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The "Ultima" Tower, Two-mile High Sky City
Any densely populated urban environment


Project Owner: None
Location: Any densely populated urban environment
Date: 1991
Cost: $150,000,000,000.00
Population: 1,000,000 people
Exterior surface area of building: 150,000,000 square feet
Enclosed volume: 53,000,000,000 cubic feet
Square footage: 1,500,000,000
Total enclosed acreage: 39,000 acres
Elevator speed: 20 feet per second (13 miles per hour) 9 minutes and 40 seconds to reach the top floor from the ground floor.
Dimensions: Height--10,560 feet; Diameter at the base--6000 feet; Number of stories--500;
Total Square Feet: Approximately 5,000,000 square feet

Why build a two-mile high, one mile wide building? To prevent the uncontrolled blight of the natural landscape by rapacious developers and industry. At current rates the surface of the planet will be nearly totally covered with residential, commercial and apartment dwellings within the coming century. Large structures such as these bring nature upward to preserve the natural surroundings and to add natural surroundings in a controlled environment. This two-mile high, trumpet bell-shaped, tension structure is the most stable and aerodynamic shape ever conceived for a tall structure. Its upper level wall thicknesses are the same as the lower level wall thicknesses unlike other structural systems that are extremely tall. It is like a suspension cable bridge stood on end. There are 120 levels to the structure with great heights at each level. The scale of this stucture is such that the entire central district of Beijing could fit into its base. One must not think in terms of floors but, instead, imagine entire landscaped neighborhood districts with "skies" that are 30 to 50 meters high. Lakes, streams, rivers, hills and ravines comprise the soil landscape on which residential, office, commercial, retail and entertainment buildings can be built.

The concept can be thought of as what would happen if nature grew upwards with multi-soil levels. Of course the structure itself acts like a living organism with its wind and atmospheric energy conversion systems, photovoltaic exterior sheathing, and opening/closing cowl-vent windows that allow natural air into the interior without mechanical intervention. The exterior walls are made of structural glass that conforms to the cris-crossing, double helix, cable strand tension system that disperses all exterior forces along the surface. If wind or earthquake shock waves pushes or disturbs one portion of the structure the other portion absorbs and dissipates the forces. Ecological efficiency is a rule and all areas of the structure feature resource conserving technolgy such as recycled building materials, compost toilets, nature-based water cleansing systems for all buildings, plentiful amounts of forrest, plant life and water-based ecosystems.

In essence, Ultima Tower/Sky City is more an ecosystems design than an architectural habitation design. The structure provides a basis for architectural development upon which architectural diversity can flourish. Sunlight is brought into the center of the structure by means of a hollow, mirrored core that reflects sunlight and disperses it within the structure. This allows for both interior and exterior sunlight to exist in plentiful amounts. The tower sits in a natural setting in a large lake. The lake water is drawn up throughout the structure and used for cooling floors and walls. A portion of this water is heated by large passive solar panels and left to fall by gravity to be used at the various levels. No internal combustion engines or toxic pollutants exist within the confines of the structure. Everything is hydrogen gas, electrical or water powered and all heating cooling is regulated by plants and trees.

Construction Materials: High-strength steel, high-strength concrete, stainless steel, anodized aluminum, acrylic, patina copper, stainless steel cable, self-shading glass, composite ceramics, tempered glass.

Special Features: Atmospheric Thermal Energy Conversion power supplies, built-in windmills, photovoltaic solar cells, hydrogen gas power supplies, self-regulating/self-shading glass, twelve storey-vertical high-speed train system, non-mechanical heating/ventilation and air conditioning system, ground level waterfalls for air cooling and humidity control, aerodynamic cowl window systems, open garden areas on each floor.

Ecological Requirements: To preserve the natural beauty of nature by condensing the areas of living, working environments, commerce and industry into an upwardly directed architectural structure. Multi-storied gardens are to be infused with architectural components. The presence of natural sunlight, fresh air, breeze and panoramic views are to be of primary importance. Ease and quickness of transportation vertically and laterally is crucial. The building must be fireproof, waterproof, able to resist great wind velocities and be extremely earthquake resistant. Wherever possible reduce energy use. Avoid utility costs and the use of mechanical heating and air conditioning.

General Description of Project: While engaged in a contracted study of the San Francisco Bay, its population growth, infrastructure, park areas, transportation corridors, etc., We saw at once the need for preserving what little natural park-like areas there were in such a densely composed area like the San Francisco Bay. Transportation was daily growing further and further beyond its capacity. The expansion of urban neighborhoods in and around cities was blighting the earth with more monotony and ugliness. The earth was being eaten up by the continuous disseminating reach of developers. The outward swelling of developing neighborhoods, industrial "parks", of refineries, factories and commercial "strips" all contributed to an offensive countenance of the area.

Section. South and North Elevation drawings.

This increasing dilation of people and property is devastating to the well-being of our environment and we are supplanting the health of our natural environment for the superficial mediocrity of our built environment. The continuation of this process will inevitably lead to a kind of psychological and spiritual suffocation by destroying the living environment at an alarming rate.

Seeing that urban sprawl shall surely destroy every semblance of our living environment a viable alternative is to go up. That is, to build in such a way as to minimize the "footprint" of our human-made environments and maximize the sense of openness and close proximity to our natural surroundings. Given the technology and know-how we now have in the construction of large,tall structures a building two miles high is not beyond our means.

The trumpet bell shape, modeled after the highest structure created by a creature other than human, the termite's nest structures of Africa, is a most efficient form for its compressive characteristics allow the thickness of the upper supporting walls to be uniform in thickness down through the bottom of the building. No other shape can dispel loads from top to bottom, is effectively aerodynamic and retains such stability in a tall building. The size of its base would completely enclose the entire financial district of San Francisco, approximately 7000 feet across, and contains four of the world's largest waterfalls surrounded by garden terraces. Gardens are situated at all exterior and interior openings. The whole tower could be thought of as an upward extension of the earth with layers of vegetation growing, level by level. All residences have a minimum of 100 feet by 100 feet of property where 50% of the property is covered by natural vegetation.


Large bodies of water are placed at twelve separate levels and serve multiple functions; as fire barriers and fire sprinkler system reservoirs, as recycled water catch basins, as recreational lakes, rivers, waterfalls and streams. Whenever possible whole ecosystems are supported within the building. The building is thought of as a living organism in itself capable of sustaining multitudinal life at many scales. Human beings are an indivisible of this larger life system and are nourished by the presence of other life forms. In this way the best attributes and experiences of nature are brought together to mutually benefit one another physiologically, emotionally and spiritually--a home and work environment unlike any other that has existed in the world.

The building is set in the middle of a lake where the lake acts as a reservoir for fresh water to cool the building. The periphery of the building contains 144 elevators with a vertically stacked train system that stops at 30 floors simultaneously. Vertical propulsion is through compressed air. A new concept in electrical power, Atmospheric Energy Conversion, will be tried. This system utilizes the differences in atmospheric pressure, from the base of the building to it's top, and converts this differential to electrical power. Cooling is based on the African termite nest model where the bottom spaces are cooled with water, in this case waterfalls, the cool air rises and is warmed by bodily activity in the upper floors and exits through different levels of the building. Simultaneously all floors have specially designed windows with aerodynamic wind cowls, so that windows can be opened without having to resist tremendous wind forces. These cowls direct air throughout the interior spaces and act as natural air-conditioners.

A series of reflecting mirrors bring direct sunlight into the interior of the building, so that yards and garden areas are exposed to the sun without the danger of high wind velocities. Tsui Design and Research, Inc., is working on a system of water movement from the base to the top of the building, which is based upon the principle of transpiration and cohesion(as found in tall trees) by producing water pressure at the lower levels. By creating water potential, that is, when a wet and a dry place are joined by a tube of water, the water flows towards the dry area, water can be directed upwards over great distances. The challenge of a very tall building is the transportation of materials from the bottom to top and the maintenance of even levels of temperature, humidity and air pressure. The tree, being nature's tallest example of a living organism, provides the working model for a tall building.

The immense surface area of the building, sheathed with photovoltaic solar cells, provides most of the electrical energy requirements. This power source combined with Atmospheric Energy Conversion and windmill power supplies more than enough power to fulfill the energy requirements of the building. All windows in the building are operable so there is no pressurized, forced-air system used internally. Manually operated windows makes temperature control simple and easy to manipulate. All spaces would have a healthy feeling of cross-circulation and the higher floors have more thinner air than the lower floors--just as it is naturally. Persons who wish to work and live in a higher sea level environment can now do so within the building.

The south-facing side of the building has a strong emphasis on open garden balconies and expansive park areas. At the forest levels biological technology plants use sunlight to break down human waste and compost for recycling back into the soil. The building is like a great expanse of natural land turned upward with ten large forest, lake and stream sanctuaries brought up into the sky.

The tower is surrounded on all sides by a lake. Sandy beaches, stone cliffs, water inlets, grass, trees and rocky islands create a beautiful and majestic setting. Two six-lane bridges carry vehicles to the underground parking with its 20 levels of parking. No internal combustion vehicles can operate on the immediate site of the building. Only electric cars, propane and hydrogen gas vehicles and bicycles can be used by its one million inhabitants. A large marina surrounds the building on the east and west sides. Pedestrian walkways and running/bicycling paths abound through hills and dales, grassy knolls, forests and fields. Beaches are easily accessible from any area and small pedestrian bridgeways connect the main building island with smaller islands and the mainland. Persons can hike 11/2 to 2 miles from the building to the mainland. A four-lane roadway surrounds the lake making spectacular opportunities to view the building from the lake's edge.

All residential neighborhoods are located at the outer and inner edge of the building closest to views panoramic views and/or sunlight. The square footage between the neighborhood zones are reserved for retail or commercial use depending upon location. Internal taxi cab vehicles carry persons from one end of a floor to the other end at the larger diameter lower floor levels. Taxi drivers would be paid by the home and business owners association so that drivers are residents of the building who earn a livelihood from working there.

The shape of the building makes it virtually impossible to be uprooted or structurally disturbed by any kind of calamity. The buildings structure can be thought of as a giant stainless steel net stretched and anchored over a central high-strength concrete hollow core with a double helix configuration. Thus the entire building is in constant tension able to produce an equilibrium of stress and strain forces coming from any direction. Even in a tornado or hurricane the building cannot buckle or become dislodged because of its inherent strength and ability to dissipate pushing and pulling forces. Add to this its superior aerodynamic qualities of wind deflection(compound surfaces in two planes) and you are presented with a building that, for its weight and size, is virtually indestructible. Using this tension cable system the size of the cables and surface sheathing can remain constant--unlike a typical tall building where the ground level thickness of the walls must be big and heavy.

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