What is an Arcology?
Arcology is the fusion of architecture with ecology, a comprehensive urban perspective. In nature, as organisms evolve, they increase in complexity and become a more compact system. A city should similarly evolve, functioning as a living system. Architecture and ecology as one integral process, is capable of demonstrating positive response to the many problems of urban civilization – population growth, pollution, energy/natural resource depletion, food scarcity, and quality of life. Arcology recognizes the necessity of the radical reorganization of the sprawling urban landscape into dense, integrated, three-dimensional cities in order to support the diversified activities that sustain human culture and environmental balance.
“The city is the necessary instrument for the evolution of humankind.”
Slow reformation and adaptation characterize the pace of our contemporary sustainability movement. We make incremental progress, changing consumption patterns – driving electric vehicles, attempting to recycle, or outfitting our single family homes with solar panels. Still, we are not confronting the deeply entrenched societal and infrastructural norms at the root of our problems.
Our contemporary urban-suburban form is inclined towards materialism, individualism, and waste. It’s reported that if the 7.4 billion people on earth were to consume like the average American, we would need over 4 globes to sustain us.
With exponential population growth, the work ahead is to learn how we can change our behavior in a meaningful and accessible way.
Small improvements, while pragmatic and available, produce only a “better kind of wrongness” that in the eyes of the rational thinker may not even be worth while. Arcology suggests complete reformulation of how we exist within our environments – a new urban paradigm geared towards cultural evolution, frugal resiliency, and balance with nature.
URBAN SCALE AS HUMAN SCALE
As it stands, our environments are tailored for the automobile as we see in most American cities and elsewhere – a technology that is proving to be more problematic to the environment, and the populace. 50% of the modern American city is devoted to the car, while automobile usage amounts to 5-10% of the citizens day. Human scale could be obtained through densely organized urban environment where pedestrians move efficiently and freely.
Urban growth boundaries are a common element of modern American city-planning, though they are often the result of efforts to protect remaining farmland and other rural or open spaces, rather than efforts to enhance the cities themselves. In Arcology, bounded density is understood as a means of protecting the environment, of course, but it is also understood as a way to provide lively and robust urban activities. Rather than sprawling outward toward a prescribed limit (which may still exceed the resource capacity of the actual environment), Arcology seeks to grow upward and inward.
By utilizing available technologies, such as passive climate controlling architecture; innovative water & sewage treatment systems, and use of appropriately sourced building materials, Arcology strives for reduction of material and energy consumption and an increased quality of life.
“Do more with less” is a fundamental Solerian axiom. The French might call it “bricolage” — something constructed from a diverse range of available resources. In an age of excess, our design seeks to craft space where the frugal utilization of material and shared resources necessities and cultivates elegance. An aesthetic in juxtaposition to rudimentary material affluence.
FOOD & ENERGY NEXUS
As cities grow, farmland is pushed far away from the urban center. As a result, citizens are detached from where and how their meals are sourced. In the urban form of Arcology, the citizens are connected with the production of food in a way that confirms the necessity of robust agriculture systems. Efficient use of water and energy through greenhouses and other innovative systems also contributes to overall efficiency of the city.
(Proximity & Vibrancy)
In cities around the world, we empirically observe the benefits of combining functions and activities within urban space. Properties such as enhanced city safety, a vibrant sense of community, and utility efficiency all add up to a truly beneficial urban form. The crucial spaces within the city become shared, public spaces – accessible by all, respected in common, thriving with socialization, confrontation and growth. With mixed-use space, we acknowledge that the city can become much more than the sum of its parts.