Tales of Future Past v2

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Underground Cities

Future City > Urban Utopias

War is Hell on property values and ever since the first Zeppelin raids on London during the First World War there has been the question of how to make cities air raid proof.

One of the more frequent proposals (and least popular, I might add, unless you're H. G. Wells.) was moving urban populations underground where they would be "safe" from attack, such as in this depiction above from 1924 by Lyman Mason. Not only does Mr. Mason show a neat little American burg transplanted into a self-sufficient community/arms factory, but it all looks rather pleasant and cozy without the ventilation or flooding problems that real-life excavations are plagued with. I love the fact that Mr. Mason has his underground city camouflaged against enemy detection. Presumably any potential adversary would have overlooked the incredible excavation and building programme needed to construct one of these things. Also, he wouldn't have been so unfair as to have developed Earthquake or Bunker-buster bombs.

Wouldn't be cricket, you know.

A few decades later, the underground city concept was revived for the Atomic Age.  This time New Yorkers were offered a bolt hole in the form of a city excavated beneath Manhattan with nuclear explosives, which would form a huge bubble deep in the Earth. The lower half would be given over to industrial plants, support systems, and pool halls, while the upper half would be for houses and offices with the great dome lit up as a substitute sky/cinema.

If you look very closely, you can just make out what looks like a Coca-Cola advert being flashed on the artificial heavens. If that seems like something of a downside, at least consider that Manhattan Island would have gained a forest of ventilation shafts towering higher than the Empire State Building.

And you were complaining about wind farms!

Of course in peace time, when the bomb's aren't much of a menace, there's always the compromise solution of not moving the whole city underground, but just the nasty bits, such as this vision of the future from a '30s issue of Popular Science.  Here you have all the traffic congestion neatly tucked away under the surface, leaving the street level for exclusive pedestrian use.  On the bottom tier are the high-speed electric trains, next level is the fast-moving traffic lanes, and above that are the slow-moving lanes.  Naturally, all the garages are underground too and the whole lot is linked together by high-speed escalators.

Since the civic planners were on a roll, the buildings above aren't just for offices.  No, on the lowest level are shops, then restaurants above, then offices, then schools, then living quarters and playgrounds, and then (all together now!) rooftop airfields and zeppelin moorings.

Just don't bring up the question of how to pay for all this, because it makes the planners go all cross.

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