Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Green Utopias

Via Greg Allen comes news of plans to build the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste city in Abu Dhabi, the Masdar Initiative:

The new six square kilometer energy, science and technology community will open in late 2009. The development is a unique, integrated “Green Community” in the heart of Abu Dhabi, which uses the traditional planning principals of a walled city, together with existing technologies to achieve a zero-carbon and zero-waste sustainable development. [...]

Rooted in a zero carbon ambition, the city will be car free, powered by renewable energy with services digitally managed and providing real time information. With a maximum distance of 200m to the nearest transport link and amenities, the compact network of streets will encourage walking and is complemented by a personalised rapid transport system. Shaded walkways and narrow streets will create a pedestrian friendly environment in the context of Abu Dhabi’s extreme climate. Surrounding land will contain wind, photovoltaic farms, research fields and plantations, enabling the city to be entirely self-sustaining.
Sounds awesome. Hope it's realized. It got me to wondering about other such visions of self-contained, eco-friendly utopia, however, and I found quite a few, of various plausabilities, states of completion, and aesthetic accomplishment, including:

Autopia Ampere:

Popular Mechanics:
"A cargo ship drops anchor in choppy water 300 miles off the coast of North Africa. With practiced efficiency, its crew deploys the ship's crane and begins hauling house-size wire frames and reels of thick electrical cable from the hold. As quickly as this cargo appears topside, it is flung overboard, disappearing into the gray, swirling sea. When the decks are finally clear, the crew begins assembling floating solar panels that look like adult-size tinkertoys. The ship's engines rumble as the first of these ungainly structures is hoisted skyward and carefully deposited alongside. The activity continues until they form a vast spiral that dips below the horizon as the ship steams away. Five years later, a luxury cruise liner drops anchor at precisely the same place. Instead of finding bobbing rafts, the passengers lining its decks see the thriving island of Autopia Ampere. With a population of 50,000, it is the newest destination for "eco-tourists," an honor befitting its stature as the first city to rise from the sea."

The Independent:
Wang Enming pauses as he emerges from the subway in Dongtan to listen to the sound of flocks of birds settling on the wetlands near the metro station, undisturbed by man as they prepare for a winter migration. Cycling the remaining three minutes home to his apartment, he marvels again at the fresh breeze coming off the mighty Yangtze river, which is never cleaner than at this point at the world's first eco-city near Shanghai.

The power that opens the door to his apartment comes from a solar cell on the roof, while the water he uses for his evening shower is recycled, as is all waste in this city of half a million residents. His dinner of boiled rice, spinach and spicy chicken has all been locally produced using organic methods. Later, he'll stroll down to the car club and rent a battery-powered sports car and whizz through the tunnel back to Shanghai to cruise the Bund. This is one possible vision of China in 25 years' time, low carbon-footprint living in the eco-city of the future.
Beddington Zero Energy Development

The Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED) is the UK's largest carbon-neutral eco-community - the first of its kind in this country. BedZED was developed by the Peabody Trust in partnership with Bill Dunster Architects and BioRegional Development Group, environmental consultants.

BedZED is a mixed-use, mixed-tenure development that incorporates innovative approaches to energy conservation and environmental sustainability. It is built on reclaimed land owned by the London Borough of Sutton, sold to Peabody at below market value due to the planned environmental initiatives.
As with any utopian vision, however the reality of such design doesn't always live up to the dream, as is evidenced by this blog entry by Paul Miller, a BedZed resident:

Ive been living in my new flat at BedZED for just over two months now. I have most things you need: furniture, stuff to cook with, Playstation 2 (okay maybe you dont need one of those) and I have to say Im loving it.

[...]Like every housing estate the world over there are a few problems. Last week I got a bit annoyed with the fancy energy saving electronics when a beeping noise started in the service cupboard just near my flat. It was just loud enough and often enough to mean that I could dose off for a few seconds before being woken up as it beeped again. To be fair, Peabody Trust did get it sorted pretty quickly when I called them though.

I dont think Ive mentioned the playing field saga yet. Just across the way from my flat theres an open area which was originally planned to be a junior football pitch. It then got dug up so that a gas pipeline could be put through it and never really recovered so was empty for a while. Now the grass has just about grown back but for some reason a lot of stones have come to the surface and its pretty dangerous to play on so still isnt being used. The discussion in the bar of a Friday night is about what we can do about it.
Then again, compared with choking down car fumes and other hazards of your average metropolis, these do seem like minor issues. Do folks know of other such planned or realized cities?

Labels: architecture, vision


Anonymous james leonard said...

Green green green...

very important stuff to me these days.

My wife and I are in the earliest stages of retro-greening our 100 year old brownstone. This will be a decades long journey for us. Retrofitting our existing architecture will prove just as important as new developments.

The thing that troubles me about some of the projects you've highlighted are the massive carbon inputs required to make these entirely new green villages. And though some of the visualizations are striking, in an ironic return of modern ethos, this is one case where form will need to follow function.

As far as other realizations...

Dancing Rabbit is a 70's style commune that for many years has tried to be fully sustainable, all the way down to their use of hu-manure.

Ithaca, New York and Cambridge, Mass. have ambitious green endeavors that are as much public policy as they are architectural.

A few weeks ago on Sundance's green programming, they included an eccentric young architectural futurist who presented visualizations of grown architcture. I've forgotten his name. I've looked to no avail for images of his model of NYC 400 years from now where all the buildings and bridges are covered with gigantic trees. Rather science fantasy, but interesting none-the-less. If anyone out there has a name or a link to this guy's images, I'd appreciate it.

5/22/2007 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous james leonard said...


My search-fu has prevailed.

Mitchell Joachim is the fellow who was advocating growing houses.

I was wrong. His future vision of NYC was for next century rather than 400 years from now. He has his own blog.

And from the number of times their names appeared together in my searches, I guess he has close ties to Michael Sorkin via terreform.

5/22/2007 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger jason evans said...

There's something very calming about the shape of Autopia Ampere.

5/22/2007 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger kurt said...

...something very calming about the shape of Autopia... - jason

But there's something very creepy about dropping a massive Utopia-in-a-Box in open sea. Didn't Kevin Costner make a movie about that?

5/22/2007 01:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, the Democrats just backed down from timetables for the Iraq funding bill. Bush wins. Troops lose.

5/22/2007 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

we've learned so little, it appears...

again, the only response to this clown is impeachment....

5/22/2007 05:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary Kamiya on impeachment:

5/24/2007 04:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"personalised rapid transport":


6/15/2007 05:05:00 PM  

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