New cities in the sand: inside Egypts dream to conquer the desert

Four decades ago Egypt embarked on the most ambitious new cities building programme in the world. Their boom shows no sign of stopping Seen from space, Africa. This week Guardian Cities meets the 90-year-olds who built the Bulgarian city of Dimitrovgrad after the second world war (many still live there) and visits the bizarre Bahria Town development promising Karachi residents protection from terror attacks and violent crime. We look at Hong Kongs plan to build artificial islands for 1.1 million people and examine Egypts dream to conquer the Sahara. We remember past visions of future cities and ask, is there ever a good reason to start a city from scratch? Nick Van Mead Was this helpful? Thank you for your …

Which is the world’s most vertical city?

You might think of Hong Kong, given its famous skyscraper skyline, but by different measures of verticality other cities come out on top Looking out from sky100, Hong Kongs highest observation deck on the 100th floor of the citys tallest building, the 494-metre-high International Commerce Centre, you get a 360-degree view of one of the worlds most famous skylines an urban jungle framed by mountains and the gleaming Victoria harbour, with endless clusters of high-rise buildings packed so closely together they resemble a game of Tetris. Its little wonder a city of such visible density has more skyscrapers than anywhere else in the world. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), Hong Kong has 355 buildings …

Lets Build a Global Skyscraper Network to Save the Planet

When New York City passed an aggressive set of greenhouse-gas-limiting laws in April, the buzz was, rightly, about the ambition of America’s biggest city putting a lid on its climate-changing ways. New York state has picked up the banner, too, putting into law this week a downslope to zero carbon emissions by 2050—the only other state to have a goal like that on the books is (you can guess) California. The Oregon legislature is dancing with the idea, too, assuming the governor can coax back to the capitol all the Republican legislators who are literally hiding so they don’t have to vote. Arguably the most interesting part of the New York City package isn’t the cap. It’s the trade—or, rather, …

The skyscraper infinity pool sorry, but where’s the diving board?

It is meant to be a boundary-busting punch for the sky. But this design for a rooftop London pool is just another high-rise ego gimmick In 1924, swimming pool designerno apparent means of escape, as if the digital people are in some kind of sublime prison cell for the super rich. We are assured there is in fact a way in and out, courtesy of a rotating spiral staircase which rises from the pool floor, and that this is an entirely buildable proposition that includes an inbuilt anemometer to vary the water level and access to the pool. Underwater swimming … how the pool could look Photograph: Compass Pools The designer, Alex Kemsley, said, the building started life as a …

Unbuilt Tokyo: ‘depthscrapers’ and a million-person pyramid

Had the creators of the underground skyscraper had their way, the Japanese capital might have looked very different indeed Protected by cylindrical walls of reinforced concrete, the steel and glass depthscrapers extend hundreds of metres underground. Only a single floor of each inverted 35-storey skyscraper is visible at ground level. Giant mirrors mounted directly above the central wells reflect sunlight to the apartments below. Prismatic glass ensures even light throughout the day, while fresh, conditioned air is pumped down from the surface. The whole structure, in case of an earthquake, will vibrate together, resisting any crushing strain, declared a 1931 edition of Everyday Science and Mechanics that called the design the product of the best engineering brains of Japan. The …

IM Pei: an audacious daredevil who built the impossible

From his provocative Louvre pyramid to his inverted wedge for Dallas, the Chinese-American architect was too modern for his time but his angular marvels look perfect now So bold were IM Peis designs, they were often regarded as wilfully controversial, designed to shock. But Pei himself never saw it like that. He was possibly the last living link to such founders of modernism as Bauhaus stalwarts Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, all of whom he met. He carried their torch, abiding by their principles and adding flourishes of his own usually too many for the general public. To those modernist foundations of proportion, simplicity, geometry, Pei added audacious angles and structural daring. The result is a body of work that …

Goodbye to Gomorrah: the end of Italy’s most notorious housing estate

Famous as the setting for the hit Italian film and TV series Gomorrah, the towers of Le Vele became synonymous with poverty and organised crime until residents took charge When I think of my life in Le Vele, my skin crawls with rage, says Omero Benfenati. He looks out from a dark, narrow passageway framed by suspended steel stairways that block the natural light and lead up to abandoned apartments. Most of the windows are bricked up, and liquid leaks from split pipes on to the sewage and refuse-strewn asphalt several storeys below. We used to play down there, says Benfenati, now a housing activist. The uncollected rubbish bags make ideal goalposts for five-a-side football. Just a few years ago, …

Sterile or stirring? Britain’s love-hate relationship with new towns

Paternalistic social engineering or make-Britain-great-again utopianism? A new archive film compilation takes a look at the UKs controversial postwar towns People sometimes say to me, You must get a terrific kick out of having been responsible for a huge thing like a new town, said Sir Frederick Gibberd in an interview in 1982, 35 years after he created the new town of Harlow. Well, I get a lot of misery out of it, in fact. I go around and think, My god, thats unbelievably bad, and it could have been so good. If that was what the designer thought, imagine how everyone else who moved to Harlow felt. The interview comes in a short film at the end of Stevenage, …