Megastructures and the Future of Architecture

After last week’s unveiling of Dubai’s latest megastructure, The Mall of the World, there was a feeling of the city jumping at the opportunity to get back on track. The global financial crisis had ground to a halt a large proportion of the giant construction projects that made the city famous, and the announcement that The Mall of the World was to go ahead acted as a reminder that Dubai fully intends to resume normal service after a minor hiccup. The sheer scale of this particular project has come as a shock to many in the architecture industry who have been getting used to stringent cut backs and dealing with the trend towards cheaper, more sustainable projects. The Mall of the World, essentially a future city, could be a sign that the future of architecture is closer than we anticipated, and in the next few decades we could well see a leap forward in more outrageous megastructures being pencilled in.

Tssui's fish house
Known locally as “The Fish House,” Professor Tssui’s design has been voted the safest in the world.

Dr Eugene Tssui is an expert in this field. He is an architect, author and international professor with offices in California, USA and Shenzen, China. Author of seven internationally published books, Professor and Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley and Beijing University, Shenzhen Graduate Campus, and he has been a Visiting Researcher at Harvard University. His quirky, forward-thinking buildings, inspired by nature, have been voted by Yahoo.com and Home and Garden International Television, as the safest buildings in the world and, as you will see in the list below, he has designed three of the largest and most ecological architecture projects in history.

Now beginning construction on an earthquake-proof office in San Pablo, California, and the world’s first suspended residence in San Diego, California, USA, we tracked Dr Tssui down to ask him his opinion on the future of architecture. As expected, he was very keen for a shift in the status quo:

“Unless we radically change our consumer-driven values, our deep-seated and self-destructive desire for comfort, ease, quickness and convenience, our superficial concern for stylistics over meaning and purpose, and our neglect for the consequences that our buildings have on our natural environment, we will continue to destroy our future.

“Buildings account for 40% of the world’s pollution, and odiously support obesity and collapse of our physical health.  Every year, nearly 300,000 people are killed by natural disasters, which can be avoidable, if we completely change the language of our architecture. Join me to make that change and save what future we have left to live our lives in accordance to the independence, health and originality, that is our birthright!”

In celebration of Dr Tssui and his bold vision for the future of architecture, for this week’s Tuesday Ten we bring you ten outrageous structures that we could well see making headway in the coming years and provide the crucial shift in thinking that Dr Tssui advocates…

1. The Mall of the World

Video from Dubai Holding

Dubai is no stranger to extreme architectural design with the city a work in progress for some of the biggest structures know to man. The Burj Khalifa, the current tallest building in the world, may be awesome in terms of sheer scale but Dubai’s latest architectural first stands out for a different reason. The recently announced ‘Mall of the World’ is essentially an indoor future city complete with waterfalls, replicas of some of the most famous streets in the world including Barcelona’s Las Ramblas and London’s Oxford Street, the largest indoor theme park in the world and even a “wellness district” to take advantage in the recent boom in health tourism int the Middle East. With 8 million square feet of the mall housing 20,000 hotel rooms and 50,000 parking spaces there will be no need to leave the UAE’s latest super structure, ever. Is this a glimpse into the future of city life?

2. Shimizu Mega City Pyramid

Shimizu Pyramid

 The Shimizu Mega City

 If the ‘Mall of the World’ is the near future ‘The Shimizu Mega City’ is a little bit further on. This gargantuan megastructure would be 14 times higher than the Great Pyramid at Giza and would be able to house 1 million people. The Shimizu Mega City is aimed at providing a solution to the problem of Tokyo’s increasing population. However, with current materials the design would not be able to hold up its own weight. The completion of this future city is reliant on material that is not even available yet, speculated to be super strong lightweight materials based on carbon nanotubes. As soon as they’re invented The Shimizu Mega City is good to go. It may sound like we’re venturing closer and closer to the realms of science fiction, but I assure you that this project is on the cards.

3. Alice City

underground shopping district, Tokyo
Japan already has several underground shopping districts such as this one in Tenjin, Tokyo

As the Shimizu Mega City would only be able to house 1/47th of the population of Greater Tokyo, the problem continues to be approached from all angles. Alice City is a proposed underground network that the Taisei Corporation plans to build as a permanent solution that could be incrementally expanded upon. As space is limited above ground in Tokyo, the costs of tunneling underground are less than they would be to build upwards. Alice City would take advantage of this and effectively become a future city underground.

The plans are to dig a big tunnel and build industrial facilities – warehouses, manufacturing plants, railroads – below the earth. There are also plans for residential spaces that would be serviced by dedicated power plants and waste management systems. The initial costs are estimated to be in the region of $4.6 billion.

Alice City well may be planned to be a wonderland but it’s doubtful that residents will gain access through a rabbit hole.

 4. The Space Elevator

the space elevatorSpace elevatorThe idea of the space elevator has been floating around since 1895 when the Russian scientist, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, found the Eiffel Tower in Paris to be the most incredible sight he had ever seen. He may well have overestimated it’s size, however, as he began to dream up a similar tower that could reach space. Built up from the ground The Space Elevator would go all the way to the height of geostationary orbit at 35,790 km.

As more and more physicists, industrial engineers and architects have pondered the possibility of The Space Elevator, it seems this remarkable structure is actually a feasible idea. Many adaptations have been made since Tsiolkovsy’s original idea, such as a base station on a platform at sea, allowing the structure to move around.

Like the Shimizu Mega City, the Space Elevator is reliant on the super strong but super lightweight development of carbon nano-tubes.

5. The Ultima Tower

Ultima Tower by Eugene Tssui

Dr Eugene Tssui’s design for the Ultima Tower in San Francisco stands at 2 miles high and has enough capacity to house up to 1 million people. As you can see from the diagram above, it would wipe the floor with the competition in terms of height, scale and capacity and it would take something special to compare with.

It is also an eco-friendly future city. The atmospheric pressure difference between the top and bottom of the tower would be harnessed to generate power and the space inside would be so large it would create a “mini-ecosystem” for its residents. Dr Tssui has looked closely at the way in which trees move water around by capillary action to overcome the problem of channeling the vast amount of water that the inhabitants would need to survive.

6. Nexus Mobile Floating Sea City

floating city4.7 miles long, 2.5 miles wide and with the ability to accommodate 100,000 people, the world’s first floating city is another megastructure in the pipeline. The city would be mobile and have the ability to grow its own food, enabling the continued sustenance of generations of residents.Floating city sections plan

The megastructure would be put together completely underwater and then floated to the surface for its grand unveiling. At the head of the structure is a picturesque mountain range which not only looks nice but is able to quash tsunamis into a more manageable wave. The energy in the wave would then be turned into electricity. The Floating Sea City is described as a “Living Machine” that is able to exist self sufficiently based on ocean resources and climate.

This proposed megastructure is another nature inspired solution to overcrowding from Dr Tssui. Planned for the coast of Florida, the Floating Sea City is currently seeking funding before construction can begin. The tourism appeal of such a city is bound to attract sponsorship and the rest of the cost is proposed to come from the inhabitants paying a fee towards completion. Who wouldn’t want to live aboard the world’s first floating city?

7. Dubai City Tower

Dubai City TowerThe Dubai City Tower, or the Dubai Vertical City as it’s also known, is an enormous skyscraper design and could well be the city’s next major project. At 2,400 metres it is the third tallest building ever hypothetically envisioned; after the X-Seed 4000, and Dr Tssui’s Ultima Tower (above). Almost three times taller than the Burj Khalifa and seven times taller than the Empire State Building, the Dubai City Tower would dwarf every other man-made structure on the planet that stands up today.

A building of this height would require a vertical bullet train to act as the main elevator, and to deal with the excessive wind forces a building of this size would be prone to, the structure is based on the ever-inspiring design of the Eiffel Tower. The megastructure consists of 6 intertwining buildings that would connect to the central core every 100 floors.

Part of the building is placed in the Persian Gulf creating a marina that would attract cruise ships and generate tourism. Each of the 100 stories in the Dubai City Tower are so vast that they are referred to as “neighbourhoods.” Our future cities could well end up being indoors.

8. The Bionic Tower

The Bionic TowerThe Bionic Tower is Designed by Spanish Architects Eloy Celaya, M Rosa Cervera and Javier Gómez. At just 400 stories high, it would only be 400 metres taller than the Burj Khalifa and be able to accommodate just 100,000 people. However, despite being in the shadow of many of the other megastructure designs featured, the Bionic Tower makes the list due to it’s use of Bionics to provide a solution to the demands of a growing population in an eco-friendly way.

The Bionic Tower consists of two complexes; The first will house twelve vertical ‘neighbourhoods’ featuring large gardens and pools and the second complex, called the base island, is made up of many smaller buildings which could be used as communication infrastructures, hotels, offices, residential centres, sports centres, or any all other types of facilities you would normally find in a city.

9. The Strait of Gibraltar Floating Bridge

gibraltar floating bridge

Another of Dr Tssui’s amazing megastructures, The Strait of Gibraltar Floating Bridge is planned to join the 9 mile gap between Europe and Africa. Epitomising the outrageous nature of this bridge, a crossing over the Straight of Gibraltar was first conceived in Arthur C Clark’s 1979 science fiction novel, The Fountains of Paradise.

Dr Tssui’s proposal is up against some stiff competition, but if successful it would be one of the most innovative megastructures the world has ever seen. Two floating bridges, submerged underwater, would be buoyed by a central floating island which would host 150 wind turbines, harnessing the power of the notoriously strong winds that blow through this sea channel. The submerged bridges would also generate electricity with 80 tidal turbines built into the structure. In theory, Dr Tssui’s proposal could generate enough electricity to power the whole of Morocco and several thousand Spanish homes.

10. Sky City 1000

Sky City JapanThe Sky City 1000 is a hypothetical structure planned to tower above Tokyo’s skyline. Announced as a proposal during the height of the Japanese asset price bubble, the tower would be 1,000 metres tall and 400 metres wide at it’s base.

At the time of conception, land prices in Japan were the highest in the world. Famous Japanese architect, Kisho Kurokawa, has been noted as saying that staggeringly ambitious buildings with radical designs are cheaper to construct than normal buildings as the amount of money paid for the land outweighs the cost of the building. It is therefore a good idea to build up.

The Sky City 1000 would feature the world’s first triple-decker high speed lifts and, if completed before the other megastructures in the above list, would edge out the Burj Khalifa as the tallest building in the world.


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