Vertical Village: Living in the Sky

ODA | Patricia Gortari

History has seen many iterations of vertical living, but the real pursuit for cities today should be interconnected living in the sky.

Traditionally, metropolises were not prepared to absorb massive influxes of people, yet managing density was still a reality for many reasons. Hun­dreds of years ago, believers flocked to spiritual sites like Machu Picchu not for lack of jungle real estate but because height meant a closer connection to the sacred heavens and a taller “throne” for kings to sit atop. Underground cities were excavated throughout Cappadocia, Turkey for security reasons­—to hide from warring factions and greedy intruders. Mediterranean villages like Positano, Italy were anchored into seaside cliffs not for lack of land but for abundance of resources, the ocean being a wellspring of food and financial opportunity. Similarly, Iranian villages staggered on the face of the mountains, the roof of one house becoming a neighbor’s fertile garden or the road for the level above.

There are many more examples throughout history that show how fragmented, organic communities like these were created to meet the needs of a specific time and people, spanning outdoor spaces and communal landscapes that look much different from the urban silos we see across cities today. It’s not that we’re blind to history’s teachings, but the development we’ve enjoyed over the past 200 years or so, since the dawn of the Industrial Revo­lution, is but a fraction of the extended, centuries-long, slow growth these historic sites saw. Where rural flight once accounted for a 20 percent increase in urban populations, today that number exceeds 50 percent. Considering the global population is seven times larger than it was at the turn of the nineteenth century, the magnitude of the issue of density can seem daunting. That said, it’s important to remember that we haven’t had much time to adapt to our new condition and, as such, we’ve been reactive rather than proactive.

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