Anyone who'd like to make a 3D model of a compact eco-city?


I'm blogging about ultra compact city design, and to illustrate I need drawings of what it could look like. I'm wondering if there is anyone out there who'd care to help out? Perhaps you've got a student project for a green city design - this could match?

I'm of the opinion that Chinese cities that are now built from scratch can and should be built with the entire road infrastructure under ground, leaving the top level streets for pedestrians. You could have an entire skyscraper city with only pedestrian streets. Cars belong under the ground - just as sewage does!

I've got a good idea of both how the infrastructure can be resolved as well as how the entire city layout can be done, and need someone who's interested in working to display this.

I've described the project on my blog, so take a look if you're interested and contact me if you're interested!

Nov 21, 12 3:12 pm

Contact details are here: :)

Nov 21, 12 3:13 pm

Maybe you could propose firing squads to take care of automobile drivers... then the below-grade sewers could be made narrower.

Nov 21, 12 10:28 pm

I think the roads should be on emission free flying platforms.  That would be way better!

Nov 21, 12 10:46 pm

Don't forget the dirigible docking stations!

Nov 22, 12 9:37 pm

Why are u laughing?

Have you not thought about what you could do with architecture if one didn't have to accommodate cars as a primary priority?

Nov 29, 12 2:23 pm

hasn't this already been done by paolo soleri and arcosanti?  here's a picture if your still curious as to what your city looks like

Nov 29, 12 2:54 pm

Of course it's been done many places - I live next door to a development where a motorway has been put under a hill, with mostly pedestrian lanes to access the buildings on top. However, the alternavist greenery of the Arcosanti development isn't exactly what I've got in mind....

What I'¨m thinking about is why China doesn't build its new cities a bit smarter. They aren't building evolutionary, but instead constructing huge areas of  "greenfield dense cities" - they aren't constrained by existing infrastructure, because there is none. 

Have you seen Pudong New Area in Shanghai? The whole area was farmland 15 years ago, then the whole thing was developed in one go. Why didn't they put the roads under ground when they started - they could've had  the walkability of an Italian renaissance city combined with manhattan style skyscrapers. Would have looked way cooler, and much more pleasant!

Nov 29, 12 4:49 pm

Danish firm Christiansen & Co. once proposed to bury some of the roads surrounding the city lakes in Copenhagen underground to make new pedestrian areas. Copenhagen is already a pretty pedestrian and cycle friendly city, but here's where the architects got it wrong:

people who drive cars are human too.

Have you thought about the bus drivers who drive the same route for 8 hours, going back and forth underground with no access to sunlight? Have you thought about the air quality and visual strain caused by long periods of time underground? How about people who suffer from claustrophobia? Should they give up on travelling in a vehicle for life?

As soon as you remove people from the street (whether those people are bus drivers, car drivers, or sitting on the 60th floor of an office building) you are going to have the makings of a pretty depressing city. Making a city 'pedestrian friendly' from the get go doesn't guarantee active street life. Part of the excitement of biking and walking in Copenhagen is the fact that buses, cars, bikes, and people can all use the streets at the same time with very minimal negative consequences. I think that is what we should be striving for rather than eliminating car traffic altogether.

Nov 30, 12 8:37 am
won and done williams

Stephanie's spot on with her observations. The current planning meme (which I believe is positive) is mult-modal or in planning-speak, complete streets. This idea incorporates street design that accommodates pedestrians, bikes, transit and auto within a common street section. Efforts were made in the 70s to prioritize pedestrian-only street design, leading to the largely failed pedestrian malls scattered throughout downtowns across the U.S. Part of the reason cities like Copenhagen, New York, and Mumbai all have such lively "urban" streets is because of the ordered (or not so ordered) messiness of their transportation networks.

Nov 30, 12 10:52 am

People who drive cars would probably like to arrive at their destination ASAP, instead of spending their time in a queue!
More roads (under ground) should make this possible. Speed can also be increased when pedestrians are removed from the equation.
I'm not looking at eliminating car transport, but instead making it more efficient while removing a noisy and space requiring component from the city environment.

Ventilation/cleaning systems manage to keep today's tunnels livable - this can be done on a larger scale too.
Buses can easily be run on electricity (trolley buses), while electric cars could be encouraged - this would reduce pollution.

Claustrophobia? Most european cities already feature plenty of tunnels to get you to your destination - why not do it more?
Terrible for the poor bus drivers? Why don't you start a workers right movement for the poor subway drivers who spend their entire days under ground?
Also - I do think its smart to open the tunnels up here and there, but in any case at least to begin with an "ultra compact city" will probably be surrounded by normal cities, meaning that you'd get out into the daylight relatively often.

Exciting to mix cars with bicyclists? Yes of course, it can be exciting to wonder if you'll survive the day. I mostly like to walk or bicycle where there aren't any cars. 
With 60 floors and narrow streets the number of people at street level will be very large, meaning plenty of customers for businesses. This will give plenty of restaurants and shops to keep you entertained.

Nov 30, 12 11:39 am

Speed can also be increased when pedestrians are removed from the equation.

i would suggest removing the bad drivers, those who text and drive, those who drink and drive, etc. before increasing the speed.  this is a good idea.

Terrible for the poor bus drivers? Why don't you start a workers right movement for the poor subway drivers who spend their entire days under ground?

done.  thanks for the idea.

Exciting to mix cars with bicyclists? Yes of course, it can be exciting to wonder if you'll survive the day

also, done.

Nov 30, 12 12:15 pm

Have you ever been to China and seen how they build cities?
I think you're too preoccupied with the way you live in your car dependant cities - try to use your imagination!

Think downtown Florence - but no cars in the streets. 
Think being able to move through New York without being stuck in traffic.

Dec 1, 12 9:05 am

For myself, I wasn't mocking the idea of better, multi-modal transporation.  I was mocking the all-too-common rhetorical tone of hahaha, all those stupid cars belong in the sewers. 

News flash: you can make the same point without the just-plain-adolescent-sounding "cars are evil" rhetoric, complete with eye-rolling.

Your pitch is basic, and worth exploring.  Just keep it simple, and cut the smug editorializing.

Dec 1, 12 3:50 pm

sorry, I\ve never said "cars are evil", nor that they belong in the sewer. Quite the contrary, I don't see how you can run a city without them, and I'm thoroughly fed up with spending my life in a queue. By getting them under ground there would be much more room for roads, and it would be possible to drive faster without having to stop for traffic lights to let pedestrians cross constantly.

But, as you are probably aware, around 150 years ago, and even today some places in the world, sewage runs down the street. When some people suggested to put it under ground they were probably declared insane to begin with.

Dec 1, 12 5:28 pm

I think you're too preoccupied with the way you live in your car dependant cities - try to use your imagination!

I don't drive a car. I ride my bike - I live in Berlin, which is another city that has a pretty decent mix of transit, auto-traffic, bike and pedestrian areas. Bikes and cars get along just fine when each of them has their own lane. It's really not that difficult to implement and much more cost effective than building high-maintenance underground infrastructures.

What Italian renaissance cities are you thinking of? Last time I was in Italy scooters and cars still had right of way and there were very few designated pedestrian areas. Walkability has more to do with density of buildings and variated building functions within a city block than the elimination of traffic.

I think you are the one who needs to take a more serious look at what a functioning eco-city looks like. They already exist and it's not the ideal you have in your head.

Dec 3, 12 5:16 am

Berlin is a rather spread-out city and not particularly compact. Go to Hong Kong and you'll see compact. Berlin is not an unattractive city, by any means, but .... It is definitely not a city most people would opt not to use their car, especially if the rush hour queues weren't too long.

If you go on a vacation in Europe, where would you end up? Very often you would visit the historic city centres, which would often be pedestrian zones - even in Italy. These are very pleasant places to be - but of course you can't have the whole city like that, the traffic just would not work out.

Take instead Hong Kong. Its very compact, giving a very lively city with short travel distances. But - traffic is making the city streets very noisy. What if you could just plant a park in the streets and put the houses closer together? The city environment would be much nicer and the city would become even more compact, reducing travel times. Additionally you would of course do as you suggest and design each block with varied functions, and mix residential, recreational and office/manufacturing areas.

Why do you think underground infrastructures would be high maintenance? You need lights and ventilation and not much more. The reason cities aren't built with roads under ground is that its impossible to upgrade an existing city and put the roads under ground, but if you do it from the very beginning the costs should be manageable.

The shortened travel times caused by building more compact should save the city's inhabitants a lot of time every day travelling. Time is money, and if you cut 30-60 minutes off every person's daily commutes you would definitely have the money to pay for "high maintenance infrastructure".

Dec 3, 12 4:56 pm
ka em

When you're talking about new Chinese cities, why do you reference Hong Kong and New York? New cities tend to have very low density which wouldn't require the kind of transportation system you're proposing. In addition, have you asked yourself why skyscrapers? What about something that is more contextual i.e. courtyard houses?

More roads or roads widening is what the road lobby usually say to city planners. This is then is usually followed by more cars ownership and even more congestion. In fact this is what is happening now in Beijing where the use of bikes is on the down slope.

You may want to look up the difference between Tailor Made and Ready Made approach in network transportation planning system, because your scheme seems to require the former (which is the older idea) while the other is more about retrofitting.

I'm not saying your idea is not doable, but there are just too many other concerns with putting every transport underground i.e. safety, mode sharing, financial feasibility, environmental, and all of Stephanie's concerns, that you will need to answer before it becomes a good idea. Mind you traffic congestion is something many transportation planners have been grappling with for years, so it may require a much more considered approach.

Dec 4, 12 2:48 pm

Roads under ground would actually work beautifully also with two storey houses with garden - let the final 100m to the garage go under ground and the topside can be walkways / bicycle paths. But with highrises it all becomes much more effective and considerably cheaper pr housing unit.

More roads and wider roads is what the city planners are doing in for instance Beijing. Wide roads + buffer parks, and the end result is of course no walking or bicycles since the distances become enormous - hundreds of meters to cross the road from one building to the next.

What I'm noticing is that areas such as downtown Hong Kong, or London, or Manhattan are very desirable places to live  - property prices are sky high because people really like to live there. Why not purposely build more of this? 

Go visit Chinese cities like Wenzhou or Lanzhou. These consist of really high residential towers 20-40 storeys tall and are built on land that was rice fields a decade ago. This kind of architecture is both necessary, cheap and environmentally much more friendly than spread-out cities such as Berlin. BUT - why copy the road structure of western cities that evolved that way over centuries?

You're saying that "modern" idea is about retrofitting. That's fitting for Europe, where cities are old and there isn't a great need for new building mass. But the cities that are built in China today are brand new planned cities

have thought about this since I first saw Pudong New City being build in Shanghai almost ten years ago, and I don't see any large showstoppers. Why don't you visit and have a look? I have addressed the concerns mentioned above - but I am in need of illustrations to show what it would look like, and this is why I started this thread.

Dec 4, 12 4:52 pm

check out disney's first concept for disney land, it is brilliant and pretty much just what you are talking about.  horrible though even if it does have some cool buckminster fulleresque houses in place of stick built homes.  he even built one as an attraction in future land.  the wrecking crane bounced off it so they had to saw it into pieces to dismantle it when it started to look old instead of futurific.

Dec 4, 12 6:07 pm


Dec 6, 12 4:02 am

If you want to see this in action you don't have to go to Disneyland.

Go to sections of european cities like Oslo and you will find many areas where traffic and parking has been put under ground in order to free up car-free zones or to get through-going traffic out of the way. The government area of Oslo is built like this, with underground access to buildings  from an underground main road (a reason the bomb blast in 2011 only killed 8 people was that a lot of the blast energy disappeared into a garage under the road - which you wouldn't guess was there), and the same is the intention with the area between the central station and the new opera house where  a motorway has been put under ground. However, access to individual buildings is normally carried out on topside roads, the reason being that building underground access to each individual house becomes impractical when retrofitting an existing city. But there are plenty of "lid" solutions available where through traffic is diverted under ground with topside traffic being very restricted. These solutions are expensive but popular because they make traffic flow easily while making the city environment pleasant. Why not just do more of this?

And - btw, the flying trains of disneyland aren't that silly - go to Singapore and try out their Light Rail Transit and you'll see it in action: 

Dec 6, 12 4:19 am

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