In the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire, the initial problem with building a new cityscape is weight, a problem solved, at first, by a steel skeleton. In subsequent years, other methods would develop--mass-tuned dampers, curtain walls, pyramidal shapes, concrete cores, etc.
But nature has given us something far stronger than steel, and this time, I am not talking spider silk.
I am talking about bamboo.
Believe it or not, this overgrown grass, this panda fodder, has some neat superpowers.
Despite its lowly reputation, bamboo may be the strongest stuff on the planet. It has greater tensile strength (or resistance to being pulled apart) than steel, and it withstands compression better than concrete. Both qualities are essential to keeping the plant, which grows to nearly 60 meters but is only as wide at the base as the very top, from falling over. It needs the compression strength to hold up its own weight and tensile strength to bend in the wind without breaking. "Our concept of strength is, it doesn't move, it doesn't break," says Dan Smith, who owns Smith & Fong, the largest manufacturer of bamboo plywood in the United States. "The Chinese concept is, you've got to bend with things. If you don't bend, you break. Bamboo's strength is in its ability to bend, and that's the miracle."
This could be a great alternative to steel. The only problem is that it is a plant, and plants absorb water, and if Life After People teaches something, it's that moisture is a death knell against construction. So maybe a good painting of chromium might help.
With that out of the way, what would a skyscraper with a bamboo skeleton look like in regards to shape and size?