NOTES ON MOBILE PLATFORM CITIES
“Such a structure [an Arcology1] would take the place of the natural landscape inasmuch as it would constitute the new topography to be dealt with. This man-made topography would differ from the natural topography in the following ways: It would not be a one-surface configuration but a multilevel one. It would be conceived in such a way as to be the carrier of all the elements that make the physical life of the city possible—places and inlets for people, freight, water, power, climate, telephone; places and outlets for people, freight, waste, mail, products, and so forth. It would be a large-dimensioned sheltering device, fractioning three-dimensional space in large and small subspaces, making its own weather and its own cityscape. It would be the major vessel for massive flow of people and things within and toward the outside of the city. It would be the organizing pattern and anchorage for private and public institutions of the city. It would be the focal structure for the complex and ever-changing life of the city. It would be the unmistakable expression of man the maker and the creator. It would be diverse and singular in all of its realizations. Arcology would be surrounded by an uncluttered, open landscape.” — Paolo Soleri, 1969; Arcology: The City In The Image of Man, p. 13.
The need for a new definition of human settlement is apparent now more than ever before in human history. — Logan Bier, 2014; Post-Arcological Human Scale Emergence, p.1.
What do cruise-liners, space-stations and aircraft-carriers have in common?
They are all moving cities.
In contradistinction to the traditional view of a city as a static settlement, we posit the city of the future – whether oriented towards land, air, sea or space – should be designed for maximal mobility to the extent the aforementioned capabilities do not sufficiently impede central functions of the total system (food production and distribution, water collection, filtration, distribution, storage, power generation and dissemination, general comfort of the denizens, etc). To this end we posit the mobile-platform-city. Briefly, a mobile-platform-city will be a city built into a moving apparatus that will be self-contained and self-sustaining. We take as our starting point, the modular structure of the human brain and the crew capacity of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. The brain, not just the human brain, but all brains, are remarkable due the amount of information that is contained within such small, sometimes tiny, folds of flesh. Just as the neuron is the building block of the brain, personal container units, each individuals “house” within the total structure, should be the building blocks of the mobile-platform-city. Given the space needed for just one comfortable human habitat, the size of the total structure will need to be fairly expansive, around the size (or slightly smaller than) a US super carrier, the two largest of which are the Nimitz-class (second largest) and the Gerald Ford-class (largest). Though Nimitz-class aircraft carrier are slightly smaller than Gerald R. Ford-class ships in terms of total size, the crew-carrying capacity of the Nimitz-class (5000+) is presently unmatched by any vessel. Thus, it is easy to image a construct of like size which could be designed for civilian contentment rather than military engagement. However, unlike a aircraft carrier, a mobile-platform-city need not be constrained to only open waters and could instead be fashioned for air, sea or land or some combination thereof. The massive amount of energy which would be required for perpetual flight render any sky-base of aircraft carrier size implausible (at present), however a rolling land-to-sea mobile base of aircraft carrier size is highly practicable.
Benefits of mobile-platform-cities (MPCs) over static settlements (S-Ss) are manifold; chief benefits include terrain adaptability (instead of piecemeal evacuation in the event of a natural disaster, one may simply move the whole MPC), task-bundling (resource shipment lines can be significantly reduced via utilization of the MPC as part of a previously external2 supply chain). Offensive and defensive capabilities of MPCs would also offer several marked benefits over traditional settlements, given that a MPC could operate as a offensive unit itself and offer tactical flexibility in deployment of on-board defensive units (such as air-crafts, tanks, submersibles, troops, etc.). Given the immense spatial demands of even a relatively small MPCs3, evasion of military assault, however, is the principal benefit over S-Ss, as MPC mobility will likely be relatively slow in comparison to state-of-the-art land, sea and air transport, simply due to size. Another significant benefit is the obviation of crippling sanctions by fording international waters, thus circumnavigating territorial sovereignty and the need for overflight authorizations from third party countries. America’s rise to power, much like the British Empire before them, was due in large part to mastery of the seas, thus, it is pertinent to muse upon the tactical advantages of a free-roaming civilization which could potentially establish itself as the world’s premier overseas trade-arbiter.
Remarks on likely lines of opposition
A likely line of opposition towards the very idea of MPCs is that they sound fantastical. The whole history of technological innovation, however, is filled with precisely this kind of uncreative, grim impossibilism. it is important to remember that cities already are mobile, simply not in spatial terms. Rather, modern cities are digitally mobile, with every human being therein incessantly “teleporting” all over the world through the web which itself is fostered by the infrastructure of the city itself. Thus, though the physical infrastructure of the modern city is (generally) static4, the information infrastructure is in ever increasing flux. All major urban areas in the world today (2018) are interconnected through wireless networks, and various other lines of near-instant communication. The total mobilization of the city itself is thus a reasonable continuation of the data revolution wherein the physical components catch-up to the ever-growing digital domain of which they are a indispensable part.
Potential feasibility, types, designs and functions
Jeff Stein, in a 2012 TEDxMission talk entitled The City, 2.0 noted, “No Eco-thinking can ignore density. Crowding, the maker of life.” Stein was invoking the concept of CDM (Complexity, Miniaturization, Duration), remarking upon its often overlooked importance in architectural, specifically urban, design.
Utilization of CDM will be indispensable to the construction of any feasible MPC. As previously mentioned, MPCs already exist (simply not in name) thus, there should be no argument as to the feasibility of MPCs themselves, but rather, the feasibility of certain types of MPCs.
Sources and reference materials for further reading
Arcology: Comments Corpus, Logan Ray Bier (2009-2017).
Nanoarchitecture: A New Species of Architecture, John Johansen, Princeton Architectural Press (2002).
P. Soleri, 1969, Arcology: The City In The Image of Man
Indian Navy seeks EMALS system for second Vikrant-class aircraft carrier, Naval Technology, (May 29, 2013).
Ready For The 21st Century, All Hands (Magazine of the US Navy).
Time For Mapping, Cartographic Temporalities, Alex Gekker et al. Manchester University Press (2018).
Tekever AR5 Life Ray Evolution Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), Naval Technology.
Vikrant Class, Naval Technology.
1Arcology is a portmanteau of architecture and ecology. See, Soleri, Paolo (1973), The Bridge Between Matter & Spirit is Matter Becoming Spirit.
2Meaning, external to a static settlement, ie. Foreign factory (1) > Cargo ships (2) > Sss (3), whereas with a MPC, steps 2 and 3 can be bundled together, saving a tremendous amount of time and resources and generally reducing population stress through labor reduction.
3Akron, Ohio, in 2017 had a population of 703,505. USS Gerald R. Ford, the largest aircraft carrier in the world – as of 2018 – can harbor 4,550 crew members (ship, air-wing and staff).
4There are some exceptions to stasis in modern cities, such as moving bridges, etc.