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 idea was to future-proof Tokyo against the threat of another tremor to rival the 1923 quake, which had devastated and traumatised the city less than a decade earlier.
Like many fantastical projects featured in the popular technology magazines of the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the depthscraper was never likely to become reality. It remains part of unbuilt Tokyo, an alternate city of unrealised plans: some conceptual, some speculative and some derailed by economic or political shocks.
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