VOICES FROM CHINA AND RESPONSES FROM THE AUTHOR
Although the book Vertical City is not available in mainland China yet, the concept of Vertical City has been widely discussed. A group of professionals in practice or academic scholars expressed their opinions to Vertical City. In return, one of the authors, Mr. Kenneth King gave his responses.
Opinion #1: Cost
Building a Vertical City requires tremendous cost both financially and technologically. For example, it’s expensive to purchase the land use right in China (Note: in China, you can only purchase the land use right but the actual land).
It is true the cost of building the Vertical City is higher than conventional cities. But it is only true in terms of the buildings. In fact, if and when all the other services such as, city streets, public transportation system, ambulances, garbage trucks, police cars are added to a conventional city, the total costs of a Vertical City is much less expensive. Regard to land, Vertical City uses 1 to 2 % of the land and saves 98% to 99% and its costs. This is a big saving considering the total cost of building a city.
Opinion #2: Management
It’s difficult to manage and operate a Vertical City.
Vertical City is easier and more economical to run due to the fact that it has no streets, therefore no public transportation, no police cars, garbage trucks and snow ploughs, etc. The mail services are a perfect example: sorting of mail can be located in the Sky Lobby and drop down to each floor and re-sort to residents via mail chutes directly into residents’ mailbox thus saving the labor of hundreds of mailman.
Opinion #3: Time
It takes lots of time to plan out and build a Vertical City.
It is true it will take more time to build buildings of four hundred stories in height. However, with modern technologies, we can greatly improve the construction speed, especially many of the floors of the Vertical City are identical, using mass production methods and on-site prefabrication.
Opinion #4: Culture and Emotion
Urban planning and architecture are not only about design and technology, it involves culture, emotion, moral, etc. Skyscraper is an essential element to a real city. However it’s unimaginable to have only skyscrapers in a city. This is an era that has lots of potentials and diversities. We not only invent and innovate, we inherit as well. Vertical City, as a concept, is worth to explore, to discuss and to experiment. But it’s not likely to become the mainstream of city type. We need to protect and inherit our history and culture while we develop new urban forms. Or we’ll just get lost in a giant Vertical City.
Some comments are based on a condition where only Vertical Cities are available for all its residents. This is not a realistic assumption, All existing cities will be preserved and maintained. The construction of Vertical City will relieve pressure on the existing cities and offer them a chance to renew. Most importantly, it preserves our historic heritage and architectural examples of different periods and offer residents a choice of lifestyle.
Opinion #5: Community
Vertical City will certainly boost urbanization and the transformation of city. It will conduct leading and modern technologies into urbanites’ life. However, if Vertical City was the only form of city, it will probably not be the ideal urban form to most urbanites. Urban construction is not only about design, architecture, planning and technology, it also has a deep relationship to people’s emotion. Vertical City is a constructive concept under the condition of population explosion and lack of land. However it’s uncertain how will Vertical City meet people’s emotion needs. Vertical City appears more like a perfect constructed machine but a real community to people.
The most urgent are the social behavior of people living in Vertical Cities. Vertical City environment never existed before and it is hard to predict people's behavior based on a set of hypothetical design criteria. In the design of the Vertical City, it is imperative that we provide living conditions as closely as possible to what we have today.
In spite of the questions brought up from China, the Chinese professionals and Mr.Kenneth King also share common points of view.
Common View #1: Problem Solving
Vertical City solves the traffic and pollution problems as well as the land it saves to grow food for its residents. However, the most important concept is the elimination of cars in Vertical Cities. People can reach any part of the Vertical City within 15 to 20 minutes on foot. It eliminates automobile pollution and provide residents the opportunity of some exercise. Most ot the rural residents coming into the cities will settle in the Vertical Cities. This will allow existing cities to renew in an orderly manner without the pressure from rural migration.
Common View #2: Urban Model
To a demonstration urban model, a Vertical City has hallmark significance and publicity effect. However, the difficulty to build a Vertical City is significant as well. We must anticipate as much as we can all the problems that we might encounter and design accordingly, knowing very well we cannot anticipate all the problems that may develop in time. Even in cities today, we constantly came upon new problems and we can expect the same for the Vertical Cities.
As a statement to this open discussion, Mr.Kenneth King says, Vertical Cities are necessary to solve the urban problems facing us today such as overcrowding, pollution and traffic. Until we can come up with a better concept, we must give Vertical City a chance.
(Appreciation to Ruqiang Deng, Hui Fang, Shouhua Lai, Dan Wu, Yukui Yang and Qifeng Yuan, architecture, urban planning, survey and academic professionals who shared their opinions with us)
Please leave your comments and questions to the authors and join the discussion.
This article was archived on December 18, 2015.