Sky City: City in the Sky or Pie in the Sky?

October 14, 2009 at 2:08 pm 14 comments

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of

So. Tired of dealing with traffic congestion, long commutes, urban sprawl and air pollution? Interested in Sustainability? Interested in Urban Redevelopment? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to check out Tokyo’s Sky City.

Tokyo, Japan’s Sky City is in essence, a true city within a city. In the planning stages for many years now, the Sky City project is geared towards freeing up congestion and providing some “oh-so needed” green space in downtown Tokyo. The largest metropolitan region in the world with over 35M people (according to Wikipedia), Tokyo  is jam packed to say the least and the urban sprawl is ri-dic-u-lous.

Aerial Photo of Tokyo, Japan

Aerial Photo of Tokyo, Japan

The average commute is two hours,  many streets and roads are inaccessible and unnavigable for many emergency vehicles, and the civil engineering infrastructure is over capacity.  Many Japanese citizens believe the answer to these problems is to build vertically, like Sky City.  Sky City would reach two-thirds of a mile straight up into the sky and would accommodate 35,000 residents and 100,000 workers with apartments, offices, commercial facilities, movie theaters, a stadium, schools, hospitals, a monorail, etc. The reality is that one could live, work and play in Sky City without ever having to leave…ever.

Check out the first segment of video as seen on The Discovery Channel’s “Extreme Engineering”:

The remaining four segments you can find on YouTube as they get much deeper into all the cool research and engineering that is required to accomplish such a feat.

Segment 2:

Segment 3:

Segment 4:

Segment 5:

What an amazing concept; key word here being “concept.”  Do you believe this concept will become reality?  Can these types of vertical cities really be as structurally sound as they need to be?  Would you live in a place like this?  If this works in Tokyo could we one day see this “metropolis of the future”  in New York City?

If this is really what the future holds, and if these types of projects will one day become common place as our population continues to soar,  then how can one NOT be excited about a career in civil engineering?

What’s your take on Sky City?

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Entry filed under: Civil Engineering, civil engineering blog, Civil Engineering Issues, Fun Stuff, Sustainability, Uncategorized, US Infrastructure.

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14 Comments Add your own

  • 1. g0ats09  |  July 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I think this would definitely be in Japan’s future! They desperately need space.I am sure a lot of tests and maintenance will be carried out. Time will tell as to what sky city will actually be like.

  • 2. Aaron Burns  |  June 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I belive that this engennering feat is incredible but based on the problems that are seen could be completely averted by changing one small thing instead of going up try going down it would be more expensive yes but you can build it larger and safer if you think this is a good idea let me know at

    • 3. Erik  |  June 26, 2012 at 7:34 pm

      If you build down instead of up you exchange security for quality of environment. The parks that are central to the experience of the sky city would be awfully tough to manage with all artificial light, not to mention expensive and not particularly environmentally friendly. I’m also not to keen on being down in that big of a hole in a Tsunami land. I don’t think I want to trust the pumps that much.

  • 4. Sam owolabi  |  May 9, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I believe in the sky city is achieveable.impossibility exist only in the mind,it doesnot exist in reality.

  • 5. igwe maxwell  |  September 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    a journey of a thousand mile always begins with just a step, even the wright brothers never thought of jumbo jets when they first inveted air crafts,i still believe that the sky city can be a dream come true someday soon regardless of who is watching.

  • 6. Franki  |  December 3, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Hey, I am completely up for the idea of sky cities. I was just wondering if you had ever read the book exodus? That is all about them, maybe thats where you got the idea? I just wanted to say though, if you have read it, you would see that they didn’t work out very well. Will you make more all over the world? If global warming actually happens and land is drowned, would everyone be able to live in them? I know i’m thinking like crazy in the future, i’m just curious what extent people would go to.

    I would so live in it after reading exodus!

  • 7. ezra  |  October 18, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    This is not a new idea. Similar concepts were proposed long ago by Paolo Soleri back in the 1970’s. Building technology has also continually advanced to allow larger and larger buildings over time. It won’t surprise me if it happens. However, I think it is nonetheless psychologically important to have a separation of home and work. Would you force people to work in the same building? Why wouldn’t they still work elsewhere? This is where “efficiency” really goes too far as a “sustainability” strategy. I would prefer to see multiple nodes of dense development and economic centers with disencentives for all but essential car use coupled with alternative transport options (bus, subway, bike, walking, etc.). I think this is Tokyo’s current strategy, more or less.

  • 8. Kris Austin  |  October 17, 2009 at 6:06 am

    1) I believe that it would be a huge terrorist target. It would need its own air defense system like the military uses to protect ships at sea to keep planes from being crashed into it.

    2) Being in a high-rise building for 8 hours during your work day is one thing but occupying a single structure for most of your life? That is maximizing the potential for major loss of life in a disaster.

    3) A structure that tall in a seismic zone? Containing that many facilities and human lives?

    I wouldn’t live there.

    • 9. aepcentral  |  October 17, 2009 at 9:23 am

      Thanks Kris. I also believe that a building like that has a big target on it for terrorists. If you watch the videos on youtube they actually address the steps that they would take in order to help make the building secure to the ground, even in the event of an earthquake.

  • 10. Erik  |  October 16, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Assuming that the technical challenges can be overcome, and that it still makes sense to commit the kind of resources required to build the structure, I still see two big concerns. First, sky city will have a huge impact on the surrounding community. Most notably in that nearly all of the consumable resources will have to be imported and wastes exported. Water and sewer supplies may be easy enough to deal with, but what about the traffic impacts of supply food and consumer goods to 35,000 people all at a single location. What about the shadow that a 2/3 of a mile high structure will cast?

    Second concern: What about the future? Presumably the structure will be designed to account for changes in technology and social preferences, with measures taken to allow upgrades and reworking. However, the simple fact is that modern structures eventually get old, dingy, and rundown despite the best maintenance and upkeep. Won’t sky city be in danger of becoming a slum a hundred, or two hundred, years from now? It’s easy enough to empty and office tower, tear it down, and rebuild, but relocating 35,000 people from their homes and community to revive an ailing sky city would be a nightmare.

    Maybe I’m too pessimistic. It’s an interesting idea. My concern is that it would end up more Blade Runner than urban paradise.

    • 11. aepcentral  |  October 16, 2009 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts Erik. You said “It’s easy enough to empty an office tower, tear it down, and rebuild…”. Could you imagine tearing down a structure the size of Sky City that is placed in the middle of Tokyo??? I can’t believe that that would even be possible???

  • 12. Matt Latham  |  October 16, 2009 at 9:15 am

    This is not the way to go. Look at Chicago’s Sears Tower for example. Once the Sears company moved in there, they began reporting that the vertical separation between workers reduced interaction and collaboration among employees. Apparently getting into an elevator to go see someone was a major barrier. The problem got so bad that after a few years they moved the whole operation out to a sprawling complex in the suburbs and leased the building to other companies. Building vertically in this extreme manner will increase isolation and reduce social interaction. Some cities are just too large. It’s time to look at taking some of this growth and instead funneling it into other places that could use the increased economic activity.

    • 13. aepcentral  |  October 16, 2009 at 10:34 am

      Hey Matthew,

      Do you believe that developers, engineers, architects and builders could look at the Sears Tower and learn from it since it was built 30+ years ago? Also, the Sears tower was primarily for commercial office space, it was not a real “city in the sky” so to speak. I believe Sky City to be a pretty cool concept, though my main issues stem from safety concerns regarding fire, or another international tragedy such as 9/11 – how would they protect it from something like that??? I do believe with your comment though that we really need to look also at funneling growth into other areas. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and comments, I greatly appreciate it!

  • 14. Miguel Quinones  |  October 16, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Sky City is a great concept but it is so ambitious that it will take some years for it to be developed. In my opinion the most valuable aspect of this project is the effort to create a community space, it is time to surrender concrete and glass jungles in favor of more integration with nature.


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