Lessons From The Future



Volume VII
Lessons From The Future


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 market.

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 town space!

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 those sensitive.

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 Tokyo suburbs.

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 window.

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 ! More information: Tetsuya Hanamura, Chief, Alice City Project, Underground Space Development Office, Taisei Corporation, 25 - 1, Nishi-Shinjuku 1 Chome, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. P.O. Box 4001, Shinjuku Center Bldg. 163,

Japan. Fax: (03) 343-4046. Phone: Tokyo (03) 348-1111.


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