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May 12

Ultima Tower – Future City Concept

Posted in Environment and Sustainability | Future Technology | Solar Power

Ultima Tower Eugene Tsui has designed a concept city called The Ultima Tower that would help solve the global population crisis. Acting as a human termite nest, and costing $150 billion, these two mile high green towers would house over one million people in a one mile wide area. Instead of floors, the building’s interior would consist of a multi-dimensional ecosystem complete with neighborhood districts and 30-50 meter high skies. Lakes, streams, rivers, hills and ravines comprise the soil landscape on which residential, office, commercial, retail and entertainment buildings can be built.

Ultima Tower City

The concept can be thought of as what would happen if nature grew upwards with multi-soil levels. Of course the structure itself acts like a living organism with its wind and atmospheric energy conversion systems, photovoltaic exterior sheathing, and opening/closing cowl-vent windows that allow natural air into the interior without mechanical intervention. The exterior walls are made of structural glass that conforms to the criss-crossing, double helix, cable strand tension system that disperses all exterior forces along the surface. If wind or earthquake shock waves pushes or disturbs one portion of the structure the other portion absorbs and dissipates the forces. Ecological efficiency is a rule and all areas of the structure feature resource conserving technology such as recycled building materials, compost toilets, nature-based water cleansing systems for all buildings, plentiful amounts of forest, plant life and water-based ecosystems.

Considering the huge costs involved, and the current suburban culture, it is unlikely we will see anything like this taken seriously in our lifetimes. However, considering over half of the world’s population is already living in cities, ideas like this may one day be realized. What do you think future cities could look like?

  • super scientist

    Love this idea.

  • Jake

    Sounds like a good idea. Why not, what is there to lose from this?

  • Bob Wallace

    Growing plants in a greenhouse can be tricky.

    Remember the biosphere?

    Might want to create some well-functioning prototypes before breaking ground on the project….

  • Mitchell Torek

    Why would anyone want to live there?

    Really… would you want to live in a beehive of a
    million souls stacked upon each other?

    Is this the solution to the 10 billion humans who will inhabit the planet by 2030 or the 15 billion that will be here by 2050? If so we better figure out how we will feed them and keep them from killing each other.

    Sorry but this is a very morbid idea in my mind. Looks a lot like something from “The Matrix”.

    Maybe we should plan for a zero population growth world where average ages exceed 100 years and children can still grow up with REAL grass under their feet and older folks don’t feel obsolete halfway through their lives.

  • Bob Wallace

    Where you getting your population numbers? They don’t match my sources….

    Do have to agree with you on dense living. I really dislike city life.

    But I suspect that this idea could be at least as good as city life and I’m sure some would love it. So it works great for me, if they can pull it off.

    The nice thing about these sort of build ’em higher, build ’em denser ideas is that they get all those extra people rounded up and out of my view. ;o)

  • Mitchell Torek

    My numbers, although I’ve seen them elsewhere. We like to think in terms of population growth via birthrate but we fail to factor age growth. In the next few years we will see the effect of “1st world” healthcare on south and east Asian populations. Africa will eventually overcome political instability to achieve modern mortality rates and… viola’… you have a population boom without a strong +birthrate.

    We need to accept that the 100 year human is going to be the norm in this century. There is plenty of space but we have to learn to live in it without destroying it.

    Putting “extra” people “out of view” has been an urban design concept since the Sumarians. Hopefully it will finally become obsolete before we become the “extras”.

  • Bob Wallace

    The UN is projecting 8.9 billion by 2050 and they’ve downsize their projections several times in the last ten years. And that ~9 is tought to be a ‘peak’ IIRC. Projections call for gradual post peak decreases.

    Based on what we’re seeing in terms of dropping fertility rates I’ll not be surprised if the peak isn’t closer to 8 rather than 9 (as some are starting to predict) and the subsequent drop isn’t more abrupt.

    One really good birth control technique, widely distributed, might make a huge change. I’m willing to bet that we get a really cheap “once every six months” pill within the next 20 years.

  • Mitchell Torek

    Thanks Bob,

    Maybe I’m too skeptical. Perhaps I need to remember that the entire world isn’t impeded by faith based scientific policies. The cost would be negligible to provide birth control to most of the third world and what we define as the “third world” seems to be shrinking daily. However I will believe we can overcome cultural bias’ when I see it.

    I’m glad you pointed out some encouraging pop. estimates, they have temporarily pulled me back to optimism… but I still hate the idea of the hive city.

  • Bob Wallace

    Take a look at this list of fertility rates by country – 2000 and 2008 projected….

    Work your way down the list and get a good feeling for where rates are high and how many countries are below 2.11 (the population replacement threshold).

    Of the ‘higher than replacement’ countries I found less than 18 who were expected to see rises in 2008 and those weren’t large ones. (My counting was sloppy. Got interrupted a couple of times.)

    The high birth rate countries are largely the least developed. (I see only one where the birth rate might be religious or political.)

    As countries develop they almost always experience a drop in birth rates.

    Lots of possible reasons. Perhaps a combination.

    In an agricultural society children are an asset. You just have to feed them and they start working at a young age.

    In an urban society children are a liabiity. Have to feed and educate them for many, many years before they can produce income and often by then they’re off with their own families.

    As societies “modernize” women get more education and power. Women start taking more control over their own bodies and have access to the information and materials to carry through.

    The world might be mightily helped by China. China is seeing a looming (cheap) labor problem. They are likely to move some of their labor intensive manufacturing to places such as Bangladesh and parts of Africa. New jobs, better incomes could bring about the changes we see elsewhere.

    We can hope….

  • Drew

    I think this would be a good idea if

    A. They could come up with the money (The U.S. is too far in debt already)
    B. Who would want to leave their home for this?

  • Bob Wallace

    In other words “this would be a good idea if

    A. Someone else paid for it
    B. Someone other than me had to live in it.”


  • Evan

    Two words: Architectural impossibility

  • Derek

    If we could overcome the expense issue of this project, i believe there would be a significant amount of people willing to give this life a shot. If the indoor agriculture and wildlife is able to be “naturally” sustained, would it really be that much different from living in a suburb? Also, think of it this way. “Hey, honey. I’m gonna go down to floor 11 and visit Dad, then maybe head down to floor 7 to see Uncle Ed and back up a bit to floor 13 to see Bella. I’ll be back in an hour or two. And yes, I’ll grab some milk and bread from floor 2 while I’m out.”

    Sure, it sounds like a big change, but I think it could also be more convenient. In the end though, i do agree that it depends on the success this tower to maintain a similar lifestyle for those living in it in comparison to where they used to live.

    After considering that, I also thought.. what about cars inside this tower? any transportation?
    What about workplaces, buildings within this building?
    Will there be higher floors to support skyscrapers?
    These are some things to think about before we put a definite “YES” into the equation.

  • Noel

    It’s just “Future City Concept”

    “One day” maybe..

  • Mike Post

    Presently, 300 million people live in the U.S.

    Today’s news reports swarms of earthquakes beneath Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

    If the Yellowstone super volcano blows, a huge number of people will need to be evacuated.

    Would large structures such as this located in the southeastern parts of the U.S. serve as emergency shelters leaving the remaining surrounding area for sealed and artificially illuminated green houses for the producing of food?

    Like the Katrina disaster, the present U.S. government has no idea how to manage a Yellowstone blowout.

  • Harry Day

    Anything reported by the UN should be highly suspect b/c the Un is top heavy with corruption. For example, the Euro Un paid millions upon millions of dollars for an art installation in their Euro headquarters or some building over there, to paint artificial stalactites. Wow, great, entertain yourselves with artificial color on the ceiling while genocide and hunger and terrorism laps at your feet. Pathetic! And does anyone remember the Oil for Food Scandal? The Un and Iraq and many major Euro-Asian countries took total advantage of this program and yet people hate the US for going into Iraq and ultimately breaking up the scandal (and yes WMD’s WERE found, explain 500 tons of yellowcake shipped from Iraq to Canada for recycling fuel source) so who is the real pain in the ass? The UN!!!

  • Clay

    To do something like this, we would have to get rid of the monetary system. That is what creates corruption anyways. If we were a resource based economy, things like this would be possible and the norm. Money limits our technological advances. Think about it, what is the first question always asked? How much money will this project cost? If we could get past the monetary system and the idea of profit out of everything, we could then focus or technological efforts on bettering the standard of life for humanity. I mean third world too. Check out to see what I am talking about. This idea is wonderful as long as it was a voluntary place to live. However, with every idea, it might have too many problems or not enough people would want to live in it. That is part of the scientific process. I hope I live long enough to see something like this come to pass!

  • nate

    We have already tried to build a self-sustaining ecological system that failed in Arizona. This one seems like it would create even more problems. Why don’t we build two of them and put them side by side and call them the Ultima twin towers. If I was the enemy, these would be great targets. I am surprised anyone would be interested in living in something that houses this many people. What happens if someone screams fire?

  • AJ

    This is probably not the best idea due to the fact that a tower that is two miles straight up in the air would be a target for any terrorist organization. Not only that this project is most likely architecturally impossible, it makes you wonder why they’re no buildings exceeding or even reaching 1 mile into the sky.

  • Mustafa Warsi

    The quintessential concept behind the tower city is, in my opinion, ingenious but riskier than any architectural structure that has ever even thought of being built. The issue of the current global populational explosion has immensely hampered the attempted aid of societies like the UN on third world and developing countries. At the rate we’re going, there will be approximately 10 billion individuals by 2030, how on earth are 10 billion people going to survive in a planet with very limited resources? If people can’t spread horizontally across the earth’s surface, then there’s only 1 direction to go: up.

    But then again, there is always the dilemma of the impromptu display of apocalyptic power that our beloved mother nature shows us. If, any form of natural disaster decides to throw it’s wrath upon the Ultima tower city, then I’m afraid that the concordant consequences could be macabre indeed. There is no method of mass evacuation for people living on the higher stories, or even for the lower floors in fact, save helicopter, which can hardly be considered as a method of mass evacuation to me at least. The disaster does not even have to be natural for morbid results to follow. If there is even a minor fire, it could erupt into a major disaster for there is a controlled atmosphere for something like this to occur.

    On the whole, in my opinion the Ultima Tower Ciy COULD be an architectural masterpiece and solve the issue of the population explosion of the human race OR could end up as a controlled environment for a disaster or pathetically misguided acts of terrorism. People may not even accept the idea of living in a human ‘beehive’.
    Life could be disturbing, or promising; all we can do is wait and watch.

  • Brandon

    150 billion dollars, 1 million people – $150,000 per person.

    Not bad, except, I like the idea of my own house.

  • Marcin Rogoz

    I do not like this concept, 1 m people living within such a small area? Look at the large cities, crime and violence everywhere.

    I think the best solution would be to stop wasting space and soil, the buildings like that could be used as farms. Bring the soil needed into he building to stop wasting space for farming, use space to build family houses with back yards and garage. This would make cities less crowded. Many places with rich soil are covered with concrete and places with poor soil are used to grow food. Why? All the space can be one big city with Ultima Farm Towers. Few sky scrapers for 10km sq would be enoth to provide services and jobs for everybody. I am against this idea.

  • Mike Maybury

    Love the idea!

    I wonder, at 74, whether I’ll live long enough to enjoy it!

    Walking without rain. No cars. Perhaps we’ll have lots of invalid scooters, though, with less traffic there will be less accidents. Would people be sensible enough to eat properly and avoid major diseases? I suppose they would have to die of something eventually though.

    Could clubs and music concerts really be sound-proofed, I wonder.

  • Chris Elliott

    Wrong design. There allegedly is enough sunshine and land to logistically support 1.6 billion people on this planet. The other 5.4 billion are sustained by irreplaceable fossil fuel deposits. WE need big buildings (Or to get off planet asap) NOW for two reasons. Increasing environmentally controlled food production … and protection – read survival of the species – in the aftermath of a Global Extinction Event. Like Yellowstone Park popping its cork or a large meteor impact or near miss as in 2029. Find a way.

  • mike doerner

    There’s a Robert Silverberg sci-fi novel from 1971 that contemplates much the same; 1000 stories, 3 km high…but the theme more so hypothesizes about the culture that could develop within the structure, which Silverberg terms an Urban Monad. It’s kooky. And kinky. And to some of those previous “commentors”, you don’t like it, you don’t hafta live there. But it does seem like some kinda gianormous retirement home. Ha.

  • Taylor

    Eugene Tsui has designed a very unique structure. I am completely fascinated by it. I must say $150 Billion is a bit much for the United states to handle, but for such a large living space, such an amount is reasonable. The energy sources and nature that is brought into this Tower would be great for our environment. 500 stories, a mile wide, and two miles high is a lot of space, I highly doubt anyone would be packed on top of each other, in any kind of living conditions. I can see this being very successful.

  • Paul Ortais

    Fun engineering play but hopefully one day mankind is sincere enough to admit that we just are too many.

  • Cameron Atwood

    The design very eerily lends itself to socioeconomic stratification, and therefore is well suited to a parasitic oligarchy. The great laboring masses occupy rabbit hutches and the bottom, and the few ultra-rich inhabit the most palatial dwellings at the top. Anyone think such a structure won’t fall out that way?

    We could even require that everyone be “renewed” at age 30. That’s one population control strategy, but we’re still always going to be inextricably linked to the natural world for life support. Our collective fate is forever tied to the health of the planet, and we’d do well to remember that.

    Successful villages share the labor and the resources equitably and wisely, while empires feed off the labor and resources of “lesser” people and exploit and externalize them until the empire itself collapses under its own hollow and corrupted weight. We may not merelybethe next – we may be the last.

  • Chris Elliott

    The earth will one day hopefully sooner that later be populated by megastructures but not like this it is a death trap, energy negative and relies upon the assumption that the sun will always shine, the wind will always blow and it will rain. How much energy will be needed to pump water 2 miles high, plus no one has ever worked with the winds at that high and the structural engineer parameters are potential unachievable with any materials on this big blue ball. Most suspension bridge towers have a 2-3 mtr wind flex built into them. The Burj Dubia moves even more at the top and must be akin to a permanent ongoing earthquake tremor. If the didn’t move they would break. And remember at that latitude the earth is also spinning at 700-900 miles an hour. The super volcano under Yellowstone Park is quite cap[able of surrounding the globe in ash cloud that would trigger a Global Extinction Event. Three weeks without sun and everything green will be dead. Then we will start killing each other for food. America will make the first strike, if China doesn’t … given that it has killed 50+ million of its own people in the last century and this. And that will be the basis of WWIII. Any buildings like this which have to be directed towards a section of the population surviving a GEE, or our species will be extinct. That will mean renewable power source, food production and resistance to anything other than a direct thermo-nuclear strike and including bio-weapons. So nice idea, right direction needs a big re-think. We are running out of time and have to get this right and cover all the bases first time round. Chris Elliott. Creative Design Engineer.

  • Doc Knoefler

    And also that just puts the thought of colonies in space down the drain, even though the colonies in space are 10 times more efficient than the brilliant Ultima tower idea.

  • Chris Elliott

    There will be colonies on other planets though the process will be akin to the construction of some of our great UK cathedrals or pyramids which took 6 or 7 life times in the past. One of the earliest Canterbury Catherdral was rebuilt three times after attacks by hostiles. A distinct possibility in the future given that we are unlikely to change our mentality of stripping bare a planets resources like locust driving other species to extinction. Other planet colonies will only be viable when anti-gravitational devices are fully operational on ‘space’craft larger than the largest sea going vessels we are presently using. Thus facilitating a less violent transition from space into earth’s atmosphere. When that is achieved we will not have to fear anything thrown at us by the universe, having the ships and technology to negate any material threat. And provided Mother Nature hasn’t spat her dummy out and canceled our membership we might just maintain a colony on our home world by building vast structures more easily using the same anti-gravitional technology. However, in the meantime we are as vulnerable as small children abandoned on a African savannah where all the wild animals have not been poached for a pelt, horn or a hoof. We need to move forward in an environment of real and present danger, we are living on borrowed time and resources. Before anyone disagrees which of the dissenters predicted aviation been grounded by an Icelandic volcano? The ancients would call that an omen.

  • a friendly realist

    So let’s get this straight, a million people are expected to each pay $150,000 to live in a structure where each person is expected to live in a 5 square foot area?

    and half these people live on the north side of the structure without access to sunlight

    and at 2 miles high we will have to pay tons of money just to pump drinking water up to the highest levels.

    and at the scale proposed most of the structure will not have natural light.

    and there are supposedly 500 floors, which is only about ten times as many as those shown.

    And to boot its ugly.

  • Joseph MacManus

    I agree with some of you, its to weird and crowded and just unnatural, to live like that, its like something from Wall-E, so really isn’t for now, but maybe in 100 years time with a couple of adjustments, would be perfect, but we’re not ready for it yet

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