Seguridad y Medio Ambiente FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE

Year 29 Nº 115 third quarter 2009

The landscape-city perched over the city landscapeENVIRONMENT

This article takes us on a lightning trip through the development of the city and our changing concepts of its meaning. It looks into the physical and social factors that have imperceptibly built up our collective ideas of the city over time, giving rise to the various urban models in their relationships with their immediate environment. This will lead to a general reflection on the consequences for today’s cities. The model they have stemmed from is now outdated, unprepared for the changes of all types that have occurred throughout the twentieth century. These cities are therefore now grinding to a halt. They survive only by sprawling into the neighbouring territory, gobbling up most of it and throwing a threatening shadow over the rest.
Starting out with an examination of the most pressing problems and debating possible solutions, the authors propose a gradual abandonment of the current model of the city in favour of a new one, perched over the landscape itself to produce a more collective and user friendly environment. Its citizens will no longer need private cars for their journeys and the cities themselves will be less greedy for resources, simpler to run and more socially and climatically friendly.

By J.M. DE PRADA POOLE. Doctor in architecture. Tenured professor of the Higher Architecture School (Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura: ETSA). Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM).
A. OZÁMIZ FORTIS. Doctor in architecture. Director of the Architecture Department and professor of the Higher Technology and Architecture School (Arquitectura y profesora. Escuela Superior de Arquitectura y Tecnología: ESAT). Universidad Camilo José Cela (UCJC). Madrid. e-mail:

Like most words «landscape» has many meanings1 All of them tend to blend into each other imperceptibly, giving an overall sense and with uncertain borders between the parts.

One example, a burning issue no less, could give a thought-provoking idea of what we wish to argue in this article: is it not true that, as majority opinion has it, man’s action is responsible for what we today call global warming? And is it not equally true that this warming effect is in turn responsible for climate change, leading to changes in temperatures, the wind and rainfall regimes and their distribution, with the concomitant modification of all the planet’s scenarios and scenery, such as the shrinking of glaciers, the melting of the polar ice caps, the rise in sea levels and the consequent eating away of the coasts in all continents of our planet, etc? Where should we set the limits of our «global landscape»?2.

In this article we will adopt the most general sense of the term «landscape», thereby expressing the idea that man’s relation with his environment goes well beyond local concerns or what springs most instantly to his eyes. It also takes in those aspects that are not currently visible but which impinge directly, in the short, medium or long term, on our body or our individual or collective quality of life.

True it is that any city, any human organisation, is usually constrained by legal and administrative limits as defined by the corresponding states. Nonetheless, could any one really express concisely, in due accordance with the linguistic meanings of the term «landscape» as laid down over time (see appendix I), where the city’s action on its environment stops and vice versa? In other words, which are all the elements that make up the true landscape of a city and are not merely visual? Does the reservoir that supplies a city with its water form part of its landscape, acting as it does as a factor that determines its size, its growth limits, the dimensions of its parks and plantlife? How far does the horizon of the river flowing through the city reach: as far as the factories upriver that pollute and foul its waters, transforming its fishlife? And how far does the landscape reach downriver with its wastewater and smells? What about the air and the city’s filthy beret of warm smog dragged one way and another by the wind? And the landfills and rubbish dumps that are creating in many cities a new urban fauna, underground, aerial and terrestrial, of the most diverse ilk, often leading to problems of coexistence?

Historically, cities were initially set against the landscape or simply turned their back on it.

For primitive man nature was hostile. True, it provided him with food, but he had to wrest this from its claws, It was fierce and fickle. He had to brave storms, rain, snow, cold and excessive heat and he found it difficult on his own to find everything he needed to live on. These adverse factors encouraged men to group together in larger and larger groups to counter the harshness and brunts of this «exterior» world we today call «nature». At the dawn of history the city showed no concern for things «outside». It was not even considered as «landscape». The «outside» world was only a grudging supplier of wherewithal for eating, dressing and sheltering.

So it remained for thousands of years until the first hazy ideas of «landscape» appeared. The concept was born from the sensitivity of poets and artists, who, due to the safety in numbers of the city, had forgotten the harsh side of «nature» and could now afford to dwell only on its beauty.

At the start of history the city showed no concern for the outside world; it was not even considered as landscape

Some western historians usually date the start3 of this new sensitivity to Petrarch’s mystic and historic ascension of Mont Ventoux4.

The truth is that several centuries had to pass before the city began to feel itself not set against the («natural») landscape but set within it. And a further few would pass before it was considered that elements of the («natural») landscape should be included in the city to stamp a certain «character» on its image5.

Nonetheless, this did not yet mean that the city «took in» the landscape, and even less that it was landscape strictly speaking. The Baroque city would indeed introduce elements culled from «nature», using them to create «scenarios» that, by dint of parks and tree-lined avenues, would help to embellish the city and serve as some solace for frayed nerves. Now the city began to absorb the landscape (or at least a first schematic idea or scrap of landscape).

And it was only at this stage when the city, after having «hived off» small chunks of nature and brought them into its bosom, began to speak with some authority of «urban landscape», a concept that would otherwise have been inconceivable for its citizens.


As part of our overall proposal here we need to build on these early urban attempts to domesticate «nature» and investigate the following steps in this process, adding them to the seminal ideas mentioned in the introduction.

The steps in this new «ascension» towards a recuperation of a «certain nature» would be the following:

  • The bastion city that defends itself from nature;
  • The city that consciously tries to insert itself in the («natural») landscape6;
  • The city that incorporates («natural-humanised») landscape into some of its public areas;

And, finally, the last step in this ascension towards a «reconciliation» of city and «nature»:

  • The city that «cloaks» itself in («natural- humanised») landscape, trying not only to mimic it – just as some of the Mayan jungle cities blended into the jungle itself – but also to expressly create an urban entity of a symbiotic nature, so that vegetation not only embellishes and upgrades the buildings and the city itself but also furnishes other boons like solar filters, climate softeners, air purification, CO2 absorption, etc.

This is a new type of city, whose relations are developed in three real dimensions from the topological point of view (see enclosed images).

Conversely, the topological relations existing between the different buildings of any current city are basically two-dimensional7. To this constraint we need to add the following consideration: in general the ground plane is the only surface serving as support for the urban relations between the physical entities of a conventional city. This means that the higher the buildings are (which ostensibly should save energy8) the more congested and clogged up will be the traffic and the slower it will move (due to the bottleneck effect of the buildings disgorging their whole contents onto the ground plane through a single and weak contact point). These drawbacks are exacerbated by thousands of problems that weigh heavily on the services networks, public works, etc. In answer to these problems urban planners come up only with a sorry clutch of solutions inherited from times when cities were less demanding in their requirements and relations of all types.

Figure 1

Figure 1. URBAN UNIT (or District )≈125,000 inhabitants. The city or BASIC URBAN MODULE comprises 8 units or D-S districts like the one shown here. The supply lines are 24 metres above ground level.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Exterior urban network. Each urban unit is in turn made up by three independent substructures (S). The outer one is S1, which is shown with the corresponding service or communication nodes N1.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Intermediate urban network. The intermediate substructure S2 and its communication nodes N2.

Figure 4

Figure 4 Interior urban network. The interior substructure S3 and the communication nodes N3

The topological structure of the URBAN UNIT or District draws from three substructures, three types of three-dimensional loops knitted into each other (see fig. 1 to 4). This increases proximity and the possibilities of physical relations between the different places by a factor of over 27. The number of conflicts are therefore likely to fall by a similar factor.

The union of eight urban units, each one with about 125,000 inhabitants, will constitute a BASIC URBAN MODULE or «city» (Forest 3D-One) of ≈1,000,000 inhabitants.

By incorporating, de facto, the third dimension into the city structure, we see that most of the urban relations are freed from their dependence on the ground plane. In other words they occur outside it, enabling the city, from the most clichéd landscape view to throw off this yoke almost completely9. And vice versa this solution will imply liberation of the geographic ground plane from the «load» of networks, roads and services imposed by the city structure. By throwing off this yoke both geography and landscape can recuperate part of their own rightful being.

The combination of both measures – harnessing of the third «real» dimension and freeing of the terrain from the city structure – achieves two objectives:

  • Solve the apparent paradox between the ostensible energy-saving characteristics of the dense city and the actual energy consumption conflicts.
  • Free the territory from much of the urban «load» weighing upon it, allowing it to recover its value as «landscape», understanding this in its most popular and clichéd sense.

The city – perched high on «stilts» – «takes off from» the ground plane, which remains for the use and enjoyment of the citizens. This will be occupied mainly by plantlife in park-garden form dotted with ponds and fountains. Apart from embellishing the city they will also serve as heat exchangers of the city’s air conditioning system, working in adiabatic regime10. The «natural» landscape now lies below the city. The territory is largely regained.

Supply lines also lie on the ground plane: of wholesalers11, of machinery and large loads, which are hoisted up by cranes set up at certain points of each city level12, etc. (See figs. 1 to 4).

The city has been freed of urban traffic to turn itself into a pedestrian city. As in some large shopping centres, the «streets» will have moving walkways to make journeys easier, either for disabled people or people carrying heavy or bulky loads.

In the historical aspect our Basic Urban Module, Forest 3D-One, chimes in partly with the old utopian cities, particularly those that saw the whole city as a single building (see figs. 5 to 8). Building continuity seems to have loomed large in utopians’ minds from the word go as an idea with undoubted urban advantages.

This proposal also incorporates the ideas and intentions of the most recent utopias or quasi utopias:

  • From Howard’s Garden City it takes the idea of cladding the building roofs and walls with plantlife.
  • From the Linear Cities of Arturo Soria or Sosgorod, by Miljutin13, the idea of always grouping the buildings round a single street-thoroughfare, which, in this case, is at the height of the third storey of the «buildings or linear components» so there is never any need to move up or down more than two storeys (see figs. 5 and 6), always giving preference wherever possible to physical over mechanical displacements.
  • Finally from the Rasch brothers (suspended dwellings), from Yona Friedman (La Ville Spatiale) and Archigram (Plug-in-City)14 the idea of high industrialisation, prefabrication and cutting edge technology, used to minimise the weight of «deadworks», and also to solve the structural problems of construction while facilitating the tasks of maintenance, replacement, consumption, disassembly and recycling. The various parts of the city would therefore be born with a warranty and built-in shelf life, with automatic maintenance and renewal.

The city (Forest 3D-One) is conceived as a «finished» and limited whole, surrounded only by other similar settlements15, which should be at a distance of no less than one-and-a-half times their own size. Over time, therefore, it would be feasible for either the Basic urban module (1- 1.5 million inhabitants) or the maximum conurbation of four urban modules (4-6 million inhabitants) to end up fleshing out a «city-state» à la the old Renaissance cities (Venice, Florence, etc.)16.

An added advantage of this «city-making» idea is that there is no room for «rapacious urban development» or oil-bespattered urban sprawl. These factors are currently preventing the city from becoming a «City». In other words they prevent «the city as such» from every being finished and fuel it with an insatiable demand for new infrastructure. Today’s city is therefore almost always suffering construction work. Any change or addition to the infrastructure implies yet more roadworks, blocking up further the already clogged-up streets.

Uncontrolled urban sprawl would give way to a «limited conurbation» always run on the basis of perfectly designed problems and needs and, ipso facto, planned in the short, medium and long term.

Another one of the objectives tackled in this proposal is to challenge the false «nature–technology» dichotomy.

The basic urban module incorporates ideas from the utopian models of the past

In speaking of the environmental impact, both in the short and long term, careful thought must be given to the knee-jerk idea that technology per se is the cause of environmental deterioration and hence the «natural» enemy of «nature» that needs to be ousted. No, the enemy is not technology but human action, which is quite different. Contrary to popular belief, technology is the only way of minimising the impact of this human action, given the current unstoppable growth of the population and its insatiable needs and comfort requirements.17

Can anyone imagine the environmental effect if 6.3 billion human beings tried to heat their houses, fuel their kitchen stoves, make tools, build their houses and cities, dress themselves in animal skins, etc, without any help from technology? In less than one year all the woods, edible plants and animals or supply of clothes would have disappeared. All that would remain of the territory would be a single stark landscape and the whole planet would have become a vast rubbish dump.

We repeat: the enemy is not technology per se but the use it is put to. Technology is precisely our raft of salvation. This is why this new city – like Bacon’s New Atlantis – is a technological city, whose impact could be minimised by what we here dub the «techno–romantic» use thereof.

Lakes, fountains and ponds do not have only a decorative purpose: they are the city’s «adiabatic heat exchangers»18 . They hence wipe out the city’s air conditioning contribution to the «heat island» effect. These same elements are also used in winter to soak up the sun’s heat and feed it into the city’s heating system.

The same goes for the plants and vegetation of the facades and interiors. These work as CO2 filters while simultaneously helping to set up a new urban ecosystem that will be more conducive than today’s set-up to the development of the city’s own rightful flora and fauna.

Technology will also allow us to tap into what we could dub SUDIB, namely, Smart Urban Distributed Invisible Behavior. In other words, technology will help us to develop urban «conduct» or «behaviour». In this case sensors18 and activators could be used to continually20 monitor and control the aforementioned SUDIB and hold the pre-set zonal values steady within the range considered to be admissible variation. This would minimise the city’s total consumption. The responses to the variations in the surrounding environment will here be zonal variations, whose whole set would add up to what has been called urban «conduct» or «behaviour»

The city (Forest 3D-One) «senses» and «responds» with an «intelligent conduct» to the stimuli received, with the aim of minimising its environmental impact. The city now strives by all means to turn itself into a «living» landscape, which, like any other organism, will try to blend imperceptibly into its environment, drawing on this surrounding territory in such a way as to make its impact minimal.

This is the ultimate reason why we have chosen to show the proposed city perched over a jungle or even marshy territory, to stress that the intention is to keep the territory as «virgin» as possible. The illustrations also show how the height of the lowest “overflying” structures, at 48 metres above the ground, allows even the tallest trees21 to grow unimpeded beneath them.

Figure 9

Figure 9. General view of the city’s BASIC URBAN MODULE (≈ 1.000,000 to 1,500,000 inhabitants) comprising 8 D-S districts.

The Physical Structure of the Urban Unit (D-S District)

Prima facie, the image shown of the Urban Unit or District is a megastructure based on the great utopias of the 50–70s, of the type put forward by Constant, Yona Friedman, Archigram, Archizoom, Superstudio22, etc.

Nonetheless, the aim of this Unit or the set of eight Units (Forest 3D-One) is quite different. It is born not only to air some ideas about a new type of city, capable of avoiding most of the problems besetting the current ones, but also to put forward a more realistic project with the overriding aim of being physically, economically and socially feasible. In this project the sustaining technology shows its most modest and conservative face, without thereby forfeiting one whit of its utopian appearance.

As can be seen in images 5, 7 and 8, the vertical elements (towers and communication nodes), as in many high-rise buildings, also serve for vertical communications and conveyance, acting as great pillars from which spring the hanging cables for the deep plate girders that support the whole horizontal structure.

These nodes are «compound super columns» measuring 13 x 13 metres23 and standing 350 metres high. They are braced horizontally with the horizontal components, running into them at various levels (See images 1, 2, 3, and 4). They stand 71.2 metres from each other. From their outer faces spring the cables (see fig. 12) from which in turn hang the deep plate girders shown in the cross section. The distance separating them is spanned by six cross structures, interspersed with compound (sheet steel) deep plate girders (5.6 metres) with a variable shape to suit the characteristic profile of the horizontal components.

The inter girder spaces are covered with a light floor structure comprising sheet-metal ribbed panels built into a mineralised porous material (50 kg./m3).

As shown in the «typical» cross section (fig. 5) and in the images of the main structure (figs. 6, 8 and 12), each one of the horizontal components has five storeys and is divided into three sectors. Two of them, on both sides, hold the main built area with an average depth of 14.50 metres containing shops, offices, stores, etc., while the central sector, about 13.00 metres high, contains the pedestrian streets joining up the city’s horizontal components.

These «streets», whose paving width would vary to suit the uses they are put to, lie at the intermediate level of the buildings, so that there is only ever a need to go up or down two storeys at most. Access is thereby simplified, making lift use optional for citizens.

The pedestrian pathway, completely covered, is protected by great “skylights” both above and below (see figs. 5, 6, 7, 8 and 13). These skylights are covered in turn by many aluminium lath modules controlled by the «urban automation» system24, which adjusts luminosity and penetration of the sun’s radiation in the urban environment to modulate the city’s internal climate. This system also regulates ventilation, heating and cooling as necessary to keep it within comfortable limits. This area could be dubbed «exterior urban».

The District comes across as a megastructure based on the utopias of the 50-70s

The space between the upper and lower runs (0 – 5.6 metres) of the great girders making up the vertical structure of the horizontal components houses all the city’s supply services and networks as well as the machinery of all types (sewerage or water pumping stations, lifts, etc.). This solution means that this equipment is accessible and also easily visitable and transitable by small maintenance, repair and transport vehicles for transporting small loads or replacing or repairing damaged objects.

The pedestrian streets are paved, for the most part, with translucent material so that daytime and nighttime light can flood the whole central sector, the main area for public use. The protective laths of the upper and lower “skylights” can then be used to soften and baffle the outside light at will, to generate the perfect lighting and shading for all purposes, whether this be strolling, photography, plant growth, whether this light comes down from the sky itself or is reflected up from the tree canopies below or the vegetation covering the whole city structure.

Although not shown in the enclosed images, the idea is for all the facades of the interior streets, barring windows, to be covered either with climbing plants or with continuous trays of plants forming blanket foliage. The various areas of the city can then be made to present a variety of colours and textures to mark them off in their own right, making up between all of them a landscape with its own personality.

Components of the city (Basic Urban Module or Forest 3D-One)

The city is made up by three differentiated building components which we call substructures, referring to them as S1, S2, and S3.

The first and outer one (S1) is identified by a mauve and pink colour (see fig. 2). It serves as the perimeter of the urban module considered as a unit, called a district because it is also the administrative unit corresponding to the same demarcation of today’s cities. The joining of eight S1 substructures makes up the main structure S1 of our city (See figs. 15 and 16).

The second component (S2) is the biggest constructed surface. It serves to span the other two. It is shown in illustrations (fig. 3) in green, orange and yellow. Figs. 17 and 18 show the amalgamation of eight S2s of Forest 3D-One.

The third (S3) has the smallest constructed surface (see figs. 19 and 20). Given its central location with respect to the unit urban module, it has been designed to house mainly those urban and administrative services that need to be at the closest call of citizens, such as hospitals, councils, registers, etc.

Supply Lines

Although there is no vehicle traffic within the city itself, access still has to be laid on for goods of all types in any point of the city. Each one of the vertical components making up the city will therefore be surrounded at its base by the four thoroughfares running round the perimeter. A series of cranes fixed on the end of each one can therefore be used to hoist any load up to the corresponding point, from where it can be fed inside through the special access holes built into the façade for that purpose.

These thoroughfares run 24 metres above the city’s ground level (see fig. 22) so that only the supports are visible from the ground.

The whole utility network necessary for supplying the city with electricity, communications, water, gas, sewerage, etc., plus the necessary sector-based pumping stations are hung below the many thoroughfares, so that access for repair and maintenance purposes calls for no type of construction work.

The network organisation also ensures supply without interruption in the event of any work that may need to be carried out at any point.

Development and construction of the whole set (Basic Urban Module)

As is only logical, the city necessarily needs to be built up in stages (growth by levels).

In the first stage the bases of the buildings making up the corners and the horizontal components running closest to the ground will be raised. This will create a sort of «linear city» in rings, its lower part being 48 metres above the ground (see figs. 22 and 23).

The second stage would be built up to the second-tier horizontal components closest to the outside. This is also the structure with the biggest built area (see fig. 24).

The third stage would then be built up to the upper arms of this same structure, including the central core (see fig. 25).

The city is made up by three different types of building components, one acting as perimeter, another as bridge and another in the centre

And the last would correspond to the termination of the upper ends of the whole set, for locating the heliports.


  • Current cities, viewed as a whole25 are conceived topologically as a single surface26. This spells problems in terms of travelling, supplies and communications, leading to all sorts of congestion and interference, since the area where they are carried out is four or five times smaller than the rest of the built area. The solution is to increase this area by the same proportion by creating and tapping into other independent tiers.
  • Much of the current cost of heating and cooling buildings stems from the fact that they are all in contact with the outside environment. This notably increases the unfavourable temperature losses and gains of any building making up the whole city. Any reduction would therefore lead to a considerable energy saving.
  • The extension or increase of any of the necessary journeys for the smooth running of city life is expensive in times of both time and energy.
  • And so on . . . The whole list of the disadvantages of current city construction is too long to mention here.
  • The solution is to increase the density, reducing journey sizes and increasing urban connections at different tiers. This makes it essential to bring the third dimension into play; this is precisely what the model proposed herein attempts.
  • In sum, the proposal might at first sight seem to be an idealist project more proper of utopian thinking, but it turns out quite otherwise. A painstaking analysis of the costs, in terms of construction, financing, maintenance and dismantling and recycling suggest that its total cost and final energy consumption will be less than 3% of today’s figures.

City Figures: Basic Urban Module (Forest 3D-One)

(Figures are rounded up or down)

  • Module Dimensions (8 Districts): 1500 m. x 1500 m. x 350 m. high
  • Approximate number of inhabitants: 1,000,000 – 1,500,000

Horizontal components:

  • No. of horizontal components: 113
  • Length of horizontal components: 126,000 metres
  • Total built area of horizontal components: 13.0 million m2


  • No. of towers: 56
  • Length of built vertical surface: 17,500 metres
  • No. of stories in each tower: 97
  • No. of total storeys in all towers: 5400
  • Total built surface in towers: 7.0 million m2 ( 7.0 km2)

Pedestrian Streets:

  • No. of «pedestrian streets» inside the horizontal components: 113
  • Length of the «pedestrian streets» inside the horizontal components: 126,000 m (126 km.)
  • Total surface of the «interior streets»: 1.0 million m2

Elevated supply lines

  • No. of elevated supply lines:
    • 20 longitudinal and 20 transverse 1142 metres long
    • 20 longitudinal and 20 transverse 442 metres long
  • Total length of supply lines: 63,400 metres (63 km.)
  • Total area of the supply lines: 570,000 m2


(Area corresponding to the buildings in a conventional city)

  • Built area (for occupation without counting roofs, underground pathways, parking silos –not shown–, etc.): 20.0 million m2 (20 km2)

Total number of heliports: 56

(1) Some of the most important can be seen in appendix I.

(2) The apparent glut of words between inverted commas, of which the authors are only too aware, is an attempt to draw attention to the intrinsic ambiguity of a series of frequently used terms in our discipline. This means that readers can bring to the word the concepts that fit in best with their own personal points of view, making it easier to elicit their adhesion to the written world whatever their baggage and the authority behind them.

(3) In our view it is very risky to assign a start date to the acceptance of a new concept. These concepts usually find their feet over time, two steps forwards, one step backwards. Neither is their progress linear or smooth. Sometimes even several centuries are needed for a new idea to be accepted as such, even within the intellectual or scientific world.
In any case the celebrated passage shows how knowledge and concepts are almost always the product of «leisure» understood in its broadest sense of «free time». On this occasion the different viewpoint of this «ascension» arose from the flâneur (rambling) spirit that urged the poet to amble and ramble about the countryside.

(4) This took place in 1336, under the influence of reading St. Augustine’s Confessions, which urged him only to look inwards for the beauty of the landscape, serving as framework in this walk for his spiritual crisis and withdrawal. In the following year, however, a journey to Valclusa, another spot of bucolic beauty, caused his poems to be set in «natural» scenarios of this type.

(5) After the «discovery» or previous appearance of the «landscape» concept, the Romantic «discovery» of «Nature», which was made explicit in Schegel’s Athenaeum Fragments (1798–1800), through the poetic idea of merging spirit and nature, would in time give rise (especially in the USA) to the appearance of «cities» (if they can be conceptually so called) that were born under the idealised form of Howard’s Garden Cities. These were an attempt to «insert the city in the Landscape» by surrounding each house with open gardened spaces in vast terrains, separating each of the thousands of houses from their neighbours. (Nonetheless, in the interests of accuracy, it would have to be pointed out that these ´suburbs´ should not strictly be called cities. Despite the city-like number of inhabitants and the series of communal services that some had, most of them lacked the most elementary urban public services that really mark the city off from the village or town, etc.).

(6) Roman cities were basically built up as military settlements to serve as «defence and protection». It could nonetheless be argued that the geographical area impinged heavily on their siting, since «the spot» was chosen deliberately after a painstaking study of the surrounding area (See Vitruvius, De Architectura, Book I, chapt IV, «On the choice of a healthy situation»).

(7) Barring small exceptions such as bridges, overpasses, underground tunnels and little more.

(8) The travelling distances are shortened, as are the temperature loss-gain surfaces of all the buildings in contact with the outside environment, the total area of public space required, the length of all urban networks, etc. In broad terms we could say that in a «compact» city distribution (or a distribution of lower urban «consumption»), type Plan Cerdá of Barcelona, or Barrio de Salamanca of Madrid, the number of roads and crossroads and the distribution thereof, as well as the number of networks, would be almost the same for one, two, three, four five or six stories. In other words, in all cases, the urban «cost» would remain almost unchanged, while its «load», per m2 of buildable area would be divided successively by two, three, four,… etc.

(9) The liberation is obviously not absolute since some of the bigger public services, like sports stadiums or large auditoriums and areas for major communal manifestations will continue to make rightful use of the ground plane. This will not be the case of hospitals or museums, government offices or others that can easily be fitted into a superstructure about 40 metres wide.

(10) In this simple way we could largely palliate the so-called «heat island» urban effect. This perverse effect takes its name from the fact that the temperature of the conventional city, in its whole extension, is several degrees hotter than the surrounding natural environment (largely due to the effect of traffic and air conditioning of buildings, most of which simply chuck the indoor heat outside, just like the famous «¡agua va!» habit of chucking wastewater straight into the street in medieval times).

(11) 20 longitudinal lines and 20 transverse lines of 1142 metres and 12 longitudinal lines and 12 transverse lines of 442 metres, which do not cross the central core, leaving it building free. All these are tangential to each one of the vertical «towers».

(12) The total number of goods elevation points of the Urban unit or District is 172, of which 72 correspond to the outer component of the basic city module (called S1), 80 to the intermediate (S2) and 20 to the central (S3).

(13) Garden City, Howard 1898; City Lineal, A. Soria and Mata 1882; Ciudad lineal de Sosgorod, Miljutin 1930.

(14) Suspended dwellings, Hugo and Bodo Rasch 1927; La Ville Spatiale Yona Friedman 1960; Plug-in-City, Archigram 1964.

(15) Up to a total of four, set on the vertices of a square so that there is no «centre».

(16) Something that to some extent already occurs, due to very diverse circumstances in some cities like Montecarlo, which is moreover a small country and city-state, or like Sao Paulo, in Brazil, a city that comprises in itself a state of around 20 million inhabitants

(17) This word in fact can no longer sustain the meaning it is given, since nature is now not «so natural» as is commonly supposed, the whole of nature by now having been affected and changed by the hand of man.

(18) Air and water exchange energy by transformation of the water-vapour states without the air-water system changing its temperature.

(19) Mini weather stations that keep hourly records of radiation, temperature, relative humidity, wind direction and speed in local areas of the city, sending them on to the processing centres for taking decisions and drawing up statistics.

(20) The temperature, radiation, relative humidity and wind-speed readings, indoor and outdoor, in the local or zonal areas that have characteristic values within the city.

(21) Except, of course for the giant sequoias of the Americas.

(22) Constant’s New Babylon (1958), Yona Fiedman’s La Ville Spatiale (1960), Archigram’s Plug in City (1964) (Peter Cook), the Continuous Monument (1966) of the Florentine movements Superstudio and Archizoom, etc

(23) Except for the corners or those that form part of the body of the building, whose outer faces also form part of the structure.

(24) The word is “urbanótico” in Spanish, meaning the urban equivalent of “domótico” home automation systems

(25) Any city, even Manhattan itself, full of skyscrapers that soar well above 100 metres in height.

(26) We could conceive the high rise buildings as though they were the fingers of a rubber glove, joined at their base to the streets and the surface they stand on, also built from the same infinitely elastic material. By stretching this whole fabric from the city’s supporting borders, the whole surface becomes flat.

Note: all the images have been drawn up by the authors of the article.


LANDSCAPE: From the Diccionario Enciclopédico Salvat Universal (Salvat Editores S. A., Barcelona, Spain 1973).

Masculine noun. Art: A painting representing a natural or urban scene, human figures playing only a secondary role therein or not featuring at all. Portion of land (seen from a certain spot), considered in its artistic aspect.
Porción de terreno (que se ve desde un sitio), considerada en su aspecto artístico.

Geography. Territory seen as an organic unit, whose physical elements (earth, water, air) biological elements (soil, plants, animals) and human elements (crops or industries, dwellings or infrastructure) bear a close relationship to one another. If man has not altered the physical or biological elements we speak of a natural landscape, otherwise a humanised landscape.

Geography. Most geographers deem the formal and specific object of geography to be the study of the geographical landscapes of the terrestrial surface in terms of their structure, function and genesis … At first we spoke above all of natural landscapes, later of cultural or humanised landscapes and finally of geographical landscapes. The strictly natural landscapes, also called by some geographers unspoilt or virgin, exist only in regions never permanently or temporarily inhabited by man (e.g. the Antarctic, inland Greenland). Most of the natural landscapes of the earth’s surface have been more or less intensively altered by man down the ages and transformed into humanised landscapes. If they have been little altered and their particular personality still depends on their natural elements (morphological or climatic) they will be called predominantly natural landscapes or non original landscapes. If they have been greatly altered, to the point where man’s added elements override the natural ones, they will be called humanised, cultural or anthropogenic: we can therefore speak of agrarian, industrial or urban landscapes, etc. The complex blend of natural factors (natural landscape) and human factors (humanised landscape), which give a territory its own particular look, should be called geographical landscape.


Elementary bibliography on the best known utopias. Apart from those expressly mentioned in the article, consideration has also been given to the following historical utopias:

  • Atlantis, Plato (Critias, 340 BCE.)
  • Calipolis, Plato (Republic 390 – 370? BCE.)
  • City of the Magnetes, Plato (The Laws 360 – 347? BCE.)
  • Ideal City, Aristotle (Politics 335 –330? BCE.)
  • Amaurot, Thomas More (Utopia 1516)
  • Square City, Albrecht Dürer (1527)
  • City of the Son, Campanella (1602)
  • New Atlantis, Bacon (1627)
  • New Lanark, R. Owen (1817)
  • Phalanstère, Fourier (1829)
  • Voyage en Icarie, Cabet (1840)

There are many other lesser works that also attracted a certain amount of attention in their day.

General Bibliography

  • Bloomfield, P., Utopias and Imaginary. Worlds or The Evolution of Utopia, London 1932; reprinted, Norwood, Pennsylvania: Norwood Editions, 1976.
  • Carey, John, Faber Book of Utopias, edited by John Carey, Faber and Faber, London 1999.
  • Claeys and Lyman Tower Sargent, edits, The Utopia Reader, New York University Press, NY, 1999.
  • Choay, Françoise. L’Urbanisme, utopies et réalités: une anthologie. Paris: Le Seuil, 1965; facsimile reprint, as part of the series «Points», Paris: Le Seuil, 1979.
  • Eaton, Ruth, Ideal Cities: Utopianism and the (un) built environment, Thames & Hudson, NY, 2000.
  • Gerber R., Utopian Fantasy, London 1955; Rev. ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, NY 1973. Kumar, Krishan. Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times. Oxford [Oxfordshire] and New York: Blackwell, 1987.
  • Lacassin, Francis, ed. Voyages aux pays de nulle part [a collection of texts]. Paris: R. Laffont, 1990.
  • Manguel, A. and Gianni Guadalupi, Breve guía de lugares imaginarios, Alianza Edit., Madrid, 2000.
  • Mumford, L., The Story of Utopias. Ideal Commonwealths and Social Myths, Harrap, London 1923;
  • Rouvillois, Frédéric. L’Utopie: Paris: Flammarion, 1998.
  • Sargent, Lyman Tower. British and American Utopian Literature, 1516-1985, New York and London: Garland, 1988.
  • Servier J., Histoire de l'Utopie, Ed. Gallimard, Paris, 1967.
  • Versins, Pierre. Encyclopédie de l’utopie, des voyages extraordinaires et de la science-fiction. Lausanne: L’Age d’homme, 1972.


Figure 5. General cross section of a «typical» building component.
Figure 5. General cross section of a «typical» building component.
Figure 6. View of an inner street (not showing the vegetation).
Figure 6. View of an inner street (not showing the vegetation).
Figure 7. Underneath view of the building component shown in fig. 5.
Figure 7. Underneath view of the building component shown in fig. 5.
Figure 8. Exterior view of the main building structure or substructure S1.
Figure 8. Exterior view of the main building structure or substructure S1.
Figure 10. Bird’s eye vie of the city’s Basic Urban Module (Forest 3D-One) with vegetation on some roofs.
Figure 10. Bird’s eye vie of the city’s Basic Urban Module (Forest 3D-One) with vegetation on some roofs.
Figure 11. Vertical communication nodes (N) of the Urban Unit or District.
Figure 11. Vertical communication nodes (N) of the Urban Unit or District.
Figure 12. Partial view of substructure S1 and communication nodes N1.
Figure 12. Partial view of substructure S1 and communication nodes N1.
Figura 13. Detail of the roof of substructure S1 and its connection with one of the nodes N1
Figure 13. Detail of the roof of substructure S1 and its connection with one of the nodes N1
Figura 14. Partial view from the outside of the Urban Unit or District, showing its transparency.
Figure 14. Partial view from the outside of the Urban Unit or District, showing its transparency.
Figure 15. Bird’s eye view of substructure S1 (Basic Urban Module).
Figure 15. Bird’s eye view of substructure S1 (Basic Urban Module).
Figure 16. Side view of substructure S1 showing the communication nodes N1
Figure 16. Side view of substructure S1 showing the communication nodes N1
Figure 17. Bird’s eye view of substructure S2 (Basic Urban Module).
Figure 17. Bird’s eye view of substructure S2 (Basic Urban Module).
Figure 18. Side view of substructure S2 with N2.
Figure 18. Side view of substructure S2 with N2.
Figure 19. Bird’s eye view of substructure S3 (Basic Urban Module).
Figure 19. Bird’s eye view of substructure S3 (Basic Urban Module).
Figure 20. Side view of substructure S3 with N3.
Figure 20. Side view of substructure S3 with N3.
Figure 21. Bird’s eye view of the complete Basic Urban Module (8 Units or Districts). The city perched above the landscape (Forest 3D-One) shows the hole of the central space. The idea is to cover all the building facades and roofs with vegetation.
Figure 21. Bird’s eye view of the complete Basic Urban Module (8 Units or Districts). The city perched above the landscape (Forest 3D-One) shows the hole of the central space. The idea is to cover all the building facades and roofs with vegetation.
Figure 22. General view of the Basic Urban Module with the supply lines.
Figure 22. General view of the Basic Urban Module with the supply lines.
Figure 23. 1st construction stage of the main outer structure or substructures S1 and their communication nodes (Growth by levels).
Figure 23. 1st construction stage of the main outer structure or substructures S1 and their communication nodes (Growth by levels).
Figure 24. 2nd stage: connection with the lower horizontal components of the intermediate substructures, S2, built with their corresponding nodes N2
Figure 24. 2nd stage: connection with the lower horizontal components of the intermediate substructures, S2, built with their corresponding nodes N2
Figure 25. 3rd stage: connection of S1 with the upper horizontal components of S2 and construction of the interior substructures S3 with their nodes N3.
Figure 25. 3rd stage: connection of S1 with the upper horizontal components of S2 and construction of the interior substructures S3 with their nodes N3.