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Here Now, the 15 Gimmicks of 2013's Cities of the Future

Whether it's for the fame or the fun, there seems to be no end in sight to the world's production of (sometimes literally) high-flying designs for future cities—the kind that have metropolises bobbing in the ocean and algae doing its thing on building edifices. Still, 2013 begot a particularly notable variety of plans for future cities, each of them toting a gimmick waiting to be unleashed into urban orchards and farmscrapers of the centuries afore us. Crawling cities? Sure. Deathstar lookalikes? You betcha. But that's not all. Below, the 15 best hooks of the year—you'd best be brushing up on robotics knowledge right about now.

1. A Wild Wild West steampunk aesthetic. Think: the old-timey mechanical vibe Madrid-based architecture student Manuel Dominguez gave his Very Large Structure (↑). [link]

2. Movement. Another media-bait feature of Dominguez' proposal? It crawls. [link]

3. Underwater balls. Self-sustainability is a given for most cities of the future, but bonus points go to city plans made entirely of half-submerged orbs, as is the case with the Sub-Biosphere 2 (↑) proposed by futurist Phil Pauley—who, apparently, saw no issue designing a city inspired by an expensive failure of a research experiment. [link]

4. Structural impossibility. Berlin-based architects Agnieszka Preibisz and Peter Sandhaus say their utopian garden city skyscraper will be held up by cables. Even if that was a viable option, it seems like a huge hassle for the sake of a silly, tapered silhouette. [link]

5. Urban orchards. They're another feature of Preibisz and Sandhaus' Green8 plan. [link]

6. Buildings by modern-day starchitects. Foster + Partners, BIG, MVRDV, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill were all brought on to design buildings for Korea's a $28B Yongsan International Business District (a.k.a. "Dream Hub"), spearheaded by everybody's favorite Daniel Libeskind. Spoiler alert: it's probably not going to happen. Still, the renderings (↑) are pretty cool. [link]

7. A crime rate of ZERO. Talk about a daydream. Still, Guatemalan developers think it's possible for Paseo Cayala (↑), an extremely problematic oasis seven miles from Guatemala City. It'll boast private guards patrolling 24-7 and zero pesky urban disturbances like crowds and poverty. [link]

8. An algae façade. According to the architecture and design firm Arup, the edifice of the future (↑) will create biofuel to be used inside. It's just one part of the firm's prediction for buildings of 2050, which will boast "synthetic and highly sensitive nervous systems." [link]

9. Robots. Lots of Robots. Arup's city of the future will be built by robots, which will also replace modular units as needed. [link]

10. "Building membranes." Arup's renderings include an edifice mesh that converts carbon dioxide to oxygen. [link]

11. Rock cairns and "farmscrapers." Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut, the mastermind behind such sensible ideas as giant meandering lily pad cities, is all about awesome-looking and totally unlikely renderings seemingly inspired by an afternoon traipse through his backyard. His Asian Cairns "farmscrapers" most definitely look like a precarious pile of river rocks, but they're actually—little did anybody know—"monolithic pebbles superimposed on each other along a vertical central boulevard." [link]

12. Piss-poor renderings. OK, fine, so it's not necessarily a gimmick, but it's still the most unusual feature of Barcelona's planned Mobilona Space Hotel (↑). Considering the hotel aspires to be an "other worldly experience for guests wishing to travel to distant galaxies," that's really saying something. [link]

13. Zero-gravity spa. Unfortunately the Photoshop whiz who spent a whole 10 minutes on Mobilona Space Hotel's renderings did not come up with visuals for this particular amenity. [link]

14. Zero carbon emissions. And hey! This one actually (sort of) exists! Foster + Partners' Masdar City (↑) a grand scheme for the world's first zero-carbon metropolis just outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, broke ground in 2010, but but is not expected to be actually complete until 2025. The whole shebang was designed to run entirely on renewable energy, with an energy grid that moniters the output of every single switch and appliance, as well as a wind tunnel that glows blue when city-dwellers are hitting their goal of using 50 percent less energy than a more traditional urban settlement. [link]

15. Deathstar appeal. As part of eVolo's wackadoo skyscraper contest, China's Santi Musmeci and Sebastiano Maccarrone submitted this city-in-an-orb designed so 4M people have somewhere to live during "earth's regeneration." Sphera: 2150 Megacity includes four distinct levels: factories, research, educational, mixed use, and residential. [link]

· All Metropolis 2.0 posts [Curbed National]
· All Architectural Craziness posts [Curbed National]
· Year in Curbed 2013 [Curbed National]