Architects, as we know, do not hesitate to go large when dreaming green, or to inscribe those dreams on paper. In the last part, we saw how the vision of some creative brains has already led to progressive leaps in the architectural world. Some of these projects are currently under way; some are little more than pipe-dreams. Where lesser men would cavil, architects march boldly forward and turn their eyes heavenwards. This week we take a look at how these artists have attempted to leave their fingerprints in the skies and beyond: outer space.
Castles on clouds: Green buildings in the skies.
With the Earth’s surface overcrowded and polluted, the first logical choice was getting cozy high up in the atmosphere. With this in mind, several designs have been put forward that either clean the mess for the poor folk down below, or simply take them up into the cleaner regimes of air. Here we have a look at some of these concepts which take the architectural legacy to the skies, filling up the last spaces on – or rather off – the earth.
From the Industrial Revolution until today, we have been quite reckless when it comes to regulating the amount of acidic pollutants churned out into the atmosphere every year. Produced by fossil fuels and added to by traffic and industrial production, gases such as oxides of sulphur and nitrogen have led to the atmosphere’s pH dropping below 5.6 in places. This is not only significantly acidic, but also harmful for any organism or structure that comes in contact with it.
In an attempt to clean up the mess left behind, a team in China has come up with plans for a pH conditioner skyscraper – resembling a jellyfish – which will clean the city’s air.
A pod called an aerocryst at the top of the structure will provide it with the buoyancy required to float high above the tallest building around. Porous membranes will absorb the acid fog, collect it and neutralize it with alkaline substance in the core purifier.
The otherwise harmful acidic pollutants can be transformed with ammonium salts into a neutral liquid which will be absorbed as nutrients by the plants attached to the structure. The remaining liquid will find its way to the terminal tank as reclaimed water.
The floating jellyfish will wander the skies at 200-300 metres above the sea level, cleaning the air as they go. And the terrestrial structures will slowly be rid of the detrimental effects of acidic pollutants. Apparently, these jellyfish have a new job of saving the planet!
Beijing is a very polluted and overcrowded city. In response to the unhealthy life its inhabitants have to endure, Architects Ting Xu and Yiming Chen decided to take to the air in giant airships. It is hoped that the Light Park would provide respite from the traffic and congestion on the streets down below.
A mushroom-like balloon at the top filled with helium, and solar powered propellers at the bottom keep the Light City afloat. Reinforced steel cables extend from the bottom, supporting platforms that host houses, restaurants, parks and sports fields on them. These platforms are oriented in such a manner that the greatest amount of sunlight possible falls on them.
Translucent solar panels on the top ensure that sufficient power is available in the structure below.
Rainwater collects on the large cap surface above, and it is transported down to irrigate the planting slabs below. With an elegant design, the Light Park takes the urban story to the skies, offering Beijing’s residents to escape the crowd and start afresh.
Heaven and Earth: Floating City
Architecture can solve many of the world’s problems – population growth, energy, pollution, availability of adequate food, among others. When architect Wei Zhao entered the scene, he decided to tackle them all in one go. Inspired by traditional Chinese Shan Shui paintings, the design for Heaven and Earth, a sustainable city in the sky, was the result.
These Floating Cities would roam the entire world. Literally. Special molecular magnets are to coordinate these massive circular structures to move along the Earth’s magnetic field lines. The repulsion between these tiny aircraft magnets and the Earth’s magnet will enable it to float in the air. In addition to this, the curved bottom of the platform is meant to rotate and provide clean energy to its many inhabitants.
Having no constraints on floating anywhere above the Earth, the Floating City will seek out favorable climates and regions of sunlight for optimum growth of its plants. This would be a step towards achieving enough and more quantities of pesticide-free food for all its occupants. The excess food will find its way via smaller ‘magnetic suspension aircraft’ to the needy territories on the ground below. The fabric derived from some plants would be used to make cloth.
This model of a futuristic self-sustainable and food-producing floating unit, is much more than a mere architectural fantasy. All this is geared towards helping the environmentally stressed Earth recover by easing the burden humans pose to it. Despite the many logistical hurdles and prohibitively high costs, the concept is an inspiration to similar thinkers around the world to bring the ‘way of green’ to life. And with it, to help change the world.
Stratospheric Network of Skyscrapers
Leaving the ground behind and building castles in the air seems like a fine choice, but how about a little of both ground and air? Usually, the higher you go with a structure while tethering it to the ground, the more vulnerable it becomes to tectonic activities, earthquakes and floods. But the Stratosphere Network of Skyscrapers has something entirely different in mind.
Ordinarily, an increase in the span of the building proportionally increases the scale and the instability . These architects hypothesize that the inverse phenomenon takes place when the span crosses a critical limit. And so, we have a brilliant design where large is unstable, but the immensely gigantic – skyscrapers towering all the way into the stratosphere – may not be.
Such buildings and bridges interconnected over the entire earth’s surface at stratospheric heights, will find themselves quite easily suspended due to earth’s gravity.
And so, very possibly, we might find ourselves perched atop this immensely tall and sprawling tower system, living in the heavens while the ground weeps in disaster.
Space, the final frontier: Extra-terrestrial Green buildings.
Finally, the much awaited, long standing human dream. Homes on other worlds. After modifying the Earth’s surface and its atmosphere, there comes a need to go beyond. Because if we can, there are none of the immediate constraints on land space we face today. We take a look at the ideas that will make it possible for the human race to leave behind the tiny blue green planet that has been its home to boldly go try their luck in the open, unknown territories elsewhere.
Even with advanced technology and brilliant ideas, architects can only accomplish so much on the Earth. Out there, the closest celestial neighbor we Earthlings have is the Moon. Let’s see what efforts are underway to colonize the Moon.
The site chosen for the Moonscraper project is the Shackleton Crater Rim on the South Pole of the Moon. Despite some limitations like low gravity and a non-existent atmosphere, there is an abundance of natural resources lying untouched by man. Particularly, large amounts of lunar ice and hydroxyl gases that are necessary for producing hydrogen and oxygen to sustain life on an otherwise lifeless planet.
The Moon, as we know it, is a hostile world. Towers will be embedded below the lunar surface to ensure protection from radiation, meteor impacts and temperature differentials.
A bunch of robots will connect and network these embedded towers. With some hope, there will come a day when humans will look up into the skies and see the Earth instead of the Moon.
Nomad: Terraforming Mars
We have toured the land, been to the oceans, took to the skies and ventured beyond. Outer space is a feast for those who can exploit it. Our next stop is Mars – currently a cold, lifeless, inhospitable world. The atmosphere of Mars chiefly consists of carbon dioxide, with traces of methane in it. This makes it unfit for most life forms found on Earth. Its average annual temperatures are below negative 60 degrees Celsius, far too cold for life as we know it.
With this in mind, a group of designers in Spain have come up with the ingenious idea of recreating the Greenhouse Effect found on Earth, in order to raise average temperatures on Mars. Special moving units called ‘Nomad Factories’ will roam the planet, using Martian minerals to churn out carbon-based greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which will bring about the desired temperature rise. This will hopefully melt the vast reserves of Martian ice at the North Pole, converting it from a Red planet to a Blue one. Further use of this water can help populate the surface with plants and trees fit to the new atmosphere, finally transforming it to a Green World – a new place to be civilized.
The Nomad Factories, after completing their jobs, will stand there as harbingers for a new civilization, like the silent watch of the pyramids on Earth. Project Nomad will serve the goal of terraforming Mars from the planet it is, to a green and blue world of forests and oceans, much like our own Earth.
One can now begin to see the quantum leaps mankind has taken in the direction of enriching and promoting its existence in just a few decades. We have urbanised the land, the water, and have plans to enter the skies and other worlds in outer space. With our ever increasing numbers and the scale and extent of human practices, it is quite evident that these developments will not go in vain – they will be the stepping stone to a glorious future existence. With new ‘home planets’ besides our Earth, a new chapter in the human story will begin – taking us to the edge of our solar system and to infinity and beyond.
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