These 8 Hidden Underground Cities Are Groundbreaking (Literally)
What goes up must come down. At least, that’s true as far as cities are concerned. Following the news that super-cities are continuing to expand in size—and predictions that two-thirds of the world’s population will be city-dwellers by 2050—urban centers that are short on space are starting to turn their attention underground.
From subterranean parks and malls to inverted skyscrapers and tunnel-bound farms, these hidden underground cities and urban projects are going to have us doing some serious spelunking in the future.
London’s Growing Underground gardens bring produce back to its subterranean roots. Image courtesy of Growing Underground.
1. GROWING UNDERGROUND, LONDON:
A farm without sunlight? It sounds like an impossible idea. But Growing Underground—a hydroponic, vertical, pesticide-free farm—is proving otherwise. Located in an old war bunker in London (and created in partnership with Michel Roux, Jr., one of the city’s top chefs), the farm provides a model for a very promising way of using subterranean space…and cuts typical farm-water usage by 70%, too.
Mexico City’s BNKR Arquitectura goes deep with its plunging “earthscraper” design. Image courtesy of BNKR Arquitectura.
2. EARTHSCRAPER, MEXICO CITY:
If skyscrapers soar towards the heavens, then earthscrapers, well, plunge towards the earth’s core. BNKR Arquitectura’s striking, Mexico City-based concept envisions a pyramid-shaped construction that stretches a full 65 stories below the Earth’s surface. Thanks to an open central space, daylight is still part of the bargain. Question: If elevators go underground, should they be called descendevators instead?
New York’s Lower East Side goes, well, lower with the forthcoming Lowline. Image courtesy of The Lowline.
3. THE LOWLINE, NEW YORK:
Hidden underground cities need parks, too. Inspired by the wildly successful High Line, which turned an abandoned elevated railway into a lush public space, the Lowline is a project aimed at giving an unused trolley terminal a makeover. Except this Lower East Side space is well below street-level. The project is currently in the works, with plans to open by 2020. And don’t worry, it won’t feel like a cave, thanks to “remote skylight technology.” (Ooh, fancy.)
When it gets as cold as it does in Montreal, you could build a massive snow fort…or you could build a massive underground metropolis. (Spoiler alert: The city did the latter.) Image courtesy of GPS/Flickr.
4. RÉSO, MONTREAL:
What happens when you live in a city that regularly hits 20 below in the winter? You build underground. Montreal’s “RÉSO”—the largest such subterranean complex in the world—has been in use since the 1960s, and is a model for other cities looking to do some digging. Comprised of multi-level shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, metro stations, and more—all linked by tunnels—it means you can get stuff done minus the frostbite.
With its striking geological features, Helsinki’s underground city truly rocks. Image courtesy of MarkkuMonsuuni/iStock.
5. UNDERGROUND CITY, HELSINKI:
What do a swimming pool, a church, a hockey rink, and a data center have in common? Well, in Helsinki, they’re all underground. The Finnish capital’s underground city includes more than 125 miles of tunnels, as well as plans to continue to expand subterranean public spaces. Thanks to many buildings’ rough, rock-carved walls, the complex is also a pretty awesome architectural landmark.
When you’re in SubTropolis, you may feel like you’re not in Kansas City anymore. (But you are.) Image courtesy of Hunt Midwest.
6. SUBTROPOLIS, KANSAS CITY:
One of the quirkiest underground projects out there, SubTropolis in Kansas City has occupied 1,100 acres of abandoned limestone mines since 1964. More than 1,600 people work in this naturally climate-controlled, rock-carved space every day. And there’s lots to explore. SubTropolis houses everything from cave-aged cheese to car storage space, and an array of small businesses—and even hosts an annual 10k (which, when you finish, you can totally say made you feel “run down”).
Row, row, row your…bike? Yup, Amsterdam’s cycling storage may soon go with the overflow. Image courtesy of SimmiSimons/iStock.
7. UNDERGROUND BIKE PARKING, AMSTERDAM:
File this one under problems that are almost good to have: bike-loving Amsterdam has officially run out of cycle parking spaces. In the short term, that’s not so great (the city has to remove more than 73,000 bicycles from its streets a year). But in the long term, it’s leading to innovative new projects, including plans for underwater bike storage space (and even floating cycle parking islands).
Singapore knows that growing up means building down, as its population scales up (but available land doesn’t). Image courtesy of JTC Corporation.
8. UNDERGROUND SCIENCE CITY, SINGAPORE:
What happens when your city has very limited available land…and is predicted to grow by 1.5 million in the next 15 years? Yup, you guessed it: time to bring out those shovels. Singapore is preparing for a growing population by doubling down on some big new underground construction projects. A proposed science research center would see all the action take place below the surface, while the sprawling Jurong Rock Caverns are now being used as a commercial facility to store liquid hydrocarbons. Many restaurants and shopping malls already extend below ground. Goodbye, crowds; hello, caves.