It’s a building, it’s a city, it’s a “super building”

Imagine leaving your apartment one Friday morning to get in some shopping at the mall before your doctor’s appointment at the local hospital. Then, you decide to take a long stroll on your favorite nature trail through the park with plenty of time to pick up the kids from school. Later, with the kids and their friends in tow, you take public transit to the movie theater to celebrate the start of the weekend. After your busy afternoon, you drop off the kids’ friends at their apartments and you head home to tuck your children into bed.

Now, imagine you did all that without ever stepping foot outside your building. The year is 2050 and you live in a “super building.”

Like today’s major cities, super buildings will consist of millions of inhabitants and their own infrastructure with shopping, recreation, medical facilities, theaters, schools and even parks. The major difference is that the entire “vertical city” will be concentrated under one roof within a single massive structure. Super buildings could stretch miles into the sky and consume entire city blocks. They could recycle their own water and generate more energy than they consume. Sound like something straight out of the Jetsons or Interstellar? Maybe. But the truth is that super buildings could be closer to becoming a reality than you think because there are developers and architects among us who believe these enormous structures may be our best option for dealing with the rapid demographic and environmental changes that are affecting our planet.

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The sky’s the limit for maglev elevators

With the official public opening of the One World Observatory at One World Trade Center in New York City scheduled for Friday, we got to thinking about elevators …

In 1853 at the New York World’s Fair at New York’s Crystal Palace, a 40-year-old American inventor and businessman named Elisha Otis stood on a hoisting platform high above a crowd of spectators anxiously awaiting his presentation. Otis’s next move would be a death-defying feat that would literally change city skylines forever.

Elisha Graves Otis shows his first elevator in the Crystal Palace, New York City, 1853. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Elisha Graves Otis shows his first elevator in the Crystal Palace, New York City, 1853. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Like a magician, Otis astonished the crowd by ordering an axman to cut the only rope that was suspending the platform on which he was standing. The platform fell just a few inches and then froze still, as if suspended in midair. “All safe, gentlemen,” he emphatically exclaimed as people applauded loudly. Otis had successfully demonstrated how his revolutionary new elevator safety brake could prevent an elevator from falling to the Earth if the hoisting cable unexpectedly broke. His ingenious creation allowed for the debut of passenger elevators and safer travel inside multi-floored buildings, but just as importantly it pushed the boundaries of architecture into the blue and paved the way for the construction of modern skyscrapers and cities.

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