John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
This architectural concept sounds like something from Under the Dome.
You know China and India have environmental image problems when people give up on fixing their dismal air quality and instead suggest living like the Bubble Boy in hermetic, climate-controlled complexes.
That's the innovative and somewhat troublesome vision of international architecture firm Orproject, which proposes dotting cities in the developing world with green spaces containing filtered air. The "Bubbles Biodiversity Parks," as the recently awarded idea is called, isn't exactly original; back in the 1960s, Buckminster Fuller dreamed of enclosing Midtown Manhattan with a pollution-fighting, 2 mile-wide hemisphere. The project proved impractical, but the folks at Orproject assert today's technology could support smaller, more lightweight greenhouses—sort of like happier versions of the dreadful structure in Under the Dome.
Here's their idyllic pitch:
The geometry of the light-weight structural system has been generated using an algorithm which simulates the development of veins in leaves or butterfly wings. The heating and cooling of the air is done through a ground source heat exchange system. Electricity for the project can be generated by solar cells integrated into the canopy surface.
Botanical Gardens have been built in many world cities. They are attractions for tourists and recreational facilities for the inhabitants of the city. Both children and adults can experience nature and learn about the plants of the park. Inside the green houses, the temperature and humidity are controlled throughout the year, which allows the growth of plants from any climate. The plants and landscapes from all over the world can be placed inside the Bubbles project.
People reside not in the parks but in nearby apartments hooked up to the complex's air-scrubbing system. That's just one of the dicey things about this idea. It's easy to see how the hoi polloi choking on dirty air outside might come to resent, and perhaps have conflicts with, the clean-breathing Domespeople. Another: This proposal doesn't address the root cause of the pollution, such as coal-fired power plants—though to be fair, maybe it's not an architect's job to handle such things.
Behold, the beautiful bubbles: