Arcologies: The cities of tomorrow

Could these self-sustaining metropolises revive our planet?

(Image credit: Ahearn Schopfer - NOAH (New Orleans Arcology Habitat)/ Wikimedia Commons)

As a species, we sometimes live in our own little bubble. Using the resources available to us for a variety of needs, we have caused a significant impact on the planet. Now plans are in place to use our own bubble for the better: to literally live in one.

To sustain our population while helping to prevent damage to the world, we could soon settle into newly designed cities called ‘arcologies’. Many different habitat variations are being worked on, with most of them including natural, alternative ways to sustainably source enough energy for those who live there.

Arcology is a futuristic initiative that aims to condense settlements into self-sustained cities that limit human impact on the environment. The name and idea came from Paolo Soleri in 1969, who decided to merge concepts of architecture with ecology. His proposal focused on providing for the essential needs of our population in an environmentally friendly design. Current architecture means today’s cities and towns are dominated by low-rise buildings and car-dependant travel. In Soleri’s alternative, giant structures would be built for the most efficient use of space. The majority of arcology designs showcase high-rise constructs that accommodate thousands of people.

But how will these gigantic habitats reduce our impact on the planet? Being densely populated, large amounts of energy would need to be cultivated within a relatively small area. Soleri’s first design included concrete domes, placed to maximise their ability to capture the heat and light energy from the Sun at all times, even when the Sun’s at its lowest in the sky and during the winter. This had the added benefit of creating shade during summer.

One of the drawbacks of having a number of different arcologies is the issue of separation. Before the world commits to these living arrangements, all our basic human needs have to be catered for within these settlements, including the requirement that we can remain connected to the outside world in some way.

Lean Linear City

Combining city life with nature, this proposed arcology is an eco-friendly living arrangement that doesn’t isolate its communities from other settlements.

(Illustration by Nicholas Forder/ Future PLC)

1. Main structure
At over 20 storeys high and stretching for many kilometres, two main structures will be built in modules. These modules could accommodate 3,000 residents each.

2. Light well
Making the most of an area as living space means that some residents stay in rooms deep in the centre. Light wells allow daylight to enter, brightening up areas that would otherwise have no natural light.

3. Green areas
Acknowledging the need for the occasional escape from city life, people will be able to find natural spaces dispersed through the arcology to dilute urban density.

4. Solar powered
Any sunlight hitting the arcology will be used to produce renewable energy through solar panels.


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