Arcology: cutaways of the future city-hives that never were

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Paolo Soleri’s Arcology: The City in the Image of Man is a techo-hippie dream of deep mid-century modern futurism.

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I found a copy in s used bookstore and bought it even knowing I’d have haul it back to Asia on a plane. So worth it. Cranks can be so inspirational.


I visited Arcosanti, years ago. It was a little run down, but pretty.

The problem with arcologies is the basic premise is wrong. The population of the US isn’t exploding - in fact, if we clamp down on immigration, population growth would be negative. It’s negative in Japan and much of Europe. China and India are still positive, but expected to level off in a decade or so. [citation needed] So we probably aren’t headed for Soylent Green soon - or ever.

EDIT: Strange, this story is 1 hour old, but not showing on the front page. Is it by invitation only?

Yeah, even in the 1980s it was a rundown and depressing cult of bell-makers rather than a futuristic experiment in living.

But I disagree that the premise is wrong. It isn’t about overpopulation as such but rather carbon footprint – which is very much a problem in today’s society. People living in arcologies wouldn’t need any form of vehicle to get around – even in one housing hundreds of thousands of people, things could be close enough for walking to be a feasible way of getting around, And food likewise could be grown nearby the arcology reducing the carbon footprint for that.


The randomness of the individual dwellings on the surface of these reminds me of the Kowloon Walled City.


This book rocked me when I came across it back in the '70s (when I was around 10). Just seeing the details of what could exist as a living space astounded me much more than any SF text I’d read.

I also consider it laying the groundwork for going gaga over Corbu around 10 years later…


Those sound neat and futurey, but no matter how close to the police stations there’s always a bit of crime in there.

Source: SimCity 2000. Never forget.

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I’m genuinely surprised Cory didn’t already have a copy, given what we’ve seen of his office. I’ve had a copy of that for years; I think it’s one of those books every world-building SF writer has to own.

Add to the list: A lot of places in Iain Banks’ Culture, the last of which was the Girdle City of Xown. Read closely enough, it’s a word-for-word description of a Linear Arcology with some Arcocanyon designs thrown in as geography dictated.


Not the first time that KWC has been likened to a (naturally occurring) Arcology.

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And of course one thing that is never obvious in these renderings is how many of the residences in these would never see direct sun, instead existing in a permanent shadow and darkness…


This is my favorite mad utopian scheme.

The arcology concept had a lot of shortcomings, but Soleri was bearing in mind that, ecologically, dense urbanization allows for more efficient resource use and has less impact on regional ecosystems than does diffuse settlement.


Speaking of SimCity; That it forces you to build automobile oriented, American grid based cities of the 20th century, no matter how fancy and varied the sprite- its an old gripe. I would love to make a city realistically based on horse and buggy logistics, or burningman bicycle traffic, or Venice with their boat traffic, or even ancient Tenochtitlan! Quite apart from the square grid aesthetics, the physics engine could actually show us something about the way we move stuff around and how that matters to an evolving city.

Then there’s the requirement that all the traffic happen at ground level. Forget Coruscant or the New York of The Fifth Element, what about simply being able to model winter foot traffic in Minneapolis, with all those sky bridges? Imagine those same sky bridges way up high at the elevator break-points in today’s hi-rise! Sim Tower sort-of emulated that, but it was still only in two dimensions.

Minecraft has demonstrated how much fun voxels can be, wouldn’t you love to play SimCity in three dimensions?

Finally, if such a game existed, we could easily demonstrate the actual weaknesses of Solari’s designs, and maybe evolve these ideas beyond the echo chamber of a cult. We might also notice certain cult-like aspects of the fossil fuel economy.


Damn it. Now I want that too.


I found this book as an eight year old or so in a used bookstore and then chased after it (having not bought it) for the next decade or more until I finally did. I actually have most of Soleri’s published writings though I can’t say I understand all of his thought.


Which is true; but rather strange given that any actual futuristic-high-tech-habistructure would probably be a veritable Benthamite ant-farm of inescapable surveillance technology, as well as being highly amenable to on-demand spatial compartmentalization quite similar in concept and utility to that used by the fancier prisons to manage movement.

I’d imagine that actual attempts to commit crime would end up more along the lines of The Self Aware Colony secret project from Alpha Centauri


In the spirit of the game’s car-dependent context @anansi133 perfectly summarized above, I like to image a cop car arriving at the lobby, sirens blazing, and trying to drive up the escalator or something before giving up. The motto on the door is “SCPD: We Do Not Walk”.

(seriously, if I recall correctly Sims asked to walk more than three blocks always decide instead to move away from the city)


I did see light wells in the plans.

It also seems possible to provide artificial light with the same spectrum and brightness as sunlight. It’s not as nice as a real view, but it would do just as well for circadian rhythms and preventing depression.

IIRC, the optimal setup for the first game was trains-only. You’d get periodic “build more roads” messages, but they wouldn’t really affect anything. Maxis explained it in a newsletter as a vocal minority griping about not being about to drag-race their muscle cars.

Someone built an “arcology” in one of the later games, I forget which one. It was an entire map that was wall-to-wall buildings, connected only by underground trains. It had maxed-out happiness, if I recall.

Do you mean Magnasanti?

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