Monday, January 11, 2016

Future Cities: from Multi-Storey Buildings, to ships at sea

Whilst I may typically hold the view that multi-storey buildings are little more than:

"Concrete beehives filled with human drones, who are wired to the Matrix and assimilated to the Borg", 
I'm not entirely against such buildings.  However, my preference is for keeping humans mobile, and maximising the ability to adapt by use of small transportable dwellings.

Fundamentally as the Sun burns itself out, it burns hotter, so eventually our atmosphere will be boiled away and so will the oceans: and most life will be fried or boiled into non-existence. The biosphere building projects won't just be needed for researching the potential to support human life on another planet: the Earth itself will be that other planet, for the Earth of the future will not be the planet we know now {admittedly a few billion years from now}.

The building of the Building Research Establishment (UK) shows that we can make buildings large enough to contain other buildings: so geodesic domes over entire cities is not necessary.  Whilst Canada with tunnels and footbridges connecting its buildings so that can walk between them during the cold and snow of winter, also shows that we do not need to encase the city in a geodesic dome. Large geodesic domes typically being the traditional futuristic view: they may still be needed, agriculture will need to move inside: it will not be an option. The point is that there are more practical ways of enclosing space than construction of giant domes, and things that we can do now: compared to some futuristic construction of an Ark for the limited few. As for compatibility with being mobile: the vehicles of the future won't be the same as the vehicles of today: more ship, aircraft, spaceship than car.

Anycase, I expect in a city of multi-storey buildings, that the buildings are connected both internally and externally by bridges and footpaths. I expect minimum use of elevators and stairways. That the city is something of an artificial hillside and all buildings are structurally connected. That all residential dwellings have direct connection to an outside footpath: no climbing steps and no using elevators to get to ground floor. Outside will be accessible at all levels. No dwelling will be buried in the interior and dependent on artificial lighting. All dwellings will have natural lighting, natural ventilation, and access to outside footpath. A footpath that goes somewhere, not just a balcony.

The residential building should be relatively self-sufficient, and operate similar to a fully serviced hotel. There should be school, library, hospital, restaurant, offices and retail stores, with adequate car parking for residents and visitors, all contained in the one multi-storey building. Kids can walk to school, though in terms of existing buildings they can take the elevator.  {NB: a lot of city kids already don't know what cows and sheep look like, and have no idea of where their food comes from, so trapped in a single building isn't any greater deficit than they already experience. City folk are raised in an artificial environment and typically conditioned to function in and be dependent on such artificial environment.}

Such residential building can be something of a secured fortress, controlling who is and is not permitted into the building. Though such fortress may be more of a bad thing than a good thing. However combine the idea of residential hotel, with cruise ships, aircraft carriers, hospital ships and the factory fishing ships, and get the idea that all can be self-contained and kept mobile: as long as we have oceans any way. If people are content to live in the boxes of multi-storey buildings, and be locked to the dependency of the artificial environment of a city, then life on a residential hotel ship shouldn't be too objectionable. After all if the rich and famous spend their time touring the world or out and about on luxury yachts: then why not live on a ship full time. Ships are multi-storey structures.

Consider the problem of population growth in a city. The land has already been used up, but need more dwellings. It is therefore necessary to always have some buildings in reserve. For example in some location a 10 storey building is knocked down, and a 20 storey building is put in its place. People in a 10 storey building else where are relocated to the new 20 storey building, and the process repeated with their 10 storey building. To push the buildings higher to support larger and larger populations the footprints of the buildings need to also get larger: that therefore means the buildings need, at the very minimum, to become connected. Planning Regulations need  to control circulation space, and minimum width of corridors: and should be greater than currently set for inside buildings. Buildings are no longer simply enclosed spaces providing a protected environment isolated from the extremes of environment outside: buildings are becoming the artificial environment on which we are dependent. {Consider that there is a bacteria that lives in our guts, which apparently once lived in pools of acid on the surface of the earth. The environment we currently live in is not the original environment of the Earth: it is a polluted environment, polluted by that which we require to exist. We, humans, could be considered to be little more than the protective containment unit for that bacteria. Ultimately we also will require similar containment unit, if we rely on our cities we will become plants, if we make use of our vehicles we will retain the advantages of being animals.}

This dependency on the artificial environment of our buildings extends to an ever increasing demand for shade structures and covered walkways. Where kids once ran around in school playground and public playgrounds there are increasing demands to provide shade structures to protect from the sun and the possibility of skin cancer: as if everyone of prior generations died of skin cancer. {The Sun is not yet any where near as hot as it can burn.}

Buildings and other structures form the built environment, which forms an artificial environment which is meant to best suit our needs. My contention is that there should be more connectivity between the buildings which form the hub of a city. That this hub should then support a mobile population. The mobile population will either be in ocean going vessels, aircraft or land vehicles. That there should be many such hubs, networked across each continent, that these hubs should be no more than 400km apart in developed regions and no more than 10,000km across undeveloped regions. That the primary requirement for developing the continents is to get a network of such central hubs spanning each continent north and south, and east and west, and circumnavigating the coastlines.

As I see it, the problems of the world are not concerned with whether or not we have the resources to support the current world population but whether or not we have the political will, and the logistics to distribute the resources appropriately. Clearly population is not just shifting from rural communities into the big cities, making them bigger, population is crossing national boundaries to reach the preferred cities. Our world is not so much a world of nations but a world of controlling city-states, and outside the cities are the fringes and outland's. Unfortunately the mining and farming occur in the outland's and we are in danger of loosing people interested in mining and farming. People seem to be seeking office work and the lifestyle, especially the night life of the big cities: but all paper shuffling and entertainment is not good for our survival: someone has to produce the food.

Market gardens and greenhouses that were once close to the city centre have largely disappeared to remote places, and the land has been covered in housing. Good farming soil is buried under houses: not exactly a sensible way to go. However around the world there is this movement to bring small scale farming and industrial farming into the city. From backyard aquaculture to roof tops gardens, to entire multi-storey buildings operating as farm based on hydroponics and aquaculture.

Whilst my earliest ideas concerned fully integrated industrial city-states, where the pollutants  of one industry are piped directly as inputs to another, and the cities are 100km in diameter and set out on a 100km grid connected by high speed rail. My current ideas favour mobility, ships and floating cities. Ocean going vessels already have reasonably integrated systems, and are relatively self-sufficient. Rather than build massive vertical structures anchored to the earth and a whole heap of nonsense about them being hurricane and earthquake proof, I believe better to build massive horizontal floating structures.

One benefit of a floating structure, is that a new structure can be built whilst the existing is in use: no need to clear land and live else where whilst new building constructed.

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[11/01/2016] : Original