Living in Cloud Nine

I’m not quite sure if there’s a theme to this weeks postings, and so instead of addressing it, I will attempt to share an absolutely, mind-fizzingly, mad idea… that I desperately want someone to try. The idea comes from that great progenitor of ideas so crazy they might well work, Dr. Richard Buckminster Fuller, a man with an imagination only slightly smaller than his ego. He’s listed as a “systems theorist, architect, engineer, author, designer, inventor, and futurist” on wikipedia, which makes for a pretty fantastic job description, and he’s famous for many many things, most pertinent to both architecture and this post is his promotion of the geodesic dome. Based on the triangle, which is self-bracing and thus very strong, it is an approximated half-sphere, and as it grows in size, it becomes stronger, because loads are more evenly distributed (as the shape becomes closer and closer to a sphere). Bucky (a real nickname for the man) felt that this shape was the optimal method of constructing roofs, and also the optimal shapes for constructing levitating cities. Yes, levitating cities. These.

Drawing of giant BuckyBalls in the sky

Because if you live in a floating sphere of glass and metal, why WOULDN’T you position it over mountains?

At least a mile across, these structures (known technically as “tensegrity spheres”) would contain so much volume that the air inside would vastly outweigh the structure, meaning that they could float by slightly raising the internal temperature above that of the outside. One has never been built, though the theory is sound, because trying to use them as a housing solution would probably bankrupt God. Automated construction could conceivably fix that problem, though they would still be very expensive to build, and as utterly untested technology which has a significant “no way” factor they are unlikely to be attempted soon. I really want them to be attempted soon. There are many proposed advantages, including their ability to migrate according to climate conditions (picture an entire city of snowbirds floating down to Arizona in the comfort of their own homes), their literal low impact on ecosystems, and their ability to migrate could aid tremendously in disaster relief, housing for thousands arriving within days. They are also entirely earthquake proof, though presumably they would be somewhat perturbed by a hurricane. Perhaps some rich eccentric will try for the ultimate cruise ship, for both land and sea, and build one, Richard Branson, I’m looking at you. The point of this is not simply to bring up an exceptional idea, but to encourage other exceptional ideas. The world faces big challenges, and thus, big solutions, say about a mile across. Whether it’s growing fuel with pondscum, paving the roads with PV panels, or creating floating climate controlled cities in the sky, extraordinary innovation is needed.


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