Just a hypothetical question:

What if a couple of architects, young, were able to draw up plans for a city the size of, say, Dallas TX (metroplex and surrounding vicinity). They are given full support and funding (they're pretty rich themselves) and they oversee the unceasing raising of dozens of mid-sized skyscrapers and surrounding neighborhoods. How long, realistically, would it take for them to build the city and actually see it prosper? Would they be pretty old by the time the city becomes an actual city? 20 years? 50 years?

Basically, if building a city were a designated "project", and not just something that naturally develops over time with increasing population.

Alternatively, how long would it take for them to "gentrify" an existing city, the same size, and modernize it, knock down old buildings and build new ones, etc...?


closed as too broad by sphennings, Lio Elbammalf, Mormacil, Monica Cellio May 4 '17 at 2:53

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi, welcome to worldbuilding. Currently this question is as open ended as the string it may be compared to. Any answers will be "it depends". Do you want a city to go up quickly like the chinese skyscraper or do you want fancy buildings requiring specialist work for sculptures, marble work etc. You also have quite a few questions here, I recommend splitting them up into multiple ones. $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf May 3 '17 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ So, for example, you could ask "What is the shortest time I could build a functional city to house 1 million people" and then, as a second question, link your first one (once you have an answer) and ask "How long would it take a city to 'prosper' given these particular properties of the city?" (though this is still a little hard to nail down). Your question could be put on hold whilst you sort these kinks out (so people are aware you're changing things) and this will give you a chance to make your edits without having people complain about (or down vote) your question. All the best. $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf May 3 '17 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ Not an answer, but: you may be interested in planned cities such as Navi Mumbai; as this sort of concept has happened in our world, to various extents, you can get an idea based on the history of such cities to see how long it took, the growth rate, etc. A more extreme example: Lusail City $\endgroup$ – BrianH May 3 '17 at 22:06
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    $\begingroup$ The question lacks useful constraints: Time to acquire the property, design reviews and zoning hearings, engineering plans and tests, geology and hydrology testing, environmental compliance, etc. Is the workforce infinitely large? Is the budget infinite? Is there any limitation on equipment or construction supplies? What are the architects' leadership and management capabilities? How big an organization are they capable of running well? Without limits, the enormous workforce can start a new skyscraper every day. $\endgroup$ – user535733 May 4 '17 at 1:25
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    $\begingroup$ @adamdesign Just so you know, I had like a two page word document of an answer partially written when it got closed, so by all means ask it again so I can feel like the last 30 minutes have been useful. $\endgroup$ – kingledion May 4 '17 at 2:58

It's not quite the American style city with lots of skyscrapers you are imagining, but I think looking at the development of Milton Keynes should give you some idea.

The area was designated to be a new Garden City in 1967, with a starting population of 52 thousand. In ten years the population hadn't increased all that much but a lot of the infrastructure seems to have been in place (Shopping centre, roads, office buildings, school and concert venue). In 21 years they have just about tripled the original population and filled in some more gaps in the infrastructure (hospital, university etc.).

In 2011 (the last census) the population was just under 250 thousand, so five times the original population in 40 years.

So that should give you a rough idea of timescales.. keep in mind that it took 40 years to reach a population only a quarter of the size of Dallas (and they had a head start). And I imagine building skyscrapers takes a little more time and effort than the kind of housing / offices Milton Keynes has, though it should also be somewhat offset by more modern building techniques which might speed things up a little.

I would guess 50 years is probably far more likely than 20, but 60 - 70 or more is even reasonable to complete a city of that scale from nothing.


Cost depends on the size and design of the city and a thousand other factors. Speed is more a factor of money than anything else. Assuming 1 billion people, I could see costs between 10 and 40 billion depending on design, luxury, and how fast you need it. Even things like storm drainage or earthquake stability can strongly Affect the price.

For comparison consider Brasilia Brazil, Second Cairo in Egypt, and Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad for cities built literally from scratch. I am sure others can give more examples of cities built from scratch.

this article may help you get a hold of the relevant problems with estimating it.

  • $\begingroup$ Another example... Dubai. $\endgroup$ – Pedro Gabriel May 4 '17 at 14:09

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