Future city working with nature
A future city skyline which is one of the most crowded areas. The purple building on the left has heat distribution vains running through it, The flower in the centre is for communication signalling, while older buildings are being covered by ivy plants.

I had lost a little hope in our world and the way we do things and relate to each other. Focusing on the war, corrupted politics, pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss brought me sadness, a sense of insignificance and uselessness. Instead of only focusing on these issues and applying bandaids, I rather focus on solutions. How I would like to see the world. Nevertheless, all these issues have made it clear that our cities and our way of living need a drastic change. In this blog post, I will share, maybe a bit flamboyant future worldview focused on cities and buildings. A city of living buildings, in a thriving and biodiverse ecosystem.

The general feeling of a thriving ecosystem with living buildings

The picture above is one of my most recent drawings depicting a fully natural garden of a city. The slightly artistic view (I know, a massive flower?!) of this future city should radiate the theme of the synthesis between nature and building technology. I believe using nature in building technology perfectly aligns with the things we need right now in society. Nature is able to adapt, has resilient capacities, knows how to grow effectively, is bio-degradable, regenerative, non-wasteful and energy-efficient. Recent developments in technology can enhance these properties and bring them together.

But nature takes it also a bit slow. There is a stronger focus on regeneration. People will feel more comfortable and relax while they wait for their houses and food to grow. This city “square” below visualizes the relaxed atmosphere in the city.

Adaptive growth and specialized buildings

Buildings indeed grow in this city. Buildings grow through feedback mechanisms (adaptive) with the use of natural sensors that responds to building use, heat/energy distribution, pressure, and other parameters. This also means that buildings “de-grow/shrink” with lower use. They adaptively move along with the way we use it. You can maybe better say: buildings change. The streets in this city follow the same principle, e.g. the number of lanes expand at busier moments and shrink when there’s nobody there. There are different types and scales of change. Buildings change in relation to each other, but they also change along with the seasonal effects and weather conditions. The winds and rains influence the shape of the buildings, effectively regulating their temperature and guiding the flow of the water and air. Instead of rain splashing on the roofs, it now flows with a path of low resistance across a naturally curved surface. Instead of heating radiating inefficiently of a flat surface, the buildings will now have fractal veins that actively redistribute the heat across the city, like blood vessels within our body. This also causes buildings to have different functions. Some buildings have specialized functions like the evaporation of heat (like the armpits of our body) while others serve different functions such as energy consumption. This also causes the shape of these weird buildings, such as that massive flower, you see in the drawing above. Not every building is filled with offices. But they are strongly connected to each other, communicating through the veins below the ground.

An ecosystem of buildings

Together, this adaptive relational growth makes an ecosystem that distributes and does not know “waste”. Waste is being reused in the city as the soil of a forest. Buildings might even die but don’t need to be broken down but shrink slowly to the floor where it degenerates and forms the resources for the next building. Just like insects do in the forest, humans might serve the function of redistributing the “waste” and re-use it somewhere else. Maybe the buildings even function as a food source since they’re enormous vegetables. New buildings and spaces are being made responsively to effectively distribute waste and energy. Buildings will emerge as the outcome of needs. Their shape will follow function.

Climate adapted cities

Each city grows differently however. Because the ecosystem of a system takes part in a bigger ecosystem of its environment. Ocean cities look different from river cities, than from mountain cities. They grow and adapt while utilizing the specific conditions they’re in. The rivercity displayed belong has a strong interconnected relationship with the river itself. For example, the buildings adaptively change position and change shape along with the current of the river. The pressure on the buildings is measured continuously and this input causes the buildings to collectively redirect the currents by changing their shape and position. It’s a feedback mechanism. The bridge you see upstream plays a strong role in realizing this, while the walls of the building on the right manoeuvre to direct the water in the desired directions. The current of the water is also used to generate energy and to travel effortlessly through the city. As you can see on the sides of the river there are buildings and houses which grow in trees and move along.

Technology

The technology needed for these cities is far from developed yet. When it comes to energy consumption, cities need to generate energy that is contextual to their environment. Big flower garden cities rely more on solar energy while this river city relies rather on kinetic energy from the current of the river. For these flower cities we need more advanced flexible solar panels made with bio-material and adaptively grow with the structure. We also need to develop bio-materials that grow at an enhanced rate using resources from their direct environment. To have flexible and adaptive materials and buildings, we need numerous natural sensors, that respond effectively to their surrounding. Using nature’s “algorithms”, we need to guide the growth of natural materials. To achieve this, we should learn about and mimic the way our own bodily receptors work and implement this in our living environment. Altogether, this idea is a massive leap towards  bio-mimicry. And utilizes the development of  biotechnology, such as: biomaterials, bioelectronics and biosensors. When it comes to developing growing buildings, mycelium (the root network of fungi) could be a nice starting point. The  company Kineco is already selling mycelium growing kits to grow and shape your own products.

Food

As mentioned, the buildings are basically big vegetables which could be consumed. But there could also be fruits and vegetables growing on the sides or within the buildings. The rich bio-environment naturally also attracts animals and insects which could also be used directly or indirectly for food consumption.

Challenges

Developing the technology to get to this point is a huge challenge by itself. But there are also challenges to enormous structures that adaptively grow in shape and size. This needs a different way at looking at property and relationships to each other. People also need to be more adaptive and have a stronger sense of connection between them. Another issue of living buildings is that they also die which might lead to all kinds of complications: such as smell, fall risk, and loss of/reduction of housing space. Established technologies such as selective mutations and genetic engineering might solve these issues.

Oceancity ocean city floating city, floating villages, and floating apartments
A few sketches of floating cities, floating villages, and floating apartments

From 3.00D to 2.50D fractal dimensions
One more fundamental issue is the shape of our living arrangements. Generally, our housing and room shapes have evolved to cubic shapes optimizing the volume of a room in all 3 dimensions. This also had an effect on our furniture: having cubic beds and tables. With these natural buildings, the perfect cubes are lost and rooms and buildings get a volume that is lower than the 3 dimensions. Mathematically these are called fractal dimensions which are lower than 3. A cube, for example, has a perfect 3.00D dimension since it fills the space completely since it goes in all directions. An object with a dimension of e.g. 2.50 D doesn’t go evenly to all 3 directions and thus doesn’t fill the space completely (
read more). Offices, rooms, and furniture might grow along with the shapes of the buildings and be adaptive too. A vision for this might be also something for another blog.

A more natural example of natural technology: inspiration of a natural Indian bridge of roots and veins. This bridge is over 500 years old
A more natural example of natural technology: inspiration of a natural Indian bridge of roots and veins. This bridge is over 500 years old

Towers

Two different designs for growing towers.

Developing tower

Underground Tube city

What if the world gets too hot in the near future? Tube city will be a livable community with a complex tube system.

Future underground tube city

Want to make the future with me?

Want to draw or build your own future together with me? Want to design your clothes, houses, cities, or society through natural shapes and principles? Together we can make that work. I need people too. We can think, sketch, experiment, and build a future we would like to live in. I am in for making this happen. Shoot me a message!




Read my other articles:

Future offices

Future transportation

One Response

  1. Jeremy Agnew says:

    This is a beautiful vision of the future! Keep dreaming it into existence. I hope we can make these ideas a reality. 💚🙏🏻

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