Some might assume that an exhibit at Yale School of Architecture would appeal only to architecture and structural-engineering buffs. But the current exhibit will fascinate anyone who wonders what cities might look like in the future.
“Vertical Cities” focuses on the world’s tallest buildings. More than 200 skyscrapers are represented in 1:1000 scale models. Only six U.S. buildings make the top 50 in height. As “vertical cities” go, metropolises in China, Malaysia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates make New York City seem underdeveloped and make Europe look like a step back into the 19th century.
The most intriguing aspect, however, is the discussion of where architecture must go to build the cities of tomorrow. The proposed projects are mind-boggling, even frightening.
The Earth is only so big and more people are moving to urban areas. Can cities and the Earth continue to sustain billions of people? Where will they all live? What will happen to the human race if these new solutions never come to fruition?
So far, none of these super-city dreams has been realized, through reasons ranging from governmental push-back, environmentalists’ protests, lack of appropriate building materials or just the fact that the architect considered his scheme more a fanciful dream than a real possibility.
One unrealized project is Green Float, Shimizu Corp.’s “botanical city concept” that would house 40,000 people and have forests, fields, grasslands and food-production infrastructure, despite being in the middle of the ocean. Another unrealized water-situated project was the Millennium Tower, which was planned for Tokyo Bay.
Legendary builders Frank Lloyd Wright and R. Buckminster Fuller envisioned vertical metropolises. Wright’s 1957 idea for an “Illinois Sky City” would have been a mile high. It was never built, but it is said its design inspired the current world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Fuller’s 1960 “Cloud Nine” envisioned a series of “tensegrity sphere” living modules, which would hover over the Earth. Fuller knew it would never come to be: He called his project a “thought experiment.”
The most memorable, and unintentionally funny, sea-borne super-city is Mega City Pyramid. Mega City won’t be logistically feasible until strong, lightweight materials made from carbon nanotubes are developed. Even then, the project has “a major weakness,” according to exhibit text: “If one truss fails the whole structure and 750,000 people would crash into the sea.” Well, there is that.
VERTICAL CITIES will be at Yale School of Architecture gallery, 180 York St. in New Haven, until Feb. 3. harchitecture.yale.edu.