size of … well, big.
Really, really friggin’ big.
Just look at his design for Babel (IID, if you want to be specific): an immense flared cylinder of apartments sitting in a saucer-shaped base of commercial and civil spaces, with some parks, of course. Total population? 550,000. That’s Seattle. That’s Portland. All in one structure -- a structure that’s 1,900 meters high and 3,000 meters at its widest.
That’s more than a mile high and almost two miles wide. Want even more perspective? If you look at one of Soleri’s fantastic plans you’ll often see a strange little symbol to one side, an icon to give you an idea of the scale of his designs: an icon that represents the Empire State Building.
Then there’s Hexadredon, an incredible geometric mountain rising on three immense supports. Home to more than 170,000, it would rise half a mile into the sky and stretch about that same distance across the landscape. Like all of Soleri’s designs, it looks more like a cathedral carved from a mountain than what you might envision for a single vast building; as much art as architecture, as much sculpture as a structure for living.
Put people into cities - to free up the rest of the world for nature
Soleri’s designs are not limited to the dull flatness of the plains. Some of them, like the poetic Stonebow that bridges a canyon with its 200,000 population, the dam city of Arcodiga, or Arcbeam whose mere 65,000 inhabitants live on the side of a cliff, show his amazing ability to visualize a future not only of incredible size but also to work with any location.
Even the ocean: Novanoah’s 400,000 people live, work, and play in a city floating at sea. Even space: Asteromo’s 70,000 people live, work, and play in near-earth orbit.
(image credit: Arcosanti, via)
"3-D Jersey was the winning entry in a 1968 competition to design a new supersonic airport for the Jersey Meadows. There are a few runways and terminals around the base of the structure, but the main feature of the design is the city of one million rising 300 stories around a cybernetic core."
You can buy Paolo Soleri's book (in an appropriately huge format) at this link. You can also order "Hyper Building" poster at Arcosanti site.
Arcosanti Takes Shape
But what’s even more amazing than Soleri’s designs and grander-than-grand visions is that out in the cactus and scorpion wilds of Arizona he and his students are building one: Arcosanti:
Originally planned to house a grander number, the new target for this test-bed Arcology is about 5,000 residents, mostly students and artists. Right now it’s home to only about 120 -- with roughly 50,000 tourists stopping by every year to see how things are going. (there was even a movie filmed there: "Nightfall" based on famous science fiction story by Isaac Asimov)
Sure Arcosanti might be a tad on the small side, and, yes, it’s not exactly been blossoming into reality at a rapid pace, but it’s there nonetheless: a beautifully arched and vaulted beginning to what could be a staggeringly beautiful, and breathtakingly immense, future.
Say what you want about the realism of Soleri’s visions but you have to always give him and his student this: in a world where the future is small and cheap they are looking toward tomorrow with big dreams: big, hopeful, dreams.
UPDATE: Some other mega-city projects that came to our attention:
"Sea-City", 1968 - architect Hal Moggridge for Pilkington Glass Company:
Japan's Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid:
Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid is so big that it can not be built unless stronger materials are invented (capable to hold the weight of enormous structure) It's proposed to be more than 2 kilometers high, with housing for 750,000 people. More info.
(image credit: binisystems)
(image credit: Discovery Channel)
And of course, Dubai gets into the game:
According to this info, the proposed Ziggurat will house 1 million people... and will be completely self-sustained.
This is how similar mega-structure might look somewhere in the Midwest:
(images credit: World Architecture News)
See more proposed mega-cities are described on this page and a few ocean-based ones here.
Also Read: Architectural Genius of Antoni Gaudi
Most Elegant Proposed Skyscrapers
Retro-future: Glorious Urbanism
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