ALICE CITY - THE UNDERLAND WONDERLAND
While North Americans endlessly debate trivial matters the
Japanese continue to turn lemons into lemonade. Take land costs. The
last acre of land sold in Tokyo went for US$7.8 BILLION. What do they
see in that, disaster? No, to them that just opens up a whole new
When land cost was in the millions per acre it cost two to three
times as much to build underground as on the surface. So few did. But
now with the cost in the billions it means building underground is
relatively cheap, an idea whose time has come.
The Taisei Corporation of Tokyo sees a bright, sunny future -underground ! They have designed the self-contained "Alice City" (as
in Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" wherein the heroine found
enlightenment and wonder) an underground metropolis designed for the
24-hour-a-day 21st Century. They claim this is the new frontier -the GEOFRONTIER !
With the Taisei plan, previously unused valuable underground space
can be effectively used for many purposes. For instance there are a
large number above-ground installations that would be more effective
underground. Power stations, warehouses, railway yards and some
specialized manufacturing facilities. But the Taisei plan does not
stop there. They call for an elaborate infrastructure, office and
In their infrastructure areas, which are completly separate from
other spaces, they plan power generation, regional heating, waste
recycling and sewage treatment facilities. As shown in the accompanying pictures such underground space can be spherical or cylindershaped.
Office space will house business operations, shopping malls,
hotels, theatres and sports arenas. Express elevators or an extension
of an underground railway system will run to the bottom level. Solar
domes or atrium space eliminates any feeling of claustrophobia by
As some office, commercial and entertainment areas move underground more open space will become available above ground. A tenminute vertical commute may replace a two hour commuting run from
Many advantages are rapidly discovered when operating a city
underground. Heating costs for the entire city are almost totally
eliminated, along with the pollution that follows above ground. With
a constant natural underground temperature the heat provided from the
bodies of city inhabitants and the output of their machines can be
collected, vented and sold to the buildings above ground at
competitive rates. Anyone who has seen the $2,500-a-second computer
generated graphics at Toronto's underground tour of the Universe"
theatre knows that one can very quickly forget he or she is underground when such holographic-type vistas are visible outside the
Underground space is ideal for any city's infrastructure from the
standpoints of isolation, sound insulation and earthquake resistance.
A side benefit again is the preservation of above-ground environment.
Construction costs have been studied in considerable depth, a 12floor office space (80 metres deep) would cost about $577 million and
a 80-metre diameter and 60-metre-high infrastructure space placed on
110 metres underground would run about $692 million. Total cost for
a city of 100,000 is estimated at $4 billion, roughly half the price
of one high-priced surface acre on Tokyo's Ginza strip!
But to the Japanese and their unbridled enthusiasm for the 21st
Century this means more than just a few projects in their own country
for today and tomorrow. They are aware, that the world population
explosion is going to increase considerably before it slows down.
Mexico City for example is estimated to reach a population of 30
million within a decade. Other world centres face similar problems.
With their experience, learned at home in building the world's first
underground cities, who will have the experience and engineering
know-how to capture such contracts when other world cities reach the
density and land cost levels of Tokyo !
Tetsuya Hanamura, Chief, Alice City Project,
Underground Space Development Office,
25 - 1, Nishi-Shinjuku 1 Chome,
P.O. Box 4001, Shinjuku Center Bldg. 163,
Japan. Fax: (03) 343-4046.
Phone: Tokyo (03) 348-1111.
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