Liam Young proposes that the entire population of Earth could fit inside one enormous, sustainable city
Spotted: Architect Liam Young has made a short movie, called Planet City, suggesting a radical design solution for the entire planet. The film proposes that the entire population of Earth could fit inside one enormous, sustainable city, leaving the rest of the planet free for nature and wildlife. The film was installed at the 2020 Triennial of the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia, and there is an accompanying book.
Young is an Australian-born architect and founder of the think tank Tomorrows Thoughts Today, which works to explore the possibilities of speculative and imaginary urban spaces. He also co-runs the Unknown Fields Division, a nomadic research studio that documents emerging trends and possible futures. Planet City envisions a hyper-dense city occupying just 0.02 per cent of the planet’s surface. This would not be a dystopia, but a model of circular living.
The film describes how people could live in “residential mountains” up to 165 storeys tall and grow food in mega-farms and vertical orchards. The city would operate as a closed-loop system, and so generate zero waste generate no waste. Power would come from around 50 billion and thousands of algae farms would filter pollution and provide food. At the same time, the rest of the planet could be returned to wilderness.
Although Young’s design is based on existing technology, he is not expecting anyone to begin building his super-city. He has called Planet City, “a fiction shaped like a city,” adding, “It doesn’t pretend to be an executable proposal.” Instead, the idea is to encourage people to think of the planet, and issues of sustainability, in new ways. The idea for a one-city planet was inspired by biologist Edward O Wilson’s Half-Earth concept, which proposes that mass extinction can be averted by dedicating half of the surface of the earth to nature. According to Young, “The byproduct of this global park, however, is the necessity to redesign the realities of the present-day planetary city we all occupy.”
While Planet City is pure speculation, a number of other architects are also engaging with the notion that cities can be built to be entirely sustainable. Springwise has seen this in recent designs for a self-sufficient city that could withstand pandemics and a plan for turning disused office space into vertical farms.
Written By: Lisa Magloff