Gallery: Underground Skyscraper is a Self-Sufficient Desert City

Commercial areas are located near the top and living quarters are lower down below. Large intake tubes located near the bottom suck in cool air and exhaust it out the top.
Commercial areas are located near the top and living quarters are lower down below. Large intake tubes located near the bottom suck in cool air and exhaust it out the top.

An entry in next year’s eVolo Skyscraper Competition, the inverted skyscraper is a completely self-sufficient underground city capable of producing its own food and energy and creating a climate-controlled environment in the middle of the desert. From above, the skyscraper and open pit are completely covered by a dome faceted with skylights. Over time, the dome covering the hole in the ground will blend in with the surrounding environment.

Below ground is a 900 foot-deep skyscraper that contains areas for living, working, farming, and even recreation. A light rail system connects the self-sufficient community to the nearby town of Brisbee, and solar and wind energy will be generated. Daylighting will stream in though the skylights to light up the lower parts of the tower, and the entire structure acts as a solar chimney that ushers hot air out through the top of the dome. As the entire complex is located underground, it will not be subjected to the intense heat that above-grade buildings face in the desert. Growing terraces near the top soak up the light from the skylights to grow produce for the entire complex.

+ Above Below Proposal at eVolo


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  1. C-m Corr-Holmes January 24, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Could be a TERRIFIC good idea….especially as the surface is increasingly pillaged, and environment increasingly turns hostile to surface life. We’re at that juncture. Underground cities could save many, and allow us to keep growing heirloom foods, keep temperatures controlled better underground. Many benefits! Just, we still need good daylight. Be sure to put really good light tubes into this.

  2. lloyd stanley gordon September 16, 2013 at 12:21 am

    The inverted skyscraper design is simply marvellous and for me it solves the problem of how to build a dome over a surface structure such as an entire town. The use of girders and glass would be very expensive, and problematic to maintain though for years I have wrestled with the idea.Our survival on this planet might well require recourse to ideas such as this one.Our retiring neighbours in the hollows of Terra seem to have cottoned on to this strategy before us.

  3. silvrcloud November 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I think this coud be an incredible idea but it is just in its infency stages. I dont think water is the primary problem here though. We use dirt to put out fires becouse it suffacates it with lack of air. sure you can cyrclaite air but how do u make sure that never is falty do to lack of power,we live in homes above ground and air quality is worse in them and we have an abundace of air. what kind of probles will this arise.

  4. ZA_SF October 19, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    What a horribly depressing vision, especially for a desert that is about sun, wind, and the open horizon. To say nothing of the toxic tailings throughout the construction site.

  5. 59merlot July 3, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    If they built this in the proposed location, the former Lavender Pit Mine outside Bisbee, Arizona- there MUST be adequate water and power because they use tremendous amounts of both daily in any copper mining operation.

  6. Rhetorikolas June 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Aren’t there plenty of pits near urban centers? It’s a great way to grow a sustainable garden for a heavy populated metropolis. For an extreme desert city this is great.

    However, the problem with any population in the Southwestern Desert is scarce water, yes they’ll be shielded from heat, and maybe figure a way for the sunlights to not be covered by sand over time, but it’s the necessities of plenty of water to sustain biological life that is the matter.

    Droughts are increasing with climate change, so we will have to come up with solutions to those issues, rainwater in the region may not be enough.

  7. sino February 6, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    I agree with Dick. Location, Location, Location. Convincing people to live out there in the remote, often harsh environments where those pits are would be a marketer’s nightmare. I could see data center campuses of programmers, techs, etc latching onto that idea. But convincing them to move from Palo Alto, Seattle, and the Washington D.C. tech beltway to the rural Appalachian, and Nevada mine pits would be tough. `But from a corporate boardroom perspective, it might sell as the next evolution from the corporate campus. Still it would take a critical mass of cultural and business venues to make it work. Could they rival those amenities found in the cities, where current tech enterprises are based? I doubt it.

    As far as retirees as dwellers? Convincing them to move out of “The Pines, Subdivision IV” as portrayed in Seinfeld might also take some inculturation.

  8. DickWhitman October 20, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Very cool. While I think it’s doubtful that you would ever find enough people to inhabit such a skyscraper (mines are usually in remote areas), this is a great green concept.

    It reminds me of another green architecture story I saw regarding “living walls.”

  9. JohnScottTynes October 20, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    In the roleplaying game Over the Edge, game designer Robin D. Laws hypothesized an airport in the shape of an inverted ziggurat, an architectural marvel no one could explain. Secretly, the builders of the airport constructed it underground. The inverted ziggurat was just an empty shell hiding the real structure underground.

  10. chouf October 13, 2010 at 6:48 am

    It looks like the Fortress in that old movie with Christophe Lambert. The Fortress is an underground prison and looks really like this project ….

  11. ungwarcraft October 13, 2010 at 1:12 am

    reminds me of the umbrella corporation from resident evil

  12. ed3206 October 12, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Umbrella Corporation?

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