2050: Designing our Tomorrow
Editors: Chris Luebkeman (Arup Foresight)
Size: 8.3" x 11.3"
Publisher: Academy Press
Publication Date: August 2015
By Nataly Gattegno + Jason Kelly Johnson, Future Cities Lab
She trudged west through the Embarcadero marshes, beneath the span of the abandoned Bay Bridge, to a high-point out front of the clock tower. In her bag were specimens she needed to deposit in the Theater of Lost Species. If she couldn’t find it among the aqueous ruins of the city’s former edge, she would have to release the little three-eyed creatures back into the bay. In the distance, suspended from the bridge trusses, the immense, glowing fog catching ribbons of the Hydraspan colony gently swayed with the wind. Fog was rolling in this evening and the catenary ribbons were descending quickly to harvest fresh water. This was her home.
After the drought and ensuing conflicts much of California was rendered barren. To the south, the urban sprawl which occupied the former desert regions of the state was largely abandoned. Hydraspan, and other water scavenging enclaves along the coast, began to take form. These days every surface of San Francisco—its roofscapes, facades, streets—were enlisted to capture moisture. The Bay Bridge was now a large scale water catchment and storage machine; fog ribbons harvested water, filtering and storing it in large sacks suspended from the trusses of the rusting bridge. Robotic skypods descended into the Bay as fishing and transportation platforms. Amongst the gigantic trusses a new live-work colony, greenhouse, and parkscape inhabited what used to be traffic-congested roadways. The colony’s globular forms pulsed in a daily ritual of growth and decay.
She observed the fog bank forming over Yerba Buena Island and quickened her step as she waded back through the Hydramax Marshlands. At the end of the Folsom Street pier, which split to form the open air markets of the Hydramax port machines, she paused to take in the scene: flotillas laden with the days catch were coming in for the night and the market bustled with evening shoppers. The glistening fog feathers above slowly reached toward the sky; after a day of harvesting solar energy they ascended to their fog catching position for the evening. The water collected from the atmosphere was being used to supply nutrients to the array of hydroponic gardens and massive fish farms. Machines continuously learned to optimize urban farming technologies to supply the city’s food needs. Robotic farmers tended to the gardens and fish, harvesting food for the markets embedded in the Hydramax, and transporting surplus across the Bay to distant enclaves.
She caught a glimpse of the iridescent green robot tucked away under the bridge, glowing as it searched for new specimens. She had heard that the Theater of Lost Species had recently documented a series of creatures rumored extinct after the sea level rise. She did not want to miss the performance. She followed its tracks, and came upon a small crowd of spectators peering into the attenuated portals of the theater. Looking in she discovered awe-inspiring images of our very recent past, a virtual menagerie of species recently gone extinct; the glowing, beautiful, magnificent victims of our own evolution. The Theater gave her a glimpse into this archive of lost species it had captured, documented and archived in its travels, to which she could gratefully now contribute to.
The performance was breathtaking, albeit tinged with melancholy. She left the Theater as it scanned her offering and began her trek back to the glowing city. It was a transformed city, a reconstituted city, a patchwork of old structures from her childhood and new, synthetic layers pulsing with life. The city had become a sentient machine, glorious, autonomous, and alive.