Thursday, April 21, 2011

PlanIT Valley - Bring on the Arcologies

When I was a young nerd in my early 20's, fresh out of college with an engineering degree, I became addicted to Sim City 2000. It was a computer game in which you were given a empty canvas with terrain and were able to build a city from the ground up. Roads, power lines, water pipes, power plants, the whole nine yards. You designated what areas were zoned residential, commercial, and industrial and the appropriate types of structures to build. You needed to account for the proper amount of schools, police departments, and fire departments.

In short, you were god of this little city and could watch it grow before your very eyes, as long as you kept things running smoothly. The citizenry could riot against you, cause fires, floods may occur, even an alien invasion if you were so inclined.

I guess Sim City 2000 was popular in Portugal in the late 90's, too, because outside of Parades, Portugal is growing an eco-city called PlanIT Valley. The city in its built-out state will serve 225,000 people in an array of eco-friendly buildings that are embedded with a host of sensors to monitor environmental conditions and adjust accordingly. The green building techniques and the energies that will power this city will make PlanIT Valley a zero carbon footprint community...a completely green city.

All this for the low, low price of $10 billion dollars, while the world is in the midst of the biggest worldwide recession in decades. However, PlanIT Valley has some backers already in the form of Microsoft and Cisco, with Microsoft reportedly putting $300M into the kitty.

The city will be a testing lab for the integration of information technology, urban planning, and construction. I'm not sure if I could handle the sensation of feeling like a lab rat being studied by someone remotely as I went about my daily business. In order to put 225,000 people on 4,000 acres, along with all of the necessary functions like schools/police/fire departments/etc, PlanIT Valley will be a densely built environment.

This reminds me of when your city matures in Sim City 2000 to the point that arcologies are introduced. Arcologies (a combination of architecture and ecology) were a city-within-a-city in the game. They were a way for you to fit 20,000 people into a small area by building vertically and containing functions within that arcology. Most of the arcologies available were benign and pleasant, but there was one that was dark and forboding. It did not have a lot of natural light and it affected your citizens. They almost became a sub-set of humans, it was said.

Reports are circulating that the world's population is expected to double from 6 billion to 12 billion in the next 30 years. That's unfathomable to me. It seems that some glass ceiling will be hit long before that happens. The Earth can simply not support that many people. As it stands now, there are vast tracts of land unable to grow food and clean water is scarce. How are we going to jam 6 billion more onto this little blue marble and have any semblance of life? I'm not even talking about the United States. Look at some of the cities in India and China...that's not exactly the model of good urban living over there. It will be primarily that part of the world experiencing the bulk of the population increase, too.

I watch and enjoy a lot of movies that have dystopian, post-apocalyptic futures. I fear that these escapes from reality are primers for what we are moving towards at a breakneck pace.

I'm not sure if PlanIT Valley is something to be admired for its vision or feared for it's depressing look into what our future may become. A race of people jammed into cities-within-cities like files in a filing cabinet. Unable to breathe the air, drink the water, or have more than a 10 foot radius of personal space.


  1. 12 billion people!? Really? Really? That Freedom book I read discussed population control and it's almost scary what it might be like in 15 years from now, let alone 30. However, I think the PlanIT idea is awesome. While I wouldn't like to live there, I bet it would be something cool to see. And...I guarantee you were great at Sim City. You've already had streets named after you then?

  2. Streets? Try entire metropolises.

    In case this planted a seed in your head, do NOT buy me Sim City 2000 or the new Sim City 3000 for my birthday. We have way, way, way too much to do in the next 3 months.

  3. hahaha. No way in heck would I buy you one of those!! That would be like you buying me a giant ipad/angrybird/bejeweledblitz/facebook/kindle/ANTM/camera phone that never needs charged. Maybe some day...~