Category Archives: Compact Super-Cities & Domed Eco-Habitats

Mexican architects design an upside down pyramid ‘earthscraper’

The Earthscraper / BNKR Arquitectura. Image: ArchDaily

When the Aztecs first came into the Valley of Mexico they built their pyramids on the lake they found there. When a new and bigger pyramid was conceived and the Aztec Empire grew in size and power, they did not search for a new site, they just built on it and around the existing one. In this manner, the pyramids are composed of different layers of historical periods. | Aug 4, 2011

By Alison Furuto

Mexico – The Earthscraper, designed by BNKR Arquitectura, is the Skyscraper’s antagonist in the historic urban landscape of Mexico City where the latter is condemned and the preservation of the built environment is the paramount ambition. It preserves the iconic presence of the city square and the existing hierarchy of the buildings that surround it. More images and architects’ description after the break.

The Historic Center of Mexico City is composed of different layers of cities superimposed on top of each other. When the Aztecs first came into the Valley of Mexico they built their pyramids on the lake they found there. When a new and bigger pyramid was conceived and the Aztec Empire grew in size and power, they did not search for a new site, they just built on it and around the existing one. In this manner, the pyramids are composed of different layers of historical periods.

When the Spanish arrived in America and ultimately conquered the Aztecs, they erected their Christian temples atop their pyramids. Eventually their whole colonial city was built on top of the Aztec one. In the 20th century, many colonial buildings were demolished and modern structures raised on the existing historic foundations. So in a way, Mexico City is like a massive layered cake: a modern metropolis built on the foundations of a colonial city that was erected on top of the ancient pyramids that were constructed on the lake.

The main square of Mexico City, known as the “Zocalo”, is 57,600 m2 (240m x 240m), making it one of the largest in the world. It is bordered by the Cathedral, the National Palace and the City Government buildings. A flagpole stands at its center with an enormous Mexican flag ceremoniously raised and lowered each day. This proved as the ideal site for the Earthscraper: an inverted skyscraper that digs down through the layers of cities to uncover our roots.

The design is an inverted pyramid with a central void to allow all habitable spaces to enjoy natural lighting and ventilation. To conserve the numerous activities that take place on the city square year round (concerts, political manifestations, open-air exhibitions, cultural gatherings, military parades.), the massive hole will be covered with a glass floor that allows the life of the Earthscraper to blend with everything happening on top.

Paypal billionaire to create utopian islands recognized by the UN

Image: Seasteading Institute’s Facebook page

Friedman’s timeline is to launch offices off San Francisco next year, get a full-time settlement within seven years and eventually diplomatic recognition from the UN. | Aug 17, 2011

Peter Thiel has made his fortune by being part of the next big thing: He was a co-founder of Paypal and one of the early investors of Facebook.

But a new Details profile sums up his new plans: “Forget startup companies. The next frontier is startup countries.”

Thiel has donated $1.25 million to the Seasteading Institute, the brainchild of Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer and grandson of economist Milton Friedman. Here’s the gist: creation of libertarian, sovereign nations built on oil-rig-type platforms anchored in international waters and free from the laws and moral codes of any other country.

Plans for the prototype include a movable, diesel-powered 12,000-ton structure that could house 270 residents. The goal would be to eventually link hundreds of the structures together.


Friedman’s timeline is to launch offices off San Francisco next year, get a full-time settlement within seven years and eventually diplomatic recognition from the UN.

“The ultimate goal is to open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government,” Friedman told Details. Some of the changes: no welfare or minimum wage, looser building codes and few restrictions on weapons.

Friedman thinks what could set this apart from an Ayn Rand novel – or even a remake of “Waterworld” – is the idea of entrepreneurship. He calls one idea Appletopia. A corporation, such as Apple, “starts a country as a business. The more desirable the country, the more valuable the real estate.”

Criticism of the idea hasn’t been kind. Slate’s Jacob Weisberg called it “the most elaborate effort ever devised by a group of computer nerds to get invited to an orgy.”

Yahoo News points out that Thiel made news this year for putting a portion of his $1.5 billion fortune into an initiative to encourage entrepreneurs to skip college.

Futuristic ‘Sleepbox’ debuts in Moscow

Would you spend the night in this? The Sleepbox at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow resembles a vending machine from afar. | Aug 16, 2011

By Tiffany Lam

We figured tourist lodgings in expensive cities couldn’t get more “basic” than capsule hotels.

We figured wrong.

A Moscow company is now marketing “Sleepboxes” — freestanding, mobile boxes with beds inside — for travelers stranded overnight, or those in need of a quick snooze. The Sleepboxes are meant to be installed in airports — even at departure lounges — and rented for 30 minutes to several hours at a time.

A Sleepbox is currently installed at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow.

“We travel a lot and many times we faced a problem of rest and privacy in airports,” says co-designer Mikhail Krymov of design firm Arch Group, who together with Alexei Goryainov came up with the idea of Sleepbox. “And as we are architects, we like to think of solutions.”

Measuring 1.4 meters wide, two meters in length and 2.3 meters in height, Sleepbox’s star feature is a two-meter-long bed made of polymer foam and pulp tissue that changes bed linen automatically.

It also comes with luggage space, a ventilation system, WiFi, electric sockets and an LCD TV.


The model unveiled in Moscow is a “hostel” version of the Sleepbox, which includes an additional bunk bed and fold-up desk.

“Imagine the situation that you are in the modern metropolis, where you are not a local resident, and you have not booked a hotel,” the design firm says on its website. “Thanks to Sleepbox, any person has an opportunity to spend the night safely and cheaply in case of emergency, or when you have to spend few hours with your baggage.”

The design firm says that the box can be placed at railroad stations, expo centers and even on the streets of countries with warm climates.

“We hope that Sleepboxes will be available all over the world,” says Krymov. “Today we are offering Sleepboxes to different companies in Europe, Asia, Africa and the U.S.A. Generally the price of one box starts from US$10,000.

“The idea is to to sell Sleepboxes to local companies, who will be local operators of the business.”

We’d like to see them in offices for fatigued workers, as well as shopping malls for tired boyfriends and husbands.

Ghost towns on the increase as rural America accounts for just 16% of population

Blackout: This official graphic shows dominant U.S. urban areas, marked in white, while large swathes of rural areas are becoming darker as people move away

Migration will form a virtual mega-city stretching through Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland and ending in the capital Washington D.C.

In 1910 72% of Americans lived in rural areas

Daily Mail | Jul 28, 2011

Vast swathes of the U.S. countryside are emptying and communities becoming ghost towns as rural America now only accounts for just 16 per cent of the population.

The 2010 census results suggest that by 2050 many of these areas could shrink to virtually nothing as businesses collapse and schools close.

This dramatic population implosion is the culmination of a century of migration to cities, as in 1910 the share of rural America was at 72 per cent.

In 1950 the countryside remained home to a majority of Americans, amid post-World War II economic expansion and the baby boom.

However, once busy areas have been abandoned, in South Dakota for example, the town of Scenic is up for sale for $799,000 as today just eight people live there.

Overall the share of people in rural areas over the past decade fell to 16 percent, passing the previous low of 20 percent in 2000, and is expected to drop further because of the economic crisis.

But in contrast American cities are booming and will continue to swallow suburban communities, producing a virtual mega-city stretching through Boston, Massachusetts, through New York City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Maryland and ending in the capital Washington, D.C.

‘Some of the most isolated rural areas face a major uphill battle, with a broad area of the country emptying out,’ said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau, a research group in Washington, D.C.

‘Many rural areas can’t attract workers because there aren’t any jobs, and businesses won’t relocate there because there aren’t enough qualified workers. So they are caught in a downward spiral.’

The rural share is expected to drop further as the U.S. population balloons from 309 million to 400 million by 2050, leading even more people to crowd cities and suburbs and fill in the land around them.

In 2010, the census found cities grew overall by 11 percent with the biggest gains in suburbs or small- or medium-sized cities.

In fact, of the 10 fastest-growing places, all were small cities incorporated into the suburbs of expanding metro areas, mostly in California, Arizona and Texas.

In all, the share of Americans living in suburbs has climbed to an all-time high of 51 percent.

Despite sharp declines in big cities in the Northeast and Midwest since 2000 due to the recession, U.S. cities increased their share by 3 percent to a third.

The data was supplemented with calculations by Robert Lang, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.

In the census ‘rural’ is generally defined as non-metropolitan areas with fewer than 50,000 people.

‘These new patterns suggest that there will be a blurring of boundaries as regions expand well beyond official government-defined definitions,’ Mr Frey said.

‘People like to have it all – affordable housing in a smaller-town setting but in close proximity to jobs and big-city amenities such as specialised shopping, cultural events and major sports and entertainment venues.’

Areas areas like the Great Plains in the central U.S. and Appalachia in the East, along with parts of the South and Texas, could face the most significant population declines, demographers say.

These places suffered some of the biggest losses over the past decade as young adults left and the people who stayed got older, moving past childbearing years.

Rural towns are scrambling to attract new residents and stave off heavy funding cuts from financially strapped federal and state governments.

Delta Air Lines recently announced it would end flight service to 24 small airports, several of them in the Great Plains, and the U.S.

The U.S. Postal Service is mulling plans to close thousands of branches in mostly rural areas of the country.

Many rural areas, the central Great Plains in particular, have been steadily losing population since the 1930s with few signs of the trend slowing in coming decades.

Among the struggling rural areas are vast stretches of West Virginia in Appalachia. Several of the state’s counties over the past decade have lost large chunks of their population following the collapse of logging and coal-mining industries.

BMW says no flying cars, for now

The future of transportation won’t look anything like how we used to envision it, according to BMW’s newest documentary segment. (Credit: BMW) | Feb 9, 2011

by Liane Yvkoff

BMW released the second chapter of its four-part documentary series, “Wherever You Want to Go,” which focuses on the future of mobility, cities, and technology. “The future just isn’t what it used to be” is a 6-minute, 42-second clip showing interviews with transportation and technology leaders such as Buzz Aldrin, Google’s Marissa Mayer, and former Zipcar CEO Robin Chase to discuss the future of the automobile.

The experts all say the same thing: start thinking small.

A sketch of the Megacity Vehicle (Credit: BMW)

Despite the advances of aeronautics in recent years that may make suborbital travel possible, the automobile hasn’t quite made that same technological leap. Cars don’t work that differently from the way they did when they were first invented. And with the need to focus on sustainable transportation technology, you can shelve dreams of flying cars and jet packs for the masses (at least for the near future). Instead, start cozying up to the idea of small, efficient vehicles that drive themselves and are better suited for use in dense metropolitan areas.

It’s almost like BMW is telling its viewers, “Prepare to be disappointed.” Or at the very least, “Manage your expectations.”

The weekly documentary series is leading up to BMW’s announcement of the official name for its Megacity Vehicle (MCV) on February 21. The vehicle is intended for cities with dense urban populations of more than 5 million people. Only sketches of the vehicle are circulating the Internet, but it’s assumed the car is going to be small, front-wheel-drive, and fuel-efficient–the exact opposite of what BMW is known for now. The commuter vehicle is such a departure from BMW’s typical mantra of cars for people who love to drive that it will be marketed under a new sub-brand, which is also yet to be named.

Iowa population shifts from rural to urban

USA TODAY | Feb 12, 2011

By Grant Schulte

DES MOINES — Iowa’s population grew increasingly urban in the past decade as residents continued to leave rural counties and flock to a handful of larger cities, 2010 Census data released Thursday show.

Four of the state’s five biggest cities grew from 2000 to 2010, but only a third of its 99 counties did so.

Seven of those counties — all near urban centers — grew more than 10%. Five counties in rural western Iowa lost at least 10% of their residents.

The losses in rural Iowa are driven by a movement from factories and other goods-producing industries to more retail businesses, according to Iowa State University sociologist David Peters. He also attributes some of the losses to the combination of older residents dying and younger Iowans leaving for the bigger cities.

He predicts rural Iowa will continue a historic trend of merging school districts and other government services.

Fewer jobs will exist, Peters says, and small towns will slowly vanish.

“What we’re going to see by midcentury is a vastly depopulated Corn Belt and Great Plains,” Peters says. “You’re going to see ghost towns reappear.”
Census numbers where you live

Click here for an interactive map with data representing where you live.

The Census counted 120,031 more Iowans in 2010, a 4% increase from a decade earlier. More than half of that growth (58%) came from Hispanics. The number of Hispanics hit 151,544, up from 82,473 in 2000 — an 84% increase.

The increase in Hispanics is evidence that the state fared better economically than others, says Mark Grey, a sociology and anthropology professor at the University of Northern Iowa.

Grey says many are immigrants who found work in factories, slaughterhouses and farms.

“The reason they’re here is because we employ them,” Grey says. “I think this indicates you still have industries that are still very dependent on this workforce.”

David Cook-Martin, a sociologist at Grinnell College in central Iowa, says some Hispanics may have come to Iowa after working in larger cities that were hit harder by the economic downturn.

“Most people don’t want to leave where they’re from,” Cook-Martin says. “Economics has been a huge factor, but that gets lost in the heat of the debate these days. It takes something to move people from where they are. Going from a place like Los Angeles or Chicago or New York to a place like Iowa, takes some prompting.”

Polk County, the state’s largest and home to the capital city of Des Moines, expanded by 15%.

Linn County grew more than 10% despite a massive flood in 2008 that ruined thousands of homes and buildings. Johnson County, home to the University of Iowa, gained 18%.

Much growth took place in the Des Moines suburbs, including West Des Moines, up 22%; Ankeny, up 68%; and Urbandale, up 36%.

China denies plan to create world’s biggest city

This file photo shows a night-time shot of ilumminated Guangzhou skyline. Authorities in southern China’s Guangdong province have denied planning to unite nine towns to create the world’s biggest city in the Pearl River delta, according to state media.(AFP/File)

AFP | Jan 28, 2011

BEIJING (AFP) – Authorities in southern China’s Guangdong province have denied planning to unite nine towns to create the world’s biggest city in the Pearl River delta, according to state media.

“The reports were totally false. There is no such plan,” Guo Yuewen, spokesman for the Communist party’s provincial committee, was quoted as saying by the official China Daily on Saturday.

Media had reported on a project to unite nine urban areas — including both Guangzhou and Shenzhen — into a megalopolis with a population of 42 million, according to the China Daily.

The Pearl River delta was one of the first Chinese regions to open up to foreign business in the 1980s and is now among its richest, a giant manufacturing hub that produces around 10 percent of the country’s GDP.