This question is based on my recent exposure to the "Vertical City" proposition.

If the familiar metropolitan cities, like New York, Chicago and so on, grew upward rather than outward, what advantages would a vertical city built in the 1880s-1940s have over the cities we have on our timeline?

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    $\begingroup$ Vertical growth has some pretty hard engineering limits, how are those being bypassed in this scenario? $\endgroup$ Aug 23 '15 at 20:34

This is past your time limit, but the idea of Arcologies (popularized by Paolo Soleri in his book: Arcology: City in the Image of Man) is for a very dense 3 dimensional construction where people are close to each other and all the goods and services they would want or need.

For earlier periods, vertical cities would have some disadvantages, including difficulty in accessing the vertical aspects of the cities (immature elevator technology), crowded streets and issues with parking and utility services (a lot of energy would be needed to pump water to the upper floors, and "grey" and "black" water racing down the pipes would have some interesting effects downstream. As well, food and other goods and services would have to be passed through crowded streets, and wastes passed back the same way. electrical infrastructure and heat in the form of coal or oil fired furnaces would also be hard pressed to keep up.

The "advantages" of this scenario would be that major engineering challenges would have to be met, so things like pumps and urban infrastructure would be refined to a much higher pitch earlier in history than we saw. As well, urban planning would take on a different cast, as much of the urgency would be to solve the problems of moving large amounts of goods in and out of the city as efficiently as possible. Different patterns of road building, more mass transit and train transport and even elevated and subterranean transport arteries would all be part of city building and planning. Mass communications would also be advanced in order to service the huge audiences framed into small areas.

This would also have changes in social and political institutions, perhaps making the rise of "mass political movements" like Fascism come earlier, since maipulating large groups of people would be much easier in urban settings with late 19th and early 20th century technology.

Since we see that in the "real world" people are not entirely keen on living this sort of lifestyle, we should also expect to see an outflow of people from the "vertical" city and towards outlying small towns or prototype suburbs (which began to develop in the 1930's, much at the same time that "vertical" technology was also maturing; an interesting coincidence).

So like everything else, "vertical" cities could be good (like some of Frank Lloyd Wrights visions) or bad (much like the city in the movie "Metropolis").

  • $\begingroup$ "people are nbot entirely keen on living this sort of lifestyle" requires some research, i think. From what i see, the cities and metropolitan areas around the world are growing. A majority of people pushes ointo the cities, while only minoriies want to move out. There are also those who are being forced to live in suburbs due to rising taxes in the cities, but that works against your hypothesis, not for it. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Aug 24 '15 at 6:57
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure about your jurisdiction, but living in the suburbs is quite "taxing" in terms of both direct and indirect costs. In the 1930's, suburbs did start growing around city cores, and the process has accelerated ever since. The United States seems to have taken it to the next level of "exurbs", essentially city sized conglomerations without actual "cores" or often distinct municipal governments and identities. You are talking more about 2nd and 3rd world megacities, or highly constrained urban centres like Tokyo, where suburbs are not feasible. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Aug 24 '15 at 22:04
  • $\begingroup$ Well, actually i was talking about germany and switzerland ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Aug 25 '15 at 1:05

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