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Archology – When technology meet architecture

You may have probably heard about this term from the sci-fi books and comics, but like many other initially fictive technological inventions, it turns out to be more real and tangible to some extent than most of us presume. A novel Neuromancer by William Gibson popularized this interesting concept of urbanization, though it took some time for all similarly illustrated and explained figments of imagination to evolve into a plausible scheme of planning, engineering and design.

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If we are to truly understand this term, we have to go back to its roots and definitions and see how our technological advancements allowed us to make these hypothetical structures into reality; so we’ll start with the main question – what does archology mean?

This is a portmanteau, a blend of the words “ecology” and “architecture”, coined by architect Paolo Soleri, which, according to Wikipedia is

a set of architectural design principles aimed toward the design of enormous habitats (hyperstructures) of extremely high human population density. These grand structures, which are commonly referred to as "archologies," would be self-contained, contain a variety of residential and commercial facilities, minimize individual human environmental impact, and possibly be economically self-sufficient."

It may seem like an oversized vegetated hive, but it is more than just a uniformed habitat for us humans. Soleri treats this concept as if it is a living organism, which will naturally evolve, increase its complexity and it will consequently become a more compact/miniaturized system. He thinks that architecture and ecology can both bring life into a city itself. This way we will be able to regulate many problems such as urban civilization, population, pollution, energy and resource depletion, food deprivation and general quality of life. These three-dimensional cities will help us sustain our culture and environment for the better, so it is only a matter of time before we take this next step necessary for the evolution of mankind.

So, archology is actually making megalopolises implode and become dense and complex. Instead of spreading all over the earth’s surface, modern cities will conquer heights. Each and every hub will host life, work, education, culture and leisure, while the countryside will be at the fingertips of every citizen residing in such grand structures. This compactness will provide us with more farming land and a chance to preserve nature accordingly, while the need for vehicles will drastically diminish. That is why pedestrians will be the sole rulers of the urban “streets” and distances will be measured in minutes, not hours.

The more a city spreads, the more adverse effects like over-consumption, segregation, waste, pollution and ecological degradation can ensue. Therefore, we must always consider and plan future developments in the area, where each upgrade or expanse should coincide with the principles of archology. This imperative can be referred to as the Urban Effect.

However, everything previously mentioned is still within the realm of theory, but we do have some grand-scaled structural precedents which all have elements of ecology weaved into the architecture:

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For instance, Masdar City near Abu Dhabi, UAE, will be the first carbon-neutral city project which will host the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and it will also be a hub for all ‘cleantech’ companies. Crystal Island in Moscow, Russia is planned to be the largest tent-like structure (in floor space) on earth, which would “rise to 450 m, and form a breathable "second skin" and thermal buffer for the main building, shielding the interior spaces from Moscow’s weather.

Want to grow your own farm, but you live in an urban area? Urban farm projects are becoming popular amongst people living in cities. Projects like Urban Farms Unit and Cropbox are using shipping containers as green houses! You can grow your farm in conditions that will optimize the growing process, because you have the complete control over parameters like exhaust fans, air conditioning, automatic nutrient dosage, which are controlable via smartphone app.

Finally, Ultima Tower, which is still just a hypothetical supertall skyscraper, was designed by American architect Eugene Tsui back in 1991 and it will be 2 miles tall. With all that vertical space, it is bound to be environmentally sound should we ever find a way to build it properly.

We humans are builders, and it will just be a matter of time before we start living in our Earth’s orbit and start colonizing other worlds. Still, let’s not get way ahead of ourselves at the moment, first we need to find ways to make our current cities more sustainable and green. Archology is a fantastic concept which harbours many ecological and architectural solutions, so feel free to additionally explore all of its principles and ideas. Maybe you’ll find a way to contribute to this grand-design and make more fictions into reality. Remember, future is closer than we think – everything is becoming possible.

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