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Node is the last active city of the lizard people. Node was built to be a self-sufficient city and a nexus of an interconnected bunker system. It was a vanity project from the peak of the lizard empire, so they designed Node to be as spacious as possible.

The problem is with the pesky supporting pillars, necessitated by the ~500 m ceiling-floor distance and the fact that the city being bombarded was a possibility. They're obstructive and break the illusion. Since the designers positively and absolutely didn't want their magnum opus to look like something out of Girl's Last Tour, they had to find a solution.

Eyesore

The question is then, just how could they create the illusion of a large, open-space without compromising the pillars' function? I'd normally try to find a solution by creating models in Minecraft, but I deemed that to be too time-consuming.

They have access to any scientifically possible technology (so CNTs, robots, etc..).

However, you can't wrap metamaterial around the pillars to make them invisible, you can't make the pillars invisible, you can't drug/mind-control/indoctrinate the populace into thinking there are no pillars, and neither can you redefine what a pillar is. I won't allow you to do any of these.

Also, lizard people have very similar personalities to humans, meaning that if humans on average find something soul-destroying (mass-produced apartments and concrete), then so do lizard people. Simply put, you can apply "space-saving" tricks here from IRL.

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    $\begingroup$ That looks like Minecraft. Where is that image from? $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 21 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk The link leads to the opening of the anime the picture is from. $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Apr 21 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ Paint them blue. Then they will be almost invisible against the background. $\endgroup$ – Sulthan Apr 22 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ What exactly are the pillars supporting? Is the city underground or did they build the ceiling above their ground-level bunker? $\endgroup$ – Ben Apr 22 at 18:07
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    $\begingroup$ That picture looks a bit like Battersea Power Station. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Apr 23 at 5:30

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Mirrors, greenery, sculpture and waterfalls.

You can’t hide these things. The best you can do is make them more easily ignored or more pleasant to look at.

Mirrors provide the illusion of space and openness in architecture. Fully mirrored surfaces can seem to ‘disappear’ on suitable days, and even if they don’t trick your eye into thinking they’re not there they will trick the eye into thinking there’s more space between the pillars than there is.

Greenery makes humans feel happier, and so I assume it will make your lizards feel happier. Deck out the bases and capitals of the pillars with hanging gardens. You may need artificial lighting.This won’t hide them, but it will make people see them as enhancements rather than obstructions. Plus points if they’re public parks. Everyone loves a nice park.

Waterfalls from high above provide cooling effects and also obscure the pillars (while looking pretty). If your lizard men are cold blooded but also work in warm places they might be glad to have some cooler areas to retreat to at the end of a working day. Use with caution: drainage may be an issue.

Finally you could sculpt on or around the pillars. “You say this is an obstruction? Nay! This is a symbol of the might of the lizard empire, behemoths of stone and glass holding aloft the very sky itself!!” - of course, this very much depends on the aesthetic tastes of the imperial lizard folk, so might not be good long-term. “Jormungandr striking a pose” might not translate well from classical to modern tastes!

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    $\begingroup$ “Jormungandr striking a pose” might translate just fine, like the pyramids in our world. We wouldn't even think of building a new pyramid, but we do like them. $\endgroup$ – Blueriver Apr 23 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Blueriver: But imagine if you had to drive to work every day past the statue of “Axlotl with missing figleaf”... I mean... come on... $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 23 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs : if some modern people would find themselves at such a place, then yes, it could be awkward for them. But if that statue was there since many generations, and you grew up around it, then it would probably seem perfectly normal for you. $\endgroup$ – vsz Apr 24 at 7:03
  • $\begingroup$ @vsz Normal, maybe. Aesthetically pleasing?? Not necessarily. Brutalist architecture was popular once, now generations of people who’ve grown up with it think it’s godawful. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 24 at 7:57
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    $\begingroup$ If the lizards evolved from tree-dwelling lizards, camouflaging the pillars as trees makes sense. They could even double up as residences. A big pillar isn't even a problem: that's now a status symbol! $\endgroup$ – MSalters Apr 24 at 10:35
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Build skyscrapers around them

If you can't hide, camouflage. Turn the pillars into the city's skyline by building a unique looking skyscraper around each pillar.

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    $\begingroup$ Or build skyscrapers in them, make the pillars the "outside" wall of the skyscrapers $\endgroup$ – cypher Apr 22 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ @cypher if they could be made thinner they could just be made smaller instead... Presumably they're already as small as safety tolerances will allow. $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Apr 23 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ @corsiKa: I think a cylindrical shell all the way around a circular building, even if somewhat thinner than one of these columns, will actually be stronger, due to a greater cross-sectional area and greater moments of inertia. $\endgroup$ – ruakh Apr 23 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ @ruakh Well I mean it's a cave, so it already has a cylindrical shell around the perimeter - namely, the cave wall. Since the pillars need to exist, presumably that cave wall is insufficient to hold up the ceiling. $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Apr 23 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ @corsiKa: The pillars aren't needed because the cave wall isn't strong enough; they're needed because the cave ceiling isn't strong enough. (To see this, try holding a Kleenex by its edges and piling stuff onto the center. The Kleenex will break long before it gets too heavy for you. But if you support the Kleenex in the center as well, it can support more weight than if you only supported it at the edges.) $\endgroup$ – ruakh Apr 23 at 21:57
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Catenary arches

Sagrada familia arches

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/1c/82/bd/1c82bdf9a6060f96566a9c00c2349ddf.jpg

The catenary arch is the strongest arch. It has been used to hold up ceilings for centuries. Substitute arches for pillars. This opens up the space between and the space under the curve looks more open.

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    $\begingroup$ The use of Compound piers in Gothic cathedrals makes the massive columns almost look delicate. $\endgroup$ – Dohn Joe Apr 22 at 7:23
  • $\begingroup$ @DohnJoe the Indian example at that link even more so $\endgroup$ – Chris H Apr 23 at 8:03
  • $\begingroup$ Is that the Sagrada Familia? Curious choice, if you want to illustrate catenary arches; when I visited I was struck by how many straight lines there are, compared to other Gaudí works. The columns are straight, their branches are straight. $\endgroup$ – Anton Sherwood Apr 24 at 7:09
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    $\begingroup$ I was going to suggest that, until I read the sentence "potentially being bombarded". Catenary arch is virtually indestructive and needs no pillars... except, well except when broken in even the most insignificant way. The arch is strong due to stone being (virtually) incompressible and supporting (virtually) infinite pressure. None of that is applicable any more if a single brick falls out or breaks apart after being hit by an explosion or a bomb shrapnel. $\endgroup$ – Damon Apr 24 at 9:30
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Your pillars should already be invisible already.

How are they able to see the pillars in the first place? Your under-city should be pitch black. Just don't put lights on the pillars.

If there is enough artificial lights under your city your people can see the pillars, all you need to do is mount low power lights on the pillars so they blend in with the background lights.

Keep in mind you will have some truly massive power needs to actually light your under-city enough to even see the pillars in the first place.

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Place them off-grid

Placing the pillars more organically and not in a grid, covering them with greenery as per other answers, and camouflaging them among trees (nurtured by artificial sunlight) would give the illusion of being in a dense forest rather than underground.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea, but one downside is that organic placement will be less efficient that grid placement - you'll require more pillars overall, but the aesthetic benefit might well be worth it. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Apr 22 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ @nuclearwang I see your point, but I don't think there's anything inherently optimal from a structural engineering perspective about a square grid system, it is just chosen for economical reasons in most human constructions. You could definitely devise a structurally sound grid system which will not be as apparently organised from a visual perspective. $\endgroup$ – Toivo Säwén Apr 22 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ Not necessarily a square grid, but for a ceiling that requires uniform support, there will be some optimal repeating pattern that maximally spaces the pillars. If the pattern isn't uniform, there's some spot where the pillars are closer together than they need to be, which results in needing more pillars overall. However, since we're talking about a cave and not a purely artificially designed structure, the "uniform support" assumption is a bit weak, so organic arrangement could be quite efficient now that I think about it a little more. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Apr 22 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ Architectural food for the debate: a regular grid is easier to build because elements have the same size and can be mass produced, but overall an irregular pattern doesn't need more material to build, but rather more thinking and multiplies different sizes element. The resistance of a building is not really based on the regularity but on the shape of the elements it is composed of: you can build a dome from triangles because they are not deformable, but cannot make one with squares (if it was mathematically possible) or it would collapse (think diamond vs graphite). You are both right in a way $\endgroup$ – Kaddath Apr 22 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs the question implies a large area, so the boundaries can be ignored for the bulk of the city (i.e. the solution will tend towards the infinite solution far from a boundary). Now that I think of it, we actually have a slightly different problem anyway - our circles must overlap, leaving no unsupported areas of ceiling to fall down - the disc covering problem. I can't see a solution for the infinite case, and it's not immediately clear that it will be the same. $\endgroup$ – Chris H Apr 23 at 8:52
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Your biggest problem is that

Smaller pillars will collapse under their own weight

Assume your pillars are made from the surrounding rock, and that for reasons of practicality that rock is sandstone. (Strong in compression, relatively easy to quarry.) In the real world, we have sandstone pillars such as the Old Man of Hoy. That's only 137m, but it's about 10-15m wide. It is one of the largest free-standing pillars in the world, and probably the largest with near-vertical sides. Interestingly, that gives it similar dimensions to the tower of Ulm Minster. Both of these only need to support their own weight, not the weight of any ceiling above them, so any supporting pillar made of stone would necessarily be larger than this. And both these are still only a third as high as your target. Width tends to increase by the square of height, so you could reckon on your pillars being 9 times wider. And they still can't take any extra load yet.

Based on this, we simply can't escape having enormous pillars if we're leaving them in place from the quarried rock. Even reinforced concrete won't give us substantially different performance to solid stone.

The only answer then is

Make the pillars out of something other than rock

Skyscrapers such as the Burj Khalifa certainly exceed this height, and the actual top floor of the Burj Khalifa is about the height of your ceiling. (The rest is just a spire.) Skyscrapers use a steel framework, so your roof pillars could certainly use a similar principle. You could even construct them as skyscrapers, making the pillars somewhat wider but using them as residential/office space to increase the living space available. This would be a logical use of the volume of the cavern, instead of building structures from the cavern floor. Alternatively the pillars could be made smaller than a skyscraper width if all you wanted them for was structural strength.

Conceptually, the volume of the pillars could be reduced further by using more exotic construction materials such as Kevlar or carbon nanotubes. (Maybe the Lizard Empire have technology which we don't have yet.)

As an aside, I find the idea that the population would just live on the cavern floor is boring, unimaginative and frankly also naive and unrealistic. I wouldn't buy into that as a worldbuilding concept, unless we assume a "City of Ember" scenario where the whole place has reverted to semi-barbarism. Living space is about surface area, and there's a lot of surface area up those pillars and inside the pillars. Also up the cavern walls (like humans, lizards will not respond well to fully-enclosed apartments, but apartments looking out over the cavern would be cool and even desirable), and even in the cavern roof. And with three-dimensional living spaces and more advanced technology, we could also assume three-dimensional transport systems, with high-speed cable-cars running between pillars at different heights along a web of transit cables. Build a world which fits the technology and space. Show us something new. Don't just give us yet another copy of 1930s Manhattan underground.

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  • $\begingroup$ Isn’t the maximum height of a cylindrical pillar independent of its diameter? Of course for best performance you’d make it conical. $\endgroup$ – Michael Apr 22 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael Taller pillars will tend to buckle under their own weight. $\endgroup$ – SomeoneSomewhereSupportsMonica Apr 23 at 6:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael Probably not conical since you still want to support the weight of the ceiling above it $\endgroup$ – Muuski Apr 23 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ Buckling will happen to thin pillars, yes, and especially hollow ones. But at 10 meters wide, I don't think stone is flexible enough to buckle. Buckling is the result of a plastic deformation which locally increases pressures to the point of failure $\endgroup$ – MSalters Apr 24 at 11:04
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Option 1: super-large tensile support structures

It may be possible to distribute tension through specially designed structures. If the dome is high enough then the ceiling's weight may be offloaded to side columns.

enter image description here https://www.hisour.com/history-of-modern-period-domes-32124/

But this solution doesn't properly communicate the sheer awesomeness of the Lizard people. Therefore...

Option 2: Put the pillars outside. Inverted. And falling towards the sky.

The Lizard scientists are really, really crafty. They anchored what would eventually be the roof of Node to extremely resilient tethers, and tied these to a captured asteroid placed in orbit - now a ballast to an inverted support system.

As a bonus, they gained a space elevator. Cheap space exploration, anyone?

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ How long would it last against any bombardment? $\endgroup$ – Mephistopheles Apr 22 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles I'm assuming this is a peacetime scenario, but in the case of a wartime scenario you can even set it as a deterrent - "If the tether is destroyed, we'll make sure the ballast lands in your roof." refer to Oppela Mega-Friendship Messenger MKI for more details: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/49237/… $\endgroup$ – OnoSendai Apr 22 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ Only on world building will you find answers saying you should build a space elevator so that the lizard people will have a better view looking out their kitchen window. $\endgroup$ – Muuski Apr 23 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ “What holds up the ceiling?” - “The moon. Why?” $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Apr 24 at 10:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles How long would it last against some fuck with pruning shears $\endgroup$ – You're bad and should feel bad Apr 24 at 11:56
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The pillars have the same electroluminescent coating as the ceiling.

With ordinary paint, the colours would match but the pillars and the generally artificial shape of the sky would be made obvious by the different amounts of light hitting different parts of the pillar/ceiling structure.

But if the paint itself glows evenly all over, then the whole thing looks more like a sky (albeit maybe a cloudless, sunless weird alien twilight sky, probably not the exact colour of a real sky) and the pillars and the shape of the roof are much less obvious.

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Physical Pillar-Replacement Systems:

Dome: A massive arched dome can be constructed in such a way that forces press against each unit of the dome all the way to the ground. Check out Geodesic Domes.

Laser Suspension: If the lizard people have an abundance of energy, they can suspend the dome through laser light.

Magnetic Suspension: Magnets can also be used to exert a force. This will, of course, have significant consequences on electronics and magnetic applications. But it is possible.

Biological Systems (my favorite): You're working with lizard people. So do some homework on lizards and learn all about them. Lizards don't see or think like humans. Lizards are highly visual communicators and can often see in the UV spectrum. (see article here)

Thermal Cloaking If the lizard people are much like snakes and not lizards, the pillars could emit low levels of infrared and mask their appearance.

Pillars as Lizard Communication Devices Lizards are far more visual than auditory/olfactory (like humans). They would likely have large, tall, visible communication methods. The lizards in my backyard get on top of my fence or even roof and fan their colorful dewlaps to threaten males, attract the ladies, and defense.

It seems reasonable that the lizards would use these tall places to communicate.

Moreover, if the lizards have any visitors, they may make their pillars (or perhaps only certain pillars) communicate in the UV spectrum to allow private or lizard-people-only communication. Humans may even bring translator devices to see these messages.

Build Vertically: Lizards in real-life use three dimensions to get around. They aren't afraid to get high up or low down. You may want to build your city up so, even in an hierarchical way.

Camouflaging Systems: As mentioned in other answers, mirrors, greenery, carvings, and other artwork can work. We use look-alike trees to mask cell towers. A similar system could be used, but mimicking other natural sights (giant stalactites, for instance).

Environmental Means: The roof of the cave could be obscured through heavy steam or smoke. The obfuscating gas could be natural or artificial. The pillars could be camouflaged or utilized as previously mentioned, but their tops could be obscured.

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    $\begingroup$ Excellent. Slightly dubious about the humongous ammounts of laser energy needed, but it should work fine and vapourise any unwanted visiting bats. $\endgroup$ – Tantalus' touch. Apr 22 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Anewnormal. Yeah that one is a bit far-fetched. If you had lasers powerful to exert that kind of physical force, they'd also be producing a monstrous amount of heat, and you'd likely just blast holes through the ceiling rather than propping it up. Unless those ceilings are made from some ridiculously durable fictional material, because I don't think any known modern material could withstand that much energy without vaporizing. (Laser sails are another story, but those only work in the friction-less vacuum of space. Also only theoretical so far.) $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Apr 22 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ With our current understanding of light and materials, it would be possible if we could convert laser energy perfectly into mechanical energy (or near-perfectly) and have a massive amount of energy at our disposal and have perfectly reflective surfaces at the top. OR, an understanding of physics beyond where we're at. We can move objects with lasers now, we can even cool objects with lasers. If we're talking about a septillion tesla (total guess) magnet for levitation, I'm sure we can have a mechanical-energy-converting laser system, too. If that's technology the world-builder wants to employ. $\endgroup$ – Tallima Apr 22 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ The thing about using lasers to support the roof is that there is no mechanical work being done on the ceiling, because the point of the lasers is to make sure the roof does not move. This means that, if the lasers are doing their job properly, every single joule put into the lasers is either converted into heat (by the photons heating things up) or doing mechanical work by throwing about all the objects in your city (by reflecting off the roof and hitting things on the ground). Either scenario results in utter destruction. $\endgroup$ – BBeast Apr 23 at 7:09
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    $\begingroup$ You could use massive optical cavities as your pillars, which would recycle the photons, but optical cavities aren't 100% efficient, especially if you don't put them inside big vacuum tubes which would look like pillars and defeat the whole point. $\endgroup$ – BBeast Apr 23 at 7:11
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Since it's an artificial environment anyway, scrap the open-sky motif. Make the ceiling of your warren resemble the canopy of a forest, with the pillars positioned and designed as the trunks of great trees. You could even expand your city that way by giving the pillars 'branches' that provide a multi-level cityscape.

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If it's possible (and I assume it might be, considering the Lizards are able to make such grand feats of engineering), I would suggest quantum levitation with superconductors. I'm no scientist, but the basic gist of it is that if you super-cool superconductors and put them over magnets, they can be suspended in the air. This way, you would be able to substitute pillars with gigantic magnets holding up the ceiling. You'd have to clear the area the magnets are placed for safety reasons, but other than that, you have a very open space, and no pillars! Here's a video of quantum levitation in action:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws6AAhTw7RA Just scale this up a million times, and there you have it!

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    $\begingroup$ I'm no expert, but some other challenges with this technology would be A) gathering an absurd quantity of magnets that can keep a ceiling supported with superconductors from collapsing WITHOUT interfering with other electronic technologies in the cave and B) keeping the superconductors cool. The technology absolutely depends on the superconductors being extremely cold to work, and you're going to need a lot of liquid nitrogen to cool it all. Then again, if your lizard people are technologically capable enough to build Moria-sized caves, you might just be able to mumbo-jumbo your way past it. $\endgroup$ – KaiGuyMBK Apr 22 at 3:33
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    $\begingroup$ Another option! You could have pillars that reach halfway up to the ceiling, then slap magnets on that, thereby decreasing the distance between the magnets and superconductors! $\endgroup$ – KaiGuyMBK Apr 22 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ Unless you used room-temperature superconductors… $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Apr 23 at 15:02
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Use a single, giant pillar in the middle of the city

Something vaguely similar to Midgar from Final Fantasy VII. Remove the grid-placed individual pillars. The single pillar could then be crafted into an appealing shape (arched at the top and bottom), and could be made into a tower block to house Node city hall and high end apartments for the rich lizards. The exterior could be covered with foliage (grow lights would be needed for living plants), faux green grass/ plants (no need for water or lighting), or textured brown cladding to make it look like a tree trunk. It would need to have a large diameter, which in this case is a good thing.

This would depend on how big the "roof" is, of course. If it's more of an oblong shaped canopy, you might need two large central supporting trunk/ tower blocks.

What are the pillars supporting? If it's an above-ground city or something with considerable weight, there may be a need for pillars along the edges as extra support, which could also be crafted into tower blocks. These could then be crafted in the same way as the central pillar (albeit on a smaller scale); arched shape, nature-themed exterior foliage or faux trunk cladding. They could also contain smaller suburban apartments. Steel support beams could then run from the main trunk to the smaller trunks around the edges.

This would then give the aesthetics of natural-looking structures, the usefulness of residentail and office space, and would leave large open spaces. It would also be less susceptible to bombardment than the original design as there would be fewer supporting targets to hit.

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Lattice structures

The only reason columns need to be thick is to avoid buckling. Many small struts keep each other from buckling while letting light through. This helps them blend into the background, especially at a distance. Astoria-Megler Bridge https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Astoria-Megler-Bridge.jpg

Lattice structures declined in popularity during the 20th century, because increasingly large industrial equipment made monolithic structures more economical.

Guy wires

Only one vertical member of a lattice structure absolutely needs to be in compression. The rest could be replaced by wires anchored to the ground (or ceiling). Guyed "Delta" transmission tower (a combination of guyed "V" and "Y") in Nevada. https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Guyed_Delta_Transmission_Tower.jpg

Tensegrity structure

If guy wires to the ground and ceiling are unacceptable, then a pattern of wires and compression members can form a column. It’s easier to show than explain: Needle Tower II (1969) by Kenneth Snelson in Sculpture Garden at Kröller-Müller Museum/The Netherlands https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KrollerMuller_ParkSculpture4.jpg

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  • $\begingroup$ None of these examples are bearing much weight. Do you have any that do? For example, supporting a bridge? $\endgroup$ – Muuski Apr 23 at 17:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Muuski replaced examples with more top-heavy structures. Realistically, tensegrity isn’t practical. $\endgroup$ – Spencer Joplin Apr 23 at 17:56
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Build them into the landscape.
Even lizards can appreciate beauty.

Pillars? What Pillars?

Gardens by the bay, Singapore:

enter image description here

Obfuscation with mirrors need not just be to mask vertical lines

Also Singapore Gardens by the bay

enter image description here

Add walkways, roadways, cycle ways, residences, facilities, gardens.

Guess where

enter image description here

Architectural features

Mosque, Brunei

enter image description here

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Make them invisible

Just make the pillars invisible. It's possible in reality, so your civilization should be able too.

https://futurism.com/the-byte/watch-invisibility-cloak-military-use

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    $\begingroup$ aah,, OP stated that "you can't make the pillars invisible".. So this maybe is not the answer you are searching for, but it is still possible $\endgroup$ – Julian Egner Apr 22 at 15:27
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Don't!

The mistake here is thinking that an underground city will look like a city. It will probably have several types of areas.

In the living/working/shopping areas, what you actually want to do is have buildings the size of skyscrapers, but horizontally. In these, you probably want to follow the mall layout: no large unobstructed views at all. In this case, structural supports are wherever and whatever they need to be, and nobody even realizes they are there. Tramways and elevators deal with moving longer distances.

The recreation areas... These are domes, sculpted to look natural. Here, you want to hide supports, or make the dome small enough that it has no interior supports. Different domes may specialize: a forest, a meadow, a set of soccer fields, a playground, etc.

The food growth areas... Probably resemble large greenhouses, using artificial lighting and maybe some hydroponics. They need to be designed to get harvesting equipment in and out. You harvest every single day, somewhere in the complex. They are probably located in the outskirts, or spotted through the complex.

Manufacturing areas... would probably be either a large chamber or a series of smaller chambers, with good connections to the transportation system.

Resource management areas (water storage, waste reprocessing, mining, etc...)... Except for the reservoirs, these would probably be larger areas with lots of supports, and lots of activity sorting, composting, or whatever. The water reservoirs would be large dark tanks, being carefully monitored to ensure nothing goes wrong.

I'm sure I've forgotten a few areas...

This type of design also means that a catastrophic failure only takes out a small part of your city.

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What pillars? Those are sacred giant redwood trees. Hey! Stop trying to count the rings. Didn’t I tell you they’re sacred? No you can’t climb them either. Do I need to report you?

enter image description here

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How about the beauty of natural underground caverns? enter image description here

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Turn them into an architectural feature, a point of attraction. They might be all the same, or each one might be unique, or they might be different types.

Some might contain level upon level of balconies or viewing platforms.

Some might be indoor waterfalls, fish or other fauna optional.

Some might be vertical gardens covered in lush vegetation of different types.

Some might be giant galleries for lizardfolk artworks

Some might be religious, with giant sculptures of deities or other suitable beings.

Some might be memorials, catacombed with thousands fo resting places for revered lizardpeople

...basically, each one can be a different type of tourist attraction. The rest of it is just the dully boring space between the interesting pillars.

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Maybe make a domed city, with the dome being carved out of solid rock instead of built up out of smaller pieces.

A vast domed space could be cared out of solid rock under a mountain and possibly a very strong geodesic dome might be built under it to catch any falling rocks and to make the false sky look hemispherical instead of the probably taller parabolic shape of the outer dome.

I don't know how large the city is intended to be. If the buildings in it are multi storied then it can have larger population in a smaller area than an ancient or medieval city could.

My answer here: How can I prevent the invention of skyscrapers?1

Involves entire neighborhoods in buildings thousands of meters wide but less than 100 meters or 328 feet tall. Without that height limit requirement from that question those buildings could be built several times taller and thus could contain larger populations.

Of course with such buildings the occupants would not see the fake sky except when they went onto the roofs of the mega buildings. But using such mega buildings the city could be much narrower than a single story city with the same population. And of course the city could contain many domes hollowed out of the mountains and connected by tunnels.

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Big natural stone pillars in an open space holding up a massive ceiling are beautiful in their own right:

https://www.bonneterremine.com/gallery

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I would suspect any pillars of an underground city would be used as building space.

That way, rather than being in the way, they are put to good use.

In order to do this, the structural design of the pillars needs to be made to be hollowed out into a complex of many pillars and struts (i.e. a trellis structure) and have additional structural support for building inside and outside of them.

Thinking as the engineer to build such a structure I would build their core from the stone the city is carved from, and reinforce it with a variety of materials including concrete plaster, metal, fiber-based materials.

The aesthetics architect in may says that these should look like skyscrapers that go all the way to the top with arches branching out at the top like a forest canopy to widen their support on the roof. They would be covered with lights every so many floors of the floors with markets, shops and offices that never close due to no fixed day/night cycle and people rotating their sleep schedule for maximum efficiency. This would create brilliant lighted trunks all through the sky that are an addition not a detraction like the pillars of a cathedral.

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