Like many of Dubai’s projects The World, which will exacerbate shoreline erosion and habitat loss, and Burj Dabai, reputedly the world’s tallest building, are flashy and expensive. They are also divorced from the United Arab Emirates’ environmental hazards such as scant freshwater supply and desertification, and though undeniably clever, their eco-footprints are questionable. Timelinks, a consortium of urban planners, scientists, and architectural designers, has designed another less-than-sensible solution to the UAE’s environmental and urban crises. They call it the Ziggurat.
In ancient Babylon, ziggurats were towering structures built with mud brick and with diminishing squares. The towers resembled pyramids in shape but were built with stairs such that it was possible to move between levels. Central to society, each tower included a special addition at the summit, which was probably designed to serve the gods. The best preserved of such ancient ziggurats is in Iran’s Khuzestan province, and was built for the Elamite King Untash-Napirisha.
Should it ever evolve from design to reality, the modern Ziggurat would be no less monumental than ancient ziggurats. The base of the tower city will be 2.3 square km, and one million people could call it home. According to Timelinks’ website, this project “will provide a harmonious, ecological, and safe environment. Ziggurat is a city where people, nature and modern technology unite to harmonize family, work, and entertainment.”
The design’s most phenomenal claim is that it will be “carbon neutral,” and will exist entirely off the grid. Though it has been difficult to obtain specific information, “water evaporation, steam, solar energy, wind turbines, and hydroponics” are among the city/building’s features that will render it self-sustaining. Residents will be able to enjoy artificial lakes and parks and water channels, and could even participate in urban farming. Security will be ensured by biometric facial recognition, and cars will be a thing of the past. To get to work, residents will hop into what looks like a cable car that moves horizontally, vertically, and at 360 degrees, keeping their commute to 15 minutes maximum.
World Architecture News reports that Martyn Kramer – the Managing Director of the International Institute for the Urban Environment – believes that the city/building is “viable from a technical point of view,” though he does question whether living in a machine will be comforting for its residents. Not only that, but is it really healthy to squish one million people into such a relatively small area?
Although it is both admirable and necessary that designers and scientists seek solutions to the problem of open space, we hope that the consideration of psychological health, as well as ecological and economical health, will trump self-aggrandizing design.