The Modern Arcology – What and Why

I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of the Arcology.  Many moons ago, as a small child, there was a blatant rip-off of Gerry Anderson’s puppet show Thunderbirds.  This was an anime style cartoon called Thunderbirds 2086.  It was a fantastic show (and they are available on youtube), though it hasn’t really aged well.

But the main thing that I found cool was the Arcology that the team lived in (along with hundreds of thousands of others).  It was a residential center, an entertainment mecca, a base for an international rescue organization.  It had parks and restaurants and a marina… oh and a rocket launch pad.

It was, in a word, epic.

What I find really cool is that modern engineering is allowing us to design and build these arcologies.  Some call them megastructures.  I’m going to stick with arcology.

The arcology is a huge, multi-use structure.  Theoretically, a person could live, work, and play in the same building his entire life.  There are residential units, offices, entertainments, parks, retail, even farms in some of the most modern ones.

In a way, these almost seem disutopian.  The population density inside an arcology would be in the hundreds of thousands to millions per square mile.  Even some current designs extend to 3 kilometers high.  The current tallest building is just such an arcology as I describe here and is only 828 meters.

The main thing though is this isn’t a drab, horrible apartment block.  This is a living, breathing, vital structure.  One doesn’t live in an arcology because it’s cheap, tenement housing.  One lives there because it is the best place to live.  It’s an entire city, in a small footprint.

Just imagine.  You and your family live on the 107th floor, in a 4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2 story condo.  You have a terrace with a small herb garden and some fruit trees.  You don’t have an outside apartment though, your terrace looks out about one the 50 ten story, multi-acre parks in the middle of the structure.

Your kids go to the middle and high schools on the 52nd and 53rd floor respectively.  Your oldest plays football in the sports stadium on the 3rd floor, while the youngest enjoys soccer in the 200 acre atrium.  You work on the 153rd for the network TV station, while your spouse is the manager of a 1200 bedroom hotel spanning the 120th-130th floors.  You are very excited because the state university just opened a branch campus on the 15th and 16th floors.  Your oldest child has a part time job in the mall’s food court.

On the weekends, you see a show at the movie theater or go the museum or the art galleries.  The kids spend the days swimming or camping in the 50 square miles of untouched wilderness surrounding your home.

It sounds a little idealistic and I’ll admit that the dreamer in me sees these as amazing things.  Though the little part that is slightly scared of heights shivers at the thought.

But, this is the real world we live in, not my dreams.  Well, in reality, these types of buildings are becoming more and more realistic and some are even built.  The following is a list of buildings and some concepts that are threatening to be built in the near future.

Burj Khalifa is the first on this list, because it’s finished.  You’ve heard of it.  It’s also known as Dubai Tower.

Opening in 2010, this is presently the tallest building in the world.  There are 143 habitable floors, 46 maintenance floors and 2 parking levels underground.

There is the Armani Hotel, residential apartments, a 3 level restaurant, and corporate offices.

This isn’t what I would a text-book arcology, but when combined with the surrounding area of parkland, a lake, and the world’s largest shopping mall one begins to see all the elements of an arcology, even if they aren’t inside the same structure.

By this looser definition, some would consider the Las Vegas strip as an arcology.  It is possible to traverse the entire 5 mile strip without walking outside.

This  next building is the one that got me thinking about a post on arcologies in the first place.

This is just phase 1 of 3 large multi-use buildings that have started construction in Pune, India.  These new ‘towers’ will contain 3500 or so apartments and public amenities including parkland, gardens, and entertainments.  This structure is really a large apartment/condo building, but as soon as you add amenities, you include jobs and entertainments.  That’s when you begin to see a real arcology.

This next one is big.  Really big.  I honestly don’t think it will be built this century, but it’s sort of the ‘standard’ arcology.  Huge.  Gigantic.  Epic even.

This one is a concept and many similar (so many they are classed as ‘volcano buildings’) structures are being designed.  Ten to eleven thousand feet is huge.  Imagine having the base of the building at sea level and with a short series of elevator trips, you can rise higher than Denver, CO.  That’s blasted big.  I’m not even sure how they could keep the top of the building at a survivable air pressure.

But this would a true arcology.  Something on the order of 2.5 billion square feet (almost 90 square miles) of floor space.  One could easily spend an entire lifetime here and not see everything.

This next one seems to actually have a prayer of being built.  Crystal Island in Moscow.

Only 1500 feet tall.  The structure will have 900 residential units, 3000 hotel rooms, a school and many entertainments (including a sports complex).  By habitable floor space, it will be four times larger than the Pentagon (the world’s largest office building).  It also looks like a reasonable design, unlike Dubai Tower that always looks like it’s about to fall over to me.

Here are two links to some more, innovative and interesting arcologies and arcology like building designs.

Going Up

Solar Powered Towers

Now for the why.  Well, it’s no secret that the population of the planet is increasing and will probably continue to increase at an almost exponential rate for some time.

Arcologies allow massive population density with a much higher than normal standard of living.  When I say higher than normal, keep in mind that one third of the Earth’s population of humans does not have adequate water or sanitationOne quarter of humans do not have electricityAlmost 1 billion people on the planet are undernourished.

To any of this not small chunk of humanity, having a roof, food, water, and electricity would be an amazing, unbelievable increase in their standard of living.  For many high density populations, just having effective sanitation would improve their lives considerably.

To an American or European a population density of 10,000 per square mile would be horrible.  But if that square mile had all the amenities that we’ve grown accustomed to, then there are literally billions of people that would gladly take it.

The Solar-Powered Towers link above, includes skyscraper farms.

A final advantage of arcologies is that, if humans are concentrated, then they aren’t destroying large swaths of the planet.  No cars in arcologies.  No need for roads and imported grasses which soak up water, then have to be mowed.  No clearing forests for suburban developments where everyone can have their 1/4 acre of land and a house that’s six inches away from the neighbor’s house (see, most Americans are used to it already).  Most city dwellers are pretty used to this concept.

In a few decades, we might be wondering why anyone would want a house with land.

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One Response to The Modern Arcology – What and Why

  1. Pingback: Saudi Arcology on Track | Cassandra's Tears

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