JF Ptak Science Books Post 1671 (with thanks for the help from Orion Pozo on Japan's Alice Cities)
Colossal Nuclear-Bobm Proof Unbuildable Mega Cities vs. Japan's Alice Cities
This is a return and redux to an earlier post here that looked at a stupendously bad idea--building an enormous underground-Manhattan under Manhattan, a deep, terrifically bad bit of anti-atomic-bomb planning that leaves the observer semi-speechless.
There are some ideas that are incredible and bold that take one step across the line into the bizarre; then there are those that approach that line but stay well enough away from it that gives them a definite aroma of potential and the possible. Here's one case of the former with its corollary in the later.
It seems as though this report (below) might have made sense if the author had announced the discovery of the "missing" Brooklyn Mountain, misplaced somehow under a thousand feet of Manhattan bedrock. Found it; excavated it; and then returned, piling the reconstituted mountain into Jamaica Bay, and then piling the thing 500' high. Actually, the Jamaica Bay mountain part of this might've come true in part of the report.
There was no mountain, of course, but the other result was almost as unbelievable. The author of this plan speculated on building this spherical city in Manhattan bedrock--a structure which so far as I can determine would have a volume of 1.2 cubic miles (5 km3) with its top beginning some 1,200' under Times Square. Its an impressive hole "just"to dig--it would be a goodly chunk of the volume of Lake Mead. And it would make the world's largest man-made hole--the Bingham Copper Mine in Utah--seem like the very beginning efforts to digging this beast out to begin with. The Bingham Pit is 2 miles wide and about .75 miles deep, which means that the hole needed to be excavated to reach a 1.2 mile diameter of this sphere some 3,500 feet under the surface would be, um, "big"--like needing to divert the Hudson and the East rivers, and extending the digging into Jersey, which would be a, well, "task".
Even if the entire comparative oeuvre of architecture and city planning was crankily limited to only the work of Claes Oldenburg, this effort by Oscar Newman would still rise to the bottom. A terrifically bad idea, the Atomic City would be the chunky bit floating in the smooth, evenly-distributed soup of Oldenburg’s Truly Bad Ideas.
On the other hand, Oldenburg’s work never seems to transcend its pointed badness—his nostril entrance as part of a large nose facade for a tunnel continues to remain simply goofy—and Newman’s work does. It goes all the way ‘round the badness issue and comes up nicely in the so-bad-its-good category, while Oldenburg’s star is firmly fixed in the “so bad it isn’t even bad/not even wrong (Wolfgang Paul for the latter) firmament.
Newman published this in 1969 (?!) after somehow latching onto the idea of clearing out massive underground caverns with nuclear explosions--in this case, the space would be hollowed out under Manhattan. The underground sphere would be a miniature version of whatever was above it--along the medial there would be a "topside" of a regular city with streets and high rise buildings, underneath which would exist an underground city for the underground city. In this honeycomb would exist the means of production and energy, segmented in multi-block-sized enclosures of no charm.
Why does this remind me of the Titanic?
(I should note here that this this is Manhattan, and that the Oldenburgian 1000-foot tall Q-Tips (registered trademark!) are air-gathers/filters for the city below.)
There's really just so much wrong with this idea there is only one place to begin.
There are "no views" underground.
In his description of the idea, Newman writes:
"Manhattan could have a half-dozen such atomic cities strung under the city proper...the real problem in an underground city would be the lack of views and fresh air, but its easy access to the surface and the fact that, even as things are, our air should be filtered and what most of us see from our window's is somebody else's wall."1
Aside from being very badly written, it is surprising (?!) that Mr. Newman writes about the no-view problem before that of air supply. Or anything else.
In this Oddnity2 of oddness one of the oddest things to me is that Mr. Newman would actually use only half of his sphere, preserving the top of the hemisphere for nothing at all. Except for "Cinerama"--the architect evidently intended to use the blank vault for image projection, which is not a half-bad idea. But why one would bother to build something like this even in the imagination and leave half of it to nothing is a mystery. (This is a slippery slope, picking out one bad thing and then another; there's really nothing but bad here.)
In leaving this pretty mess I'd just like to point out that Mr. Newman saw fit to include an enormous (projected?) advertisement for Coca Cola, hovering somewhere around underground mid-town.
And all of that dirt? Where would all of that dirt go, the dirt not necessary to fill around the sphere? A cubic mile of extra dirt? That's the "missing Mount Brooklyn", and as Orion Pozo has suggested (even though he thinks the idea would be a tragedy), perhaps it could've been used to fill in Jamaica Bay. Fill it up and then some, for perhaps another 500' above the old water line.
Tomorrow we'll look at Case #2: Japanese Alice Cities.
[This post could fit into so many different categories for this blog, though I think it best nestled in a combination of "Bad Ideas" and "The History of Holes" resulting in the "Bad Ideas in the History of Holes" subcategory.]
1. Alison Sky and Michelle Stone. Unbuilt America. McGraw Hill, 1976, page 192. No home should be without this book.
2. "Oddnity". Just made up. A litany of oddnesses; a collection of oddities so large that the collection itself becomes one large oddity--an oddnity.".