One of the biggest debates among those who study urbanization is exactly what the limits are to density being a good thing. A group of LEGO builders recently finished a model that makes a strong case against urban density run amok.
The eight-person team (Carter Baldwin, Nate Brill, Chris Edwards, Kyle Vreze, Forest King, Ignacio Bernaldez, Sam Wormuth, and Alex Valentino) revealed "Cyber City" at the Brickworld LEGO conference held in Chicago in June. Cyber City was inspired by several cityscapes and buildings, such as Hong Kong's Kowloon Walled City, Milan's Bosco Verticale, and Caracas's Tower of David, as well as Tokyo, Philadelphia, and Milan.
The three-island model, which measures about five feet tall and four by five in surface space, features many of the elements of any modern city: a gas station, a butcher shop, a bar, a hospital, even a public internet access point. But it's also an exercise in density gone haywire.
"The idea is there were old buildings at the bottom and people kept building on top of what was there," says Edwards, one of the builders. He explains that the first level of the model is at the water's edge, and that the street is actually a few levels up.
Brill, another team member, annotated many of his photos on his Flickr page with pretend quotes from the city's characters — what the little yellow residents of this city might say. While imaginary, some of the phrases and issues sound all too familiar, perhaps even a warning to be heeded. As one retired city planner observes, "The boundaries between public and private space here are non-existent."