City of the Future

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The History Channel’s 2008 City of the Future: A Design & Engineering Challenge has come to close. For one week in January, eight teams in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta competed “to envision what their city might look like in 100 years.”

Curbed San Francisco has a Recap on the San Francisco challenge won by firm IwamotoScott for their HYDRO-NET concept.

“Symbiotic and multi-scalar, HYDRO-NET is proposed as an occupiable infrastructure that organizes critical flows of the city. It provides an underground arterial circulation network for hydrogen-fueled hover-cars, removing higher speed traffic from city streets. HYDRO-NET emerges above ground at the waterfront and multiple neighborhood nodal points. HYDRO-NET serves to simultaneously collect, distribute and store water and power tapped from vast existing underground geothermal fields and aquifers stretching from Golden Gate Park to SFO. New porous pavement replaces today’s streets allowing rain runoff now sent into storm sewers to recharge the aquifers. HYDRO-NET also links to an array of fog harvesters, further diversifying San Francisco’s sources of water. Built with automated drilling robots, HYDRO-NET’s tunnel walls are structured using carbon nanotube technology. Algae ponds reoccupy areas along the Bay impacted by the projected 5 meter water level rise of global climate change. This new aquaculture zone provides the raw material for the production of hydrogen fuel that is stored and distributed within the nanotube tunnel walls. New high-density housing coexists with this aquaculture zone as a forest of sinuous towers.”

One of two Runner-ups, Fougeron Architecture was the recipient of the Infinity Innovative Design Award with their proposal of a city plan incorporating two hundred forty story agricultural towers (see above). The towers are based on “schemes by Columbia University microbiology Professor Dickson Despommier to grow food in specialized towers he calls “vertical farms“. Hydroponic farms “bountiful enough to feed ten million people. They’d use solar energy and recirculated water.” A concept that draws some parallels to Madrid’s planned Air Tree structure.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s John King was a particular proponent of Fougeron’s concept, noting that HYDRO-NET is “just so out there. By comparison, Fougeron carries things to a conceivable extreme. The concept reflects reality in another way as well. When Fougeron made her presentation, she quipped that the first agricultural tower would rise in 2050 because “it takes time get things through” the planning approval process.” A planning approval process that is especially notorious in San Francisco.

Fougeron “took plenty of liberties, such as assuming that by 2108 cars will be banned from the city – allowing hydroponic farms to sprout in thousands of unneeded garages”. Fougeron’s concept focuses on food supply in an effort to “develop a more comprehensive approach”. Could the Mayor’s plan to impart thousands of shared bikes in the city and dubious rumours of a thirty storey Vertical Farm planned for Las Vegas begin to lay the groundwork for such an audacious idea?

The concept of elevated farms also proved popular in the Washington, D.C. area challenge as reported by Michael E. Ruane of The Washington Post in Visions of a Brave New Washington. Winner Beyer Blinder Belle, “looked into the city’s future and saw “totemtic” towers raised on the sites of the old forts.” “The towers would have to be huge — taller than the Sears Tower in Chicago — to harvest the wind for power. The sides of the towers would capture solar energy, and farms would be spread across lower levels.” “Hassan’s plan envisions the Mall inundated with water from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, much as it was when the Tiber Creek ran where the Mall is now. Transform what is referred to as the National Mall today…to become a water mall, [and] reflect all the monuments and memorials into it.”

Drought was a key concern among architects’ concepts for Atlanta Landscape architecture and urban/environmental planning firm EDAW were awarded for their concept of shifting the city’s streams back above ground.

Many cities are littered with streams that were built over and used as the basis for a sewerage system. The notion of shifting them above ground from antiquated sewer systems and filtering the water is surprising to say the least.

Online voting for the Grand Prize Winner begins later this month.

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