We will migrate into the sky

[Image: Courtesy of Studio Lindfors].

For a recent design competition called What if New York City…, architects and city planners were asked:

What if New York City were hit by a Category 3 hurricane? What if the most densely residential city in the country loses hundreds of thousands of homes in a few hours? What if millions are left with nowhere to live, to work, or to go to school? What if subways flood, streets close, and whole neighborhoods are submerged by up to 23 feet of ocean water and battered by 130 mile-per-hour winds? What if New Yorkers need a place to live during years of reconstruction?

Local architects Studio Lindfors offered a weirdly hilarious answer to these questions in the form of habitable blimps.
Welcome to Cloud City.

[Images: Courtesy of Studio Lindfors; maybe Will Smith, in I Am Legend should have lived in one of these things… If so, he might have survived].

“Though perhaps an unusual proposal,” we read, “Cloud City is literally an uplifting experience that will allow communities to remain intact as they pull themselves out of the rubble.”
It’s an Archigram-like instant city in the sky:

The homes can be rapidly deployed with minimal site preparation. They are intended to ‘plug in’ to existing utility services, and can be deployed by a team of four workers in roughly an hour. Once airborne, the floating homes allow construction crews below to work unimpeded, speeding up the recovery effort. This in turn reduces cost overruns and unnecessary delays.

The hovering metropolis seems easy enough to construct.

[Images: Courtesy of Studio Lindfors].

As the architects themselves explain, the blimps are a kind of emergency city, held in reserve:

Inflatable homes would be pre-fabricated and stored in warehouses for deployment as required. Each home consists of three basic components: an inflatable bladder, a rigid core, and a metal and wood platform. The bladder would consist of two compartments, filled with pressurized helium (which is non-combustible). The pressurized gas would give shape to the tailored and stitched fabric shell, creating an open living space within. Made from recycled polyester fabric, the balloon has a large surface area suitable for mounting of flexible solar panels for generating electricity. Within this living space is a rigid core which contains an efficient kitchenette and bathroom, along with plumbing and electrical services. The 300sf living space is open, and can be configured in many ways, with up to three bedroom spaces suitable for a family of four.

However, a part of me thinks there’s no real reason to wait until disaster strikes; we could simply migrate into the sky. Renewing ourselves – becoming literally airborne – in a vertical migration that evacuates the earth.
Let’s say you’re from Kansas City. You haven’t been home in two decades. You don’t get along with your family anymore and, well: you just don’t want to go back. But then a special occasion comes up and you book a flight home.
The whole city has been replaced with blimps.

[Image: Courtesy of Studio Lindfors].

You hadn’t heard about this. Somehow your newspaper just didn’t pick it up – the transition was so slow that no one noticed – or you simply missed that article, but, either way, you’re stunned. Everyone is up in the sky.
There are no streets. You see your dad – in fact, he sees you – waving down from a well-tethered terrace. He’s barbecuing something and drinking Diet Coke. No one pays property tax, just a small tethering fee. They grow their gardens on secondary platforms that drift around like balloons in a parade. Only one falling death has been reported in the last two years.
The blimps themselves are bulletproof.
They are suburbs in the sky.

[Image: Courtesy of Studio Lindfors].

In any case, read more about the project at Studio Lindfors’s site – and don’t miss the other competition entries, some of which are also worth posting.

29 thoughts on “We will migrate into the sky”

  1. totally unrelated– i’ve been thinking a lot about LEDs lately. Do you know if an interactive LED wall has ever been used in a building facade.. a storefront perhaps? imagine walking by a store and having your image projected at 2x life size on a lo-res LED wall.

    check out this video for reference

  2. uh….how do you get down? I mean, i can see a rope ladder or something working, but after a disaster there would probably be a fair amount of people in no condition to climb.

  3. i’d go stir-crazy. and the movement between ground and blimp might be problematic.. how would one move around once on the ground? “nobody pays property taxes” YEAH RIGHT!

    but nonetheless this is a really novel idea and i like it. probably better than FEMA trailers for certain situations.

  4. I was wondering the same thing. According to the competition website:

    “The inflatable structures are rapidly deployable over a variety of terrain, accessed by lowering the home via a hand cranked winch.”

    I suppose there would have to be a winch both on the ground and on the balloon, right?

  5. Looks like fun.

    I was just thinking the other day that we should bring the blimps back. The Hindenburg gave them all bad name. They were so comfortable and luxurious and slow. Let’s bring back the blimps.

  6. I’m with “porkbarrel”,
    how ironic an idea to send people up to the sky in little blimps hours after a massive hurricane with nothing but a couple of stays and a winch holding them in-place!

    But novel none the less.

  7. ummm… property taxes pay for schools along with local and state government (police fire, fire departments, sewrage and waste disposal, etc). even if everyone lived in the sky we would still have to pay some form of tax for these services.

    also, just because everyone lives in blimps doesn’t mean that roads won’t be necessary if you live in a blimp miles from where you work, you’ll still have to drive there.

    i’m actually from the gulf coast. in the wake of katrina, the entire coast has been turned into a (fema) trailer park. all this would be is a blimp trailer park.

    trailer parks aren’t great places to live. this post reminds me of the movie “The Long, Long Trailer” from the 50s in which trailer homes are portrayed as convenient homes of the future.

  8. Are we not currently in the midst of what some might describe as a helium shortage? This seems like a great idea, but it seems analogous to a boat without water…

  9. Where are the catwalks running between the baloons?

    I wanna see some infrastructure, like those little Ewak bridges in the forest planet on Empire Strikes Back.

    With pathways in place, can some of these baloons be bodegas or hot dog stands? Would not want to climb down a latter to buy a pepsi and skittles at 2am.

    I also would like to see these painted, maybe some in foe-stone or vinyl house cladding?

  10. I can’t believe I’m the first to mention the great Donald Barthelme short story “The Balloon.” Go read it now, all of you.

  11. It killed me that the majority of other solutions posted as ‘winners’ failed to notice that the city would be “submerged by up to 23′ of ocean water”.

    Many of the winners used trucks to transport structures to the sites.

    Uh… Semis don’t do so well in floods, I am guessing.

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