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In my space-fantasy WIP I intend to make heavy use of Arcologies. But I don't have any real information on their layout or the "plumbing". Leading here me to look for answers.

  1. What are some likely shapes that an Arcology would be built in.
  2. What would be the internal layout and arrangement of the communities. the Image that keeps coming to my mind are residential "blocks" connected to one another and central hubs. Like the spokes around a wheel.
  3. What would the "bowels of an Arcology be like. would it to badly strain plausibility for them to be "Absurdly Spacious". Dungeon crawls are essential parts of many stories and games.
  4. How cost effective are arcologies vs cities. one of the possible usages that I have for them is as a tool of planetary colonization. just land a prebuilt arcology on a world and a lot of the work of setting up a colony is done.
  5. How are property rights handled with in an arcology? Space being leased from the government or corporation that owns the arcology is what I'm seeing. Something akin to stores renting space from a mall.
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  • $\begingroup$ An important point that might not get mentioned in actual answers: Since all the "plumbing" is contained within the internal structure of the arcology, it will be invisible to everyone who doesn't work maintenance. Similar restricted visibility might extend to other things such as logistics or security. Arcologies would be designed to minimize useless interactions and have simple navigation that reduces irrelevant information by matching physical structure to logical connections. In practice this means that you can generally ignore issues of structure and "plumbing" unless story relevant, $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Jun 13 '15 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ I'm probably missing something, but i don't see a question here. $\endgroup$ – newton1212 Jun 14 '15 at 1:16
  • $\begingroup$ Have you read the novel by Niven and Pournelle? $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jun 14 '15 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ Your last question, about property rights, seems different enough from the others to perhaps be its own question instead. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jun 14 '15 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ Something to consider before hand-waving an arcology landing: Landing on a planet isn't easy. I'd suggest something more along the lines of having the arcology orbit the planet and drop a space elevator (or four) that could ferry goods to/from the surface, instead of trying to land an entire structure. $\endgroup$ – thanby Jun 15 '15 at 15:52
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1. What are some likely shapes that an Arcology would be built in.

I would assume that towers of some kind are the most effective structures if using the surrounding land is something the builders/designers don't want. Low-gravity worlds can afford higher structures. A society with a strong affinity for quadrilaterals might build a giant cube or set of cubes. You could draw inspiration from real Earth skyscrapers. Remember that skyscrapers/tall arcologies must have foundations a deep as a significant ratio of the height. (This should give plenty of space to explore for question 3.)

2. What would be the internal layout and arrangement of the communities. The image that keeps coming to my mind are residential "blocks" connected to one another and central hubs. Like the spokes around a wheel.

This would be dependent on the exterior structure of the arcology though with a sufficiently large interior, you can organize the interior however you like. Reading up on city layouts in the context of Cities:Skylines may give you some ideas about how to adapt the structure to the needs of your story.

3. What would the "bowels of an Arcology be like. would it to badly strain plausibility for them to be "Absurdly Spacious". Dungeon crawls are essential parts of many stories and games.

Absurdly spacious is a good description for it. Infrastructure to support all those people would be distributed throughout the structure with large tunnels to connect them all. For example, if the powerplant for a community block goes goes offline for maintenance, then you'll want to get power from other plants. Designers would put in the same kind of redundancy for sewage, water, air, cargo transport, and human transport.

As a way to generate the dungeons you wanted, the arcology would have been built with large empty spaces for future adaptation and for structure reasons (hollow tubes are stronger than rods). Over time, new powerplants, sewage treatment, living spaces, etc would be constructed in the empty spaces and the older infrastructure taken offline and abandoned because of the cost of extraction/repurposing/lack of time. "Things" could move into those abandoned spaces and tunnels.

4. How cost effective are arcologies vs cities. one of the possible usages that I have for them is as a tool of planetary colonization. just land a prebuilt arcology on a world and a lot of the work of setting up a colony is done.

I think arcologies are crazy effective compared to cities. Note in this map that the densest population centers are also the highest economic powerhouses? New York is 469 mi^2, 8.4 million people and an economic output between 1.0 and 1.4 trillion dollars. Economies of scale kick in the denser you can pack people in. A well managed arcology with a population of double New York City could easily create as much economic output, perhaps much more. (Not an economist so I can't give you any numbers to go by.)

Your civilization is going to be pretty advanced to build something that large in the first place and crazy crazy advanced to land a gigaton or teraton sized structure in the gravity well of a planet. You have to respect the surface area to volume ratio.

5. How are property rights handled with in an arcology? Space being leased from the government or corporation that owns the arcology is what I'm seeing. Something akin to stores renting space from a mall.

Your suggestion about how to divvy up space in the arcology seems reasonable to me. The rent/ownership system in Europe and the US is several centuries old and has held up well. I think that's a reasonable model to work with.

6. How does the economy work in an arcology?

Currently, my favorite book on income inequality and the distribution of capital is Capitalism in the 21st Century.

Additional Reading on super-large buildings to house billions of people. How this author goes about "designing" a building to house all 7.3 billion people on earth might serve as a good model for when you design your arcologies.

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  • $\begingroup$ The density is even greater than you suggest. If I remember correctly, the Hexahedron arcology could house the entire population of Manhattan Island but would take up the surface area of the Bronx. All of NYC could be a park with historic buildings scattered about surrounded by 5 or 6 Hexahedrons. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jun 16 '15 at 0:02
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The basics of arcology theory is outlined by Paolo Soleri in his book Arcology: The city in the image of Man (http://www.amazon.com/Arcology-The-City-Image-Man/dp/1883340012).

Arcologies come in all shapes and sizes (Soleri designed small "village" sized arcologies to mile high visions like the "Hexahedron" and "Arcube"), but all follow several general principles:

The arcology is a self contained economic and ecological unit

Recycling of water and materials takes place within the arcology

Everything within the arcology is within a short distance of the inhabitants because of the 3D architecture. With large structures like the Hexahedron, this would be done by making modular "neighbourhoods" stacked together, so most basic goods and services would be within walking distance of a person inside the neighbourhood.

The arcology has limited impact on the surrounding environment. (once again a bit of a non sequitur; a mountain sized Hexahedron or Arcube would cast a giant shadow across the land and potentially have impact on local winds. Soleri seems to have meant that the arcology would not be using vast tracts of land for farming and housing or transportation).

From an engineering perspective, to build larger version of arcologies would be very difficult, and people in the interior would be cut off from sunlight and air, so many arcologies are depicted as being open structures with large atriums and air and light wells into the interior. This sort of honeycomb structure would also be much lighter and structurally stronger as well.

Soleri was only the first person to develop and popularize the idea, looking at the internet you can find many examples of this idea developed by other architects and visionaries, such as Old Man River City, by Buckminister Fuller, Masdar City in the UAE or NOAH (New Orleans Arcology Habitat), designed by E. Kevin Schopfer.

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  • $\begingroup$ "The basics of arcology theory is outlined by Paolo Soleri in his book Arcology: The city in the image of Man" Yes, but how do those work? All I ever got from that text was rambling purple prose philosophizing. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Nov 7 '18 at 15:30
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What are some likely shapes that an Arcology would be built in.

In space? Almost any shape. What matters are things like the need for defense (or lack thereof) how much interaction with ships docking, and how gravity is generated. If gravity is only generated by centripetal forces then these cities are likely to be large cylinders, a soup can that could possibly have a 1 (or more) thick skin.

What would be the internal layout and arrangement of the communities.

My understanding of these is the vast majority of the populace generally are going to live close to their place of work. 'Homes' would be arranged together and many small 'convenience' stores would be located among them.

What would the "bowels of an Arcology be like.

While I could see them going for miles of twisted tunnels and bundles of wires and pipes traveling to and from destinations, 'spacious' is not likely something that could describe them. People like space and will steel as much from the utilities that they can. Even more, if they have small robots that can fit in tight places and fix issues, the 'tunnels' will get even smaller.

How cost effective are arcologies vs cities. one of the possible usages that I have for them is as a tool of planetary colonization. just land a pre-built arcology on a world and a lot of the work of setting up a colony is done.

This would likely be very cost effective if you have the tech to land the arcology on the surface safely. otherwise you are making a huge role of the die for an all or none survival. But since the arcologies are designed to be self sustaining, you increase the chances of a colonies success by having a complete human ecosystem in one place. Though I'd expect the colony would start by sending one or two smaller arcologies down and wait and see how things go, with backup in space to help or at least record any issues that could happen.

How are property rights handled with in an arcology? Space being leased from the government or corporation that owns the arcology is what I'm seeing. Something akin to stores renting space from a mall.

I would guess that the 'rent' might be something as simple as performing tasks that need to be done, so your 'job' might be a street sweeper or a doctor, and it covers you home space and a food ration, and extra credits (how much depending on the job) that one can spend how they see fit on personal items and entertainment.

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  • $\begingroup$ The Longshoreman of the Apocalypse story arc in the Schlock Mercenary universe is a perfect example of the "long soup can". $\endgroup$ – Green Jun 16 '15 at 2:37
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Regarding the third question:

Consider what happens when a water main bursts in a conventional city. Earthmovers dig it up, trucks bring new pipes, finally a steam roller comes and the tarmac is repaired. In the arcology, much of that has to happen indoors. If you have large utilities, you need equally large access spaces.

There could be pedestrian corridors over the utility trunks with removable floor plates, or larger utility tunnels. You can have your dungeon crawl.

Regarding the fourth question:

For planetary colonization, much depends on the environment. On a very earthlike world, space won't be an issue and neither is protection -- you can drop each individual hut or cabin where you need it. The farmer lives near the fields, the miner lives near the mines. Things look different if you need radiation protection, pressure seals, air recycling. In that case the single unit might make sense. (Or a few relatively large units, if not one.)

Regarding the fifth question:

A problem with everybody being tenants is that there is no long-term certainty. Would you invest much into a commercial enterprise if it doesn't have an assured location? There are lease contracts running for a long time, even transferable/inheritable. Also consider a condominium.

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