Arcology, a portmanteau of “architecture” and “ecology”, is a field of creating architectural design principles for very densely populated, ecologically low-impact human habitats.
The term was coined by architect Paolo Soleri, who posited that a completed arcology would provide space for a variety of residential, commercial, and agricultural facilities while minimizing individual human environmental impact. These structures have been largely hypothetical insofar as no arcology, even one envisioned by Soleri himself, has yet been built.
The concept has been popularized by various science fiction writers. Authors such as Peter Hamilton in Neutronium Alchemist and Paolo Bacigalupi in The Water Knife explicitly used arcologies as part of their scenarios. They are often portrayed as self-contained or economically self-sufficient.
1958: Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri begins planning the Mesa City project. This project describes a 2 million-inhabitant city. The project was never realized. However, all later work on arcologies is based on this project, which attracted the attention of the public through many exhibitions.
1969: The results of the research on the Mesa City project are published in Paolo Soleri’s book Arcology: The City in the Image of Man. With this book Soleri also shapes the term of arcology.
1970: Paolo Soleri begins construction of the first arctic arcosanti. This experimental city in Arizona continues to evolve today. In the following years, the concept is constantly being adapted to new findings and developments.
1993: Through the computer game Sim City 2000 the term arkology becomes known to broad sections of the population.
Properties of an Arcology
The basic needs of the population are covered regardless of the surrounding area. Things like food and electricity are produced within the city.
The city is built according to ecological points of view. This means, for example, that wastewater is processed within the city, that waste is separated and recycled as centrally as possible. In addition, the high population density hardly destroys natural land.
The city is car-free. Due to the extremely narrow building, all important things are within walking distance.
An arcology is distinguished from a merely large building in that it is designed to lessen the impact of human habitation on any given ecosystem. It could be self-sustainable, employing all or most of its own available resources for a comfortable life: power; climate control; food production; air and water conservation and purification; sewage treatment; etc. An arcology is designed to make it possible to supply those items for a large population. An arcology would supply and maintain its own municipal or urban infrastructures in order to operate and connect with other urban environments apart from its own.
Arcology was proposed to reduce human impact on natural resources. Arcology designs might apply conventional building and civil engineering techniques in very large, but practical projects in order to achieve pedestrian economies of scale that have proven, post-automobile, to be difficult to achieve in other ways.
Frank Lloyd Wright proposed an early version called Broadacre City although, in contrast to an arcology, Wright’s idea is comparatively two-dimensional and depends on a road network. Wright’s plan described transportation, agriculture, and commerce systems that would support an economy. Critics said that Wright’s solution failed to account for population growth, and assumed a more rigid democracy than the U.S.A. actually has.
Buckminster Fuller proposed the Old Man River’s City project, a domed city with a capacity of 125,000, as a solution to the housing problems in East St. Louis, Illinois.
Paolo Soleri proposed later solutions, and coined the term ‘arcology’. Soleri describes ways of compacting city structures in three dimensions to combat two-dimensional urban sprawl, to economize on transportation and other energy uses. Like Wright, Soleri proposed changes in transportation, agriculture, and commerce. Soleri explored reductions in resource consumption and duplication, land reclamation; he also proposed to eliminate most private transportation. He advocated for greater “frugality” and favored greater use of shared social resources, including public transit (and public libraries).
Similar real-world projects
Arcosanti is an experimental “arcology prototype” – a demonstration project under construction in central Arizona. Designed by Paolo Soleri, its primary purpose is to demonstrate Soleri’s personal designs, his application of principles of arcology to create a pedestrian-friendly urban form.
Many cities in the world have proposed projects adhering to the design principles of the arcology concept, like Tokyo, and Dongtan near Shanghai. The Dongtan project may have collapsed, and it failed to open for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.
Certain urban projects reflect arcology principles. Pedestrian connection systems often provide a wide range of goods and services in a single structure. Some examples include the +15 system in downtown Calgary, Montréal’s RÉSO, the Minneapolis Skyway System, The Windscreen in Fermont, Quebec, and the Houston, Texas tunnel system. They include supermarkets, malls and entertainment complexes. The +15 is the world’s most extensive skywalk, at 16 km (9.9 mi) in total length. Minneapolis has the longest single path, at 13 km (8 mi). Seward’s Success, Alaska was never built, but would have been a small city just outside Anchorage. Chicago has a sizeable tunnel system known as the Chicago Pedway connecting a portion of the buildings in the Chicago Loop.
The Las Vegas Strip has many arcology features to protect people from the 45 °C (113 °F) heat. Many major casinos are connected by tunnels, footbridges, and monorails. It is possible to travel from Mandalay Bay at the south end of the Strip to the Las Vegas Convention Center, three miles (5 km) to the north, without using streets. In many cases, it is possible to travel between several different casinos without ever going outdoors. It is possible to live in this complex without need to venture outside, except the Strip has not generally been considered self-sustainable. Soleri did not advocate for enclosed cities, although he did sketch a design and build a model of an ‘arcology’ for outer space.
The Toronto downtown area features an underground pedestrian network, PATH. Multiple high-rises are connected by a series of underground tunnels. It is possible to live in this complex without needing to venture outside, but the PATH network is not self-sustaining. The total network spans 28 kilometres (17 miles).
McMurdo Station of the United States Antarctic Program and other scientific research stations on Antarctica resemble the popular conception of an arcology as a technologically advanced, relatively self-sufficient human community. The Antarctic research base provides living and entertainment amenities for roughly 3,000 staff who visit each year. Its remoteness and the measures needed to protect its population from the harsh environment give it an insular character. The station is not self-sufficient – the U.S. military delivers 30,000 cubic metres (8,000,000 US gal) of fuel and 5 kilotonnes (11 million pounds) of supplies and equipment yearly through its Operation Deep Freeze resupply effort – but it is isolated from conventional support networks. The base generates electricity with its own power plant, and grows fruits and vegetables in a hydroponic green house when resupply is non-existent. Under international treaty, it must avoid damage to the surrounding ecosystem.
Crystal Island is a proposed arcology in Moscow, Russia. In 2009, construction was postponed indefinitely due to the global economic crisis.
The Begich Towers operates like a small-scale arcology encompassing nearly all of the population of Whittier, Alaska. The pair of buildings contains residential housing as well as a school, grocery, and municipal offices. Whittier once boasted a second structure known as the Buckner Building. The Buckner Building still stands but was deemed unfit for habitation after the 1969 earthquake.
Arcologies in Media Presentation
Arcologies have established a firm place in (science-fiction) video games alongside all failed attempts to make them real. For example, the first-person shooter Deus Ex – Invisible War features an arcology in Egypt that divides the in-game contaminated city of Cairo into a clean, disease-free zone (the arcology) and a contaminated part (medina). This presentation is associated with a bleak vision of the future, in which only wealthy people are able to secure a place in the arctic and thus to survive. In the science-fiction treatise of Mass Effect, modern cities bear on arctic skyscrapersFrom the beginning of the 22nd century, it has helped to reduce pollution on earth, to better protect people from environmental disasters and thereby to significantly increase the quality of life. In the game SimCity 2000 it is possible to build arcologies from the last time.
In the sci-fi film Judge Dredd, the devastated earth only provides shelter to some people in so-called megacities, huge arcologies. A banishment, as experienced by the protagonist Judge Dredd, is equivalent in the Diegese a death sentence. Also in the film The fifth element is a form of arcology, as its model one recognizes the “Cité Puits”, the shaft city. This is a common scene in the works of Moebius and Alejandro Jodorowsky in their urban visions of the future (eg John Difool). Similarly, in the US movie The Islanda society that lives after nuclear contamination in a strictly regulated arcology. Similarly, in the movie Flight Into the 23rd Century of 1977 a society encapsulated in a dome city is described to protect against the supposedly hostile outside world and enforce internally strict rules on population control.
The depiction of arcologies in the media is mostly negative and often associated with dystopia.
In popular culture
Most proposals to build real arcologies have failed due to financial, structural or conceptual shortcomings. Arcologies are therefore found primarily in fictional works.
One of the earliest examples in literature is William Hope Hodgson’s 1912 horror/fantasy novel The Night Land, where the last remnants of humanity survive in two enormous self-contained metal pyramids.
Another significant example is the 1981 novel Oath of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, in which a segment of the population of Los Angeles has moved into an arcology. The plot examines the social changes that result, both inside and outside the arcology. Thus the arcology is not just a plot device but a subject of critique.
In Robert Silverberg’s The World Inside, most of the global population of 750 billion lives inside giant skyscrapers, called “urbmons”, each of which contains hundreds of thousands of people. The urbmons are arranged in “constellations”. Each urbmon is divided into “neighborhoods” of 40 or so floors. All the needs of the inhabitants are provided inside the building – food is grown outside and brought into the building – so the idea of going outside is heretical and can be a sign of madness. The book examines human life when the population density is extremely high.
The Maxis computer game SimCity 2000 allows the construction of four different types of arcologies in the future, introducing a wider audience to the concept.
Attempts to implement
At the moment, the only practical implementation of arcology is the Arcosanti project – an experimental city designed by Soleri in Arizona, USA, built since 1970 mainly by volunteer students. Despite the design capacity of 3,000 to 5,000 people, the population of the city currently ranges between 70 and 120 souls, depending on the number of volunteers employed. In practice, the project serves educational and tourist purposes (an average of about 50,000 tourists per year).
There are a lot of implemented projects that can be classified as proto-arcology – that is, structures that include elements of arcology at a rudimentary level. Typically, these are large residential complexes with built-in public service points. In Examples include the world’s largest housing co-operative Co-Press the op City in the area of the Bronx city of New York, the United States, the system of covered above-ground walkways +15 in the city of Calgary, Canada, as well as a variety of polar stations, displaced maintain autonomy for long periods of time.
An even larger number of projects (for example, the Tokyo X-Seed 4000) remains on paper. Arcology is also a popular subject in science fiction literature, cinema and computer games.
Source from Wikipedia