We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

21st Century Skyscrapers, Vertical Farms, and Modular Construction

Marina Bay Sands makes a major first step towards
Skyscrapers as Pillars. Imagine these buildings
facing each other and...
The corporate cliche of synergy is often correct. In this case, architectural synergy between the commercial, residential, administrative, and agricultural skyscrapers all brought under one psychologically exhilarating roof.

Well not exactly one roof. We don't do car oil change where we eat. As noted in Skyscrapers as Pillars concept article, an individual skyscraper does not necessarily need to be a world onto itself. Sorry Burj Dubai, you're very 20th century in terms of ego centrism.

However a few skyscrapers can create a microworld between them if arranged to enclose it and to take Singapore Marina Bay Sands and Gothic cathedral concept to a new level. This also flows with current international tendency to create innovation, technology, and business hubs from scratch in one sitting with a few showpiece skyscrapers clustering in a readily accessible central location.

A modern skyscraper has a lot of weight on its shoulders. From fighting architectural height fearing luddites as happened with Okhta Center in St Petersburg to promoting itself as an off the grid showpiece of green technology, a modern groundbreaking building has a lot to prove. Skyscrapers can cooperate in this regard.

The dual opposing tendencies of:

1) having building specialization (separate hyperspecialized structures) and

2) centralization of multiple functions within one giant corporate mall type super building

can be reconciled with Skyscrapers as Pillars.

St Paul's Cathedral
Rather than waste time and resources on architectural uniqueness of each skyscraper within a hub cluster, the rapidly constructed skyscrapers serving as pillars within a greater structure can be identical yet not look bland next to each other as they would if they were separate. This greatly decreases cost, saves on planning time, allows for rapid modular construction of different skyscraper pillar heights (depending on population of a city), AND actually increases the awe factor of the structure. We want to avoid the government project look when it comes to inspirational structures in the 21st century yet. Even if one is skeptical of the story concerning Chinese BSB's plan to construct a skyscraper taller than Burj Dubai within 90 days using prefabricated modules, the fact remains that modular construction is the future.

If a recently wealthy mineral rich country orders 30 Burj Dubai equivalents for a dozen cities, one factory can mass produce floors for all of them, greatly reducing the cost of each. The new Tata Motors car plant in India has a goal to produce $2,000 dollar cars. It will be able to manufacture 350,000 Nanos a year (think of Model-T's price tag of $21,000 or Volkswagen's $11,000 in today's dollars for comparison). Hyundai Motors plant is able to manufacture 1.53 million vehicles a year with one car made every 13 seconds and ship them out on massive container ships that its sister company manufactures at a shipyard a short distance away. Same principles can and will be applied to modular floors of showpiece net energy positive tall structures in this century whether residential, commercial, or agricultural. This finally allows rapid construction of entire compact cities from scratch and thus replacement of inefficient slum cities in most parts of the world.

Why the emphasis on arranging modular architecture to serve the pillar function?

In an increasingly socially fractured and unstable world, states can reclaim and command authority through architecture by having skyscraper pillars replace the function of the Gothic cathedral in a medieval village by having it be the most visible and awe/trust inspiring object around. As the public rejects the false choice between "cutting spending" and raising taxes/debt, it will be looking for ways to increase efficiency in other ways such as states directly owning certain essential productive and distribution functions. The new public space and government function arrangements will require popular legitimacy to become institutionalized and to take hold. Architecture greatly helps in this regard. Besides serving as crude awe inspiring visual propaganda the way cathedrals used to do, there is also the cheapness and efficiency of construction as mentioned above.

A centrally located Skyscrapers as Pillars construct already starts off as presenting a much cheaper and more effective/efficient government. Additionally, and with time perhaps crucially, there is also of course the function of each "pillar". One pillar (the one that stands out among the rest for that colorful touch) can be a massive vertical farm projecting a psychologically benign high tech agricultural function. The government can literally feed itself and provide surplus to others. Another pillar can be administrative and commercial, another can be residential (taking a horizontal elevator to your office is even better than taking a high speed MagLev train to get to work), while yet another serves to house research and development facilities, a hospital, a school, etc. The new technocratic regime can thus rapidly construct functionally beneficial and aesthetically pleasing houses of government (of various heights and sizes of course depending on the location).

Here is an example of a public skyscraper farm, suitable to support the government architecture of a medium sized city.

Every major plant food group is represented within a highly automated-mechanized industrially
mass produced yet organic and clean environment.

This is not to say that we want most of the city to live in a high tech vertical town. However, governments can reclaim their power from private oligarchies if their administrative centers are located within inspiring and hyper efficient self powered productive structures that create inner solidarity and sense of community among their numerous residents and people of surrounding areas. Various social events can be held in the main microworld created by the Skyscraper Pillar enclosure.

To help visualize this from the top, here's basic sketches.

We start off with

It is relatively easy to enclose a space and create an enormous "megaroom" microworld that would put the tallest church rooms to shame if at least one side of the modern skyscraper is straight all the way up. For super tall skyscrapers, Burj Dubai's triangular base currently serves as a role model of wind resistance stability for the tops of our pillars. Marina Bay Sands and high tech bridges show how we can roof the inside space and even create additional stability towards the top. For shorter skyscraper pillars (and as technology improves), the inside megaroom can eventually be widened or covered with ultralight carbon nanotube roofing. We are not asking for a small recreational area with a park, space observatory, and 1-2 story buildings to be on the roof just yet..

There are endless variations. It is of course also possible to continue taking lessons from Gothic cathedrals and create internal pillars. Here are 4 Burj Dubais from the top with a 5th wind protected core serving as supportive pillar to create more of a circular donut room (still highly impressive if you think about it).

Obviously roof stability challenges will be the main thing to overcome (consider how many incredible meters of leeway is given to skyscrapers to move around at the top currently). The importance of megarooms is described in the original article.

A final productive structure can be added in terms of a giant factory space (typical height, nothing grand, 5-10 stories in height, probably underground) that surrounds the pillars as a sort of partial fence. The Skyscraper Pillar structure can thus produce certain essentials such as medical supplies, clothing, tools, etc for personnel living and working within and for nearby city areas. This provides additional psychological base from which political legitimacy can be built. The overall complex thus becomes the heart and brain of the city. As mentioned previously, floor modules can be mass delivered by ship and rail, the way containers are currently.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


  1. Veldig fin blogg og innlegg er svært ultimate. Takk for shaing med oss alle ferdighus

  2. cathedral?, architects at present 66 century working still for religious as in Middle Age?,it´s something shameless because RELIGION IS LIE. Out religion and religious from the Humankind´s Future

  3. cathedral?, architects at present 66 century working still for religious as in Middle Age?,it´s something shameless because RELIGION IS LIE. Out religion and religious from the Humankind´s Future