8/31/2005

New New Orleans: The Big Future

Okay, New Orleans is flooded out. Most of the city will be uninhabitable for months. Contamination from ruptured and damaged chemical and industrial storage facilities will probably turn sweeping areas of the city into a Superfund site for years. Initial estimates to restore the city are running at about 25 billion dollars; I think that's probably highly optimistic.

Maybe it's time, rather than thinking about restoring New Orleans, to think about replacing it.

And if we need to replace it, why not go for the big picture, why not go for... the future?

Why not go for something like... this?

An arcology. A self-contained city in a single building. Utilizing a variety of alternative energy sources (solar, wind, atmospheric diferentials).

"But that's not New Orleans!" you cry. No, but it doesn't have to be.

One of the things about this particular arcology idea, Ultima Tower, is that it's built in a lake, to provide water and cooling. Like say, Lake Pontchartain?

You could build the tower in Lake Pontchartain. Most of the original New Orleans would be dismantled. What would be left would be the "classic" areas, Bourbon Street, etc, and probably the rail and shipping facilities, the heavy industry. The tourist areas would be, basically, a theme park. And there could be high-speed transit lines between the tower and New Orleans Classic, for workers and for tourists. New Orleans Classic could either be protected from future floods by a high coffer dam, or possibly by having the entire area jacked up above water level. (Either would be a large project, and expensive, but a lot easier than trying to preserve and protect the entire city.)

Of course, "build an arcology" is a simple thing to say. In reality, as always, everything takes longer, costs more, and doesn't work as well as originally planned. (Just how many years has Paolo Soleri's mini-arcology, Arcosanti, been "under construction"?) An immense project like this, with this much money involved, would be a graft and corruption magnet. And since so many New Orleans residents live at or barely above the poverty level, would the inclination be to build the tower "on the cheap", with substandard materials and facilities? Would New New Orleans end up as a low-income housing project on steroids? Would the environment and ecology of living in an arcology produce new social customs? Would those new customs displace the traditional jazz-booze-Big-Easy traditions of the original city?

I don't know, but the possibilities might make, at the least, for some interesting science fiction....

1 comment:

Dave Bell said...

I've a distinct recollection of seeing blue-sky architectural proposals for something like this to be build in the North Sea. It was the late 1960s or early 1970s, and it may not have been, strictly, an arcology. I recall a cross-section which suggested something rather like a sports stadium, housing on the terraces and industry hidden away beneath.