Future Timber City

Del Norte County, CA, United States  |  2022-23

See the Final Presentations 2022-23


Overall view of a proposed future timber city, "Mycelium Myriad" by Katarzyna Wodzisz and William Manzanilla, designed with the inspiration of many types of fungi,
using not only their appearance, but their functions in nature.

The year is 2070 and, after six decades of attempting to adapt cities to cope with “natural” disasters of increasing frequency and severity in the face of accelerating climate change, humanity has come to accept a simple truth: that the continued viability of our cities is now governed by the inherent sustainability of their location, rather than the increasingly desperate attempt to superimpose more resilient infrastructure on existing urban centers, which typified urban development in the first half of the 21st century. Current cities have largely become soulless and undemocratic; vertical but homogenized physically and culturally; and reel from one climate-change-induced disaster to another.

At the onset of 2070, then, our continued survival on this planet relies on the creation and inhabitation of new, ultra-dense, “megacities” (each with upwards of 100 million people), that limit the impact on the land and maximize their sustainable symbiosis with both location and resources. As we stand on the cusp of the world’s largest forced urban migration, with 9.7 billion people scheduled to move into these new megacities over the next 50 years, the United Nations has established a task force (of which you are a part!), whose mission it is to consider the most appropriate locations for these megacities, and what they might become in physical, urban, social, political, economic, infrastructural and human terms. The very survival of humanity on this planet is dependent on the outcome.

The above scenario was the basis for this collaborative design studio undertaken by IIT College of Architecture with assistance from the CTBUH, in the Masters of Tall Buildings and Vertical Urbanism (MTBVU) program. Students were tasked to design a future city of 10 million inhabitants, built out of timber to the greatest extent possible, as a response to contemporary and future pressures of climate change, rapid population growth and massive urbanization. In semester one, students began with research projects to explore the key viable solutions for the future city in 2070 and beyond (e.g., specific city location; urban densities and organizing principles; urban functions and sizing; forests and trees; energy generation and storage; food production; water; waste; urban transportation systems; and use of mass timber) and integrated the research findings into their design scheme. They continued progressing the design scheme during semester two, developing the urban vision in more detail, and advancing the design of a cluster of tall buildings within the vision to a more detailed level. This phase took into consideration technical aspects of the studio project, on which the students worked in parallel with external experts from CTBUH member companies, in a MTBVU course entitled “Tall Building Technologies”, as part of the curriculum.