Arcologies as practice?

From: Corwyn J. Alambar (
Date: Mon Jan 01 2001 - 14:09:02 MST

At one point I too was very much into the concept of arcologies - if nothing
else they were an incredibly efficient use of space and could help curb
some of the major problems facing urban centers today (sprawl, pollution
of all kinds, etc.) However, it's fairly clear that such a project is
nearly impossible in the current sociopolitical and economic climate.

However, consider the following: AN arcology is supposed to be self-contained,
with relatively low inputs and almost no waste outputs. One of the cardinal
ideas is effeciency in the use of space, effectively utilizing three dimensions
instead of just two as most of today's day-to-day architecture does. Another
is the notion of "centralized" recycling (i.e. recycling done on premises,
rather than being shipped out to a landfill or to a remote recycling facility,
as opposed to the usual meaning of the phrase "centralized" tends to spark
around here). Habitation for a large number of people, between 30,000 and
500,000, is built into the concepts of most of the pre-designed arcologies as
well, allowing for a large support population.

Now, consider space habitation, both in hostile gravity-well environments or
free-floating structures in orbit around some planetary or larger class
object. Many of the same principles involved in arcologies are also present
in most of these larger environments, from the need to conserve space and
resources to the need to support a fairly large population. Certain
efficiencies of materials and production can be derived from planning for
arcology scale constructions that aren't really realizable here on Earth -
for example, providing for large-scale air circulation, dense radiation
shielding over a more limited surface area, and conservation og artificial
gravity (if necessary).

It would seem at first blush that pursing arcologies at all would be doomed
to some kind of failure. As a traditional urban planning technique, this is
indeed the case; however using them to assist in planning non-terrestrial
habitation would give a large number of benefits. In addition to providing
a testbed for social and industrial models in a space-based habitation, it
would als be useful in extending habitation here on earth into more hostile
environments, such as underwater (where, if you're outside the 21 mile limit,
you might be able to do something somewhat similar to the Oceania (sp?)
project (now defunct, I believe?) and possibly declare as an independent


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