I am currently designing a megastructure which is supposed to provide living- and workplaces for about 100.000 people. It is supposed to be designed in a way that it provides everything the inhabitants need for everyday life so they rarely if ever need to leave it. While it is not completely self-contained (food and raw materials are imported, various consumer goods and non-recyclable waste are exported), it should basically contain any facilities your would find in an average city with the same population.

The tech level is about 20 years into the future.

The structure is a single, huge building and roughly box-shaped. About half of it is under ground. I want to design it in three horizontal layers:

  1. a residential layer where people live
  2. a commercial layer with shops, recreational, cultural, medical and other public facilities
  3. an industrial layer where offices, storage, light industry and heavy industry (some of it handling hazardous material and/or producing toxic waste and fumes) are located.

Now I wonder if I should put the industrial layer under ground and the residential layer above ground, or the other way around. Which would be the more logical choice regarding safety, logistics, statics and quality of living?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ You are looking for a arcology, you should search that term. I don't think, that this strong seperation in layers makes sence. 1. People don't want to walk far for daily routine. 2. Long ways mean higher transportation effort and also more jams. Some things should be centralised and seperatet, like noisy heavy industry and their power supply but others should not. $\endgroup$
    – jawo
    Nov 14, 2014 at 13:40

3 Answers 3


Offices, storage, light industries and heavy industries have different requirements.

Offices are best located in the commercial zone. They need to be near to restaurants and bars. A good amount of clerks can not function without a coffee in the morning.

Short term storage should be placed in the best comunicated areas, so near your main internal roads/tubes/elevators. Long term storage should be placed in the cheapest place, so in the most noisy and unhealthly places, that is, near the heavy industries.

Light industries mainly need manpower and communication, so like the offices, but in slightly cheaper zones.

Heavy industries in the lower levels. They are heavy also in weight, and water expensive (and water itself flows downwards). Fumes may be evacuated through vertical channels up to the roof, or transformed catalitically into something non-toxic and reusable. This way, excess heat from the heavy industries may also bring calefaction or even energy to the rest of the megastructure, as well as industry itself may use geothermal energy.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'd actually suggest that coffee houses need to be near the offices rather than the other way around. If workers don't get their coffee they get cranky - if coffee shops don't get their clerks they go bankrupt! $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Nov 14, 2014 at 13:35

Well, sounds like a veritable city within a tower to me. Let's think about how some cities are structured:

  • Residential areas and civilian commercial areas tend to coincide, giving the people a convenient place to go shopping. As such, I would probably want to see any shopping centres spread relatively evenly throughout the structure, easily accessible to the residents. HOWEVER...
  • If you have incredibly efficient transportation systems, it might be better to have all of the residential areas together, perhaps separating by class if you so desire (high-end, high-up?) and having the commercial areas mostly together as well. This would give people the ability to do a lot of shopping all at once. That being said, some things (convenience or grocery stores, pharmacies or doctor's offices) should perhaps be placed in more convenient locations, based on your discretion, O Great Architect of the Future.
  • More industrial-focused commercial places may be in the industrial area themselves. The city I live in (technically the next city over) has an industrial park, and I believe a lot of other cities do as well. This will probably tend to be away from the main population, preventing some annoying noise and pollution, and offer the better scenic views to the people.
  • What's scenic in a tower? Higher floors, typically. Where would I want to put industry? Underground! Only issue is that there can be some dangers with that if toxic fumes are an output. What I might do, in fact, is spread the industry out underground AND have a large tower base where they can be "underground" but still have easy access to open air ventilation when required.

For some inspiration, you could look at a few of the real super towers of today, such as the Burj Khalifa, or any other building on this convenient list.

Summary: In my non-expert opinion (I am not a civil engineer, nor any kind of architect) I would place residential, and commercial if you mix them, areas at the top with major commercial areas placed near the lower-middle and bottom floors, and industry directly below that, aiming for the loudest industry at the bottom, ensuring that anything that needs excellent ventilation has it by being able to open themselves up to the air. If you can build the industrial areas extra-wide, that could help as well.


I love what you are trying to achieve, but I think sticking to three well defined separate horizontal layers for Residential, Commerce and Industry is a mistake.

For starters, Commerce require far less space than Residential - one shop can support several hundred of people, but one home can only support a handful of people. This would mean that you would end up with vast areas of unused buildings on the Commerce layer, or the Commerce layer would be significantly smaller than the Residential layer.

Look at how cities develop. Traditionally cities used to have one commercial center, surrounded by residential zones and industrial zones usually occupying areas along rivers or major trade routes. Cities designed more recently have gone for a more distributed arrangement, with several commercial zones spread about, interlinked by residential and industrial areas.

Placing industrial areas next to natural resources like rivers and transportation routes makes a lot more sense than an arbitrary single layer of industry. Personally I would develop this Arcology with this in mind - where is it built, what surrounds its, where are the major transportation routes - and then build your mega-structure around this. First add the heavy industry, and then commercial zones and lighter industry, and finally fill the rest of the mega-structure with residential areas (which I would imagine to require at least 50% of your available space). I would create an Arcology with a slightly more scattered approach than just three well defined layers.

However if you want to stick to the three layers concept, I'd put the industry on the bottom layer, as it will be closer to major transportation, any mines and resources, any water etc etc. Smoke and fumes are far easier to vent in a different direction than it would be to bring these resources up to a higher layer.


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