Created By: VandalHeartXJanuary 27, 2013 Last Edited By: VandalHeartXJanuary 30, 2013
Troped

Arcology

Self-sufficient mega building. Architecture + ecology = arcology.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Arcology , n.: a concept in which the ideal city is a massive vertical structure, which preserves more of the natural environment, a concept combining architecture and ecology as envisioned by Paolo Soleri
Etymology: arc(hitecture) + (ec)ology

Arcology is the arcitectural discipline described in the page quote. An arcology is the result of said discipline, and is a thing with the following three attributes:

The Analysis page for this article describes in depth the core design philosophy of the arcology, as well as some possible "Outside the Box" variations, but if you don't want to navigate away, here you go: Imagine a skyscraper. Every five or so floors, there is an entire floor dedicated to the inner workings of the floors above it. This is called a deck. The deck level houses all power lines, plumbing mains and anything else that needs to work properly for life to be livable with all the modern conveniences. Now make the city cover the ground area of a small city or a large town and realize that the decks number in the triple digits. There's the ideal description in a nutshell.

The name of the game here is self-sufficiency. The second attribute above links to the Closed Circle page because the materials required to keep the systems of the building cannot leave. These processes include food production, waste recycling and environmental refinement (air conditioning and such). People can, in theory, come and go as they please, but the idea is that they don't need to leave. It's worth mentioning that some of the truly huge mega cities in fiction are made up of "arcoplexes," or residentially, commercially, or industrially specialized arcologies that link to each other to create a unified, futuristic ecosystem. After some application of Fridge Logic, City Planet settings almost have to qualify as arcoplexes, otherwise they wouldn't funciton.

This trope tends towards either extreme hard or soft sci-fi, since the full explanation is pretty complex. It's either going to be explained in detail, or it's going to be handwaved. Because we don't currently have the technology required to make an arcology work in the real world, a fully functional arcology in fiction requires some Applied Phlebotinum until Technology Marches On comes into effect. Arcologies appear most often in speculative fiction that tend toward the cynical end of the spectrum, since they are essentially futuristic paradises with a bit of science to back up their justified existence and functionality, and Utopia never holds up under scrutiny. They often appear in video games set After The End or Twenty Minutes Into The Future, Cyber Punk stories, and most often feature heavily in stories that rely on an environmental or class warfare aesop.

Because they are so insular and answer all of humanity's material needs, arcologies are a great setting for a Wretched Hive masquerading as a Shining City, if not just playing the Layered Metropolis disgustingly straight. If the arcology is actually a Shining City, and a sympathetic character hails from it, expect it to look like a Doomed Hometown eventually. Broken arcologies tend to be the breeding ground for all sorts of nasties, too, since they are no longer fit for human habitation, there's a chance at least some of the sustenance systems still work, and there are at least millions of hiding places.

If the arcology has space engines, it's a Generation Ship. Shares blurred lines with the Mega City, which need only be huge, but sometimes an example of one is an example of both, especially the arcoplex variation. Contrast Hub City, which offers everything you need but a place to call home. Citadel Cities that also qualify as arcologies function extremely well under seige conditions, since dwindling supplies are no longer an issue. Compare and contrast with Layered Metropolis, City On The Water, City In A Bottle, Elaborate Underground Base, Skyscraper City, and Domed Hometown. Even though most of the tropes above are sub-tropes of the Mega City, technically the Arcology is not, since one can exist inside a city without actually being one, itself, even though it usually works out that way. Lastly, see Shining City, which is what an arcology is trying to be from an ecological standpoint, whether it succeeds or not.


Examples:

Film
  • In Dredd, the 2012 film adaptation of Judge Dredd, most of the action takes place in perhaps the best visual representation of a residential arcology in an arcoplex so far. Even the car chase opening through the streets of Mega City One shows multiple levels of automotive arteries all over the city, which is a hallmark of the arcoplex concept.

Literature
  • All evidence points towards the Trope Maker being HG Wells, as the structures that stand where the cities used to be in his story The Sleeper Awakes are the earliest description of what would eventually be labelled arcologies.
  • Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Oath of Fealty. The arcology of Todos Santos is located just outside Los Angeles and has a somewhat hostile relationship with the city.
  • Larry Niven and Steven Barnes' The California Voodoo Game. The title Dream Park game takes place inside the MIMIC (Meacham Incorporated Mojave Industrial Community), which was built during the 1990's. It was so badly damaged by The Quake that it had to be abandoned. It was later acquired by Dream Park and used as the basis for the Barsoom Project - the terraforming of Mars.
  • Strength Of Stones, by Greg Bear, is set After The End in a depopulated world where mobile arcologies roam the land, looking for their former inhabitants (who are actually all around, living in squalor, but the arcologies don't recognize them anymore).
  • In James Blish's Cities In Flight series, cheap and easy anti-gravity and faster-than-light technology leads to most of Earth's major cities converting themselves to arcologies and setting off for the stars.
  • The 3 km-tall "urban monads" in Robert Silverberg's The World Inside that house 800,000 people each were inspired by Paolo Soleri's earliest elucidations of the concept.
  • In the web novel series Anachronauts, arcologies figure into several key plot points, especially Una's hometown experiences growing up in Arcology #BE12.
  • The Nights Dawn Trilogy by Peter F Hamilton describes futuristic Earth cities that are explicitly referred to as arcologies. Considering the detail and scientific realism of the series, the descriptions of the cities' inner workings is pretty much spot-on.
  • William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land (1912) has an early version of this in The Great Redoubt (more than 7 miles high, holds millions of people) and The Lesser Redoubt (more than a mile high). They're both sealed off from the outside world by necessity and are completely self-sufficient.

Live-Action TV

Music
  • In Paul Kantner's science fiction concept album, Blows Against the Empire, the Generation Ship which is hijacked by a rag-tag band of hippies is an arcology:
    Hydroponic gardens and forests Glistening with lakes in the Jupiter starlight.

Radio
  • Tales From The Afternow is a warning from the future about how civilization eventually migrated to the arcologies to escape the toxic wasteland resulting from nuclear war. The arcologies certainly fit the Wretched Hive masqueading as Shining City descriptor.

Tabletop Games
  • Shadowrun offers several examples:
    • The Renraku Arcology, owned by the Renraku Corporation. You have to be an employee to live there, but they'll happily take your money in one of the multiple megamalls located within. Of course, this was before the Deus Est Machina took over, locked everyone inside, and started running grisly experiments on the inhabitants.
    • German megacorporation Prometheus has built a few Arcoblocks in the middle of the contaminated North Sea for unknown purposes.
    • There some floating arcologies scattered across the Pacific.
  • Cthulhu Tech arcologies are all over the place, but most of them aren't described in much detail. They are a necessity, though, since the local Starfish Aliens and the multiple Religion Of Evil cults roaming the countryside have essentially made small towns tantamount to suicide. One common feature, however, is that New Earth Government arcologies are highly defensible fortresses.
  • Classic Traveller, Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society issue 15. In the article "Azun", the title planet has a population of 26 billion, which has forced them to put most of the population in arcologies.
  • Warhammer40000's infamous Hive Worlds are covered with thousands of Arcologies.

Video Games

Web Original
  • Underground Crushed Underground follows the story of an underground arcology [[note]] known as a geocity, or a geofront, if you don't like thinking about crappy 90's free hosting websites [[/note]] that is dystopian through and through.

Real Life
  • The Trope Namer is Italian architect Paolo Soleri, a forerunner of the ecological movement and architect of "Arcosanti," the first attempt at a functional, definitive arcology. He created the portmanteau word for the concept behind his eventual goal, and after 40 years, it has had varying degrees of success. By this point, it's a combination tourist attraction, education center, and oddity outside of Phoenix, Arizona. For more information on Soleri, check That Other Wiki for information here.
  • Legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright proposed an early version called Broadacre City. His plan described transportation, agriculture, and commerce systems that would support an economy. Critics said that Wright's solution failed to account for population growth, and assumed a more rigid democracy than the U.S. actually has.
Community Feedback Replies: 56
  • January 28, 2013
    Arivne
    As a general rule, we don't italicize or bold face the work type headings in example lists. So it would be Literature, not Literature.

    We also don't divide examples into "Type 1", "Type A" and so on (see Type Labels Are Not Examples) because it causes tropers writing examples to say things like "Half of Cairo in the Deus Ex universe is a Type 1 arcology". Instead, use a descriptive name such as the ones you have following the "Type 0, Type 1" (etc.) above.

    And some examples.

    Literature
    • Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Oath of Fealty. The arcology of Todos Santos is located just outside Los Angeles and has a somewhat hostile relationship with the city. It's a Green Metropolis and City of Tomorrow type.
    • Larry Niven and Steven Barnes' The California Voodoo Game. The title Dream Park game takes place inside the MIMIC (Meacham Incorporated Mojave Industrial Community), which was built during the 1990's. It was so badly damaged by The Quake that it had to be abandoned. It was later acquired by Dream Park and used as the basis for the Barsoom Project - the terraforming of Mars.

    Tabletop Games
    • Classic Traveller, Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society issue 15. In the article "Azun", the title planet has a population of 26 billion, which has forced them to put most of the population in arcologies. They are of the Green Metropolis and The Lonely City types.
  • January 28, 2013
    Chernoskill
    About the Shadowrun example:

    The name is not "Deus" but rather "Renraku Arcology", Deus is just the advanced A.I. that becomes self-aware and proceeds to shut off the building from the outside world while conducting a series of strange and grisly experiments inside. Also, before Deus took control, the arcology was partly open to people not affiliated with Renraku as well, for example certain shopping malls inside.

    Shadowrun has also lots of other Arcologies, German megacorporation Prometheus has built a few Arcoblocks in the middle of the contaminated North Sea for unknown purposes, and there are also some floating ones in the Pacific.

    • In Sim City 2000, the player can built different types of Arcologies late in the game. The upper part of the best model can take off and fly into space to plant the seeds of a new civilization in another star system.
  • January 28, 2013
    DRCEQ
    ^ Pothole Sim City for that link.

    It is worth mentioning that among the other types of arcologies in that game, one of them is said to feature Non-Euclidean Geometry inside and that a sub-species of human has developed in it's dark inner depths and corridors.
  • January 28, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Link corrected, thanks.
  • January 28, 2013
    StarSword
    Video Games:
    • In EV Nova the Auroran capital planets each have at least one large arcology of (probably) type 0-A where their inhabitants live, due largely to the planet itself being too polluted to support life anymore.
  • January 28, 2013
    Shnakepup
    Literature
    • Strength Of Stones, by Greg Bear, is set After The End in a depopulated world where mobile arcologies roam the land, looking for their former inhabitants (who are actually all around, living in squalor, but the arcologies don't recognize them anymore).
  • January 28, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Yeah, I was afraid that the type classifications would be a problem. I'll fix that later. It's just going to take an almost full rewrite. Ugh.

    DRCEQ, Chernoskill, could you write a unified example for Sim City? I just want to avoid talking about games I don't play. I mean, look at Shadowrun...
  • January 28, 2013
    Koveras
    ignore
  • January 28, 2013
    Unknown Troper
    Okay, I made some minor edits, removing the "type tags," but I'm still not happy with it. I'll see if I can devote some time to rewriting in a few hours.

    ignoring
  • January 28, 2013
    McKathlin
    Likely to have the Domed Hometown look.
  • January 28, 2013
    DRCEQ
    I'll dig out the S C2k game manual when I get home and expand on the four different kinds.
  • January 28, 2013
    TrustBen
    I think another name would be better, as the meaning of "arcology" isn't exactly intuitive.
  • January 28, 2013
    Chernoskill
    "Self-sufficient contained habitat" might be another word for Arcology, but I really think that the word is pretty well-known.

    "RCEQ, Chernoskill, could you write a unified example for Sim City? I just want to avoid talking about games I don't play. I mean, look at Shadowrun... "

    I'm not sure which SC games besides 2000 have Arcologies, so maybe someone with more experience could chime in? :) All I know is that the best one hold 250,000 citizens and doesn't need any services, water, or power.
  • January 28, 2013
    StarSword
  • January 28, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Yeah, that would be an arcology.

    I think the problem we keep running into with the name is that it's a seldom used word, but I don't know how to make it any clearer that it is, in fact, a real word that I'm not making up. The term is over 40 years old, and the concept is well over 100. Any suggestions on how to avoid repeated arguments of "I don't like the name"?

    OKAY, so, I tore out the entire types sections and rewrote pretty much the whole middle. The only variation that really bares mentioning is the arcoplex, and I rewrote that, too. I took care of the examples list to reflect the changes. Still Needs More Examples, though.

    Also, I added the example from Dredd, and I highly recommend it for the visual representation of what an arcology actually looks like and how it would most likley function.
  • January 28, 2013
    Xtifr
    Literature:

    • In James Blish's Cities in Flight series, cheap and easy anti-gravity and faster-than-light technology leads to most of Earth's major cities converting themselves to arcologies and setting off for the stars.

    Music:
    • In Paul Kantner's science fiction concept album, Blows Against the Empire, the Generation Ship which is hijacked by a rag-tag band of hippies is an arcology:
      Hydroponic gardens and forests
      Glistening with lakes in the Jupiter starlight.
  • January 28, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^It's a preexisting term and a perfectly good title in my book.
  • January 28, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    I agree. We shouldn't have to come up with another name for something that already has a name, just because only a few people have heard the word.
  • January 28, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Also, I'm looking at the Sim City Wiki page, and the only thing one of the arcologies that has a description is the Launch Arcos. I'd like an explanation on the other three before I add the example.
  • January 28, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Added the dictionary.com definition. Now, somebody tell me how to remove the "Better Name" tag.
  • January 28, 2013
    Chernoskill
    I have read quite some Cyberpunk literature but I can't remember any Arcologies in the Sprawl Trilogy, Hardwired, Snowcrash and When Gravity Falls... There HAS to be something somewhere in there. Anyone got any ideas? :)

    The wikipedia article says that Count Zero depicts one.

    This is the relevant part about Sim City 2000:

    Will Wright's computer game Sim City 2000 allows the construction of four different types of arcologies. More primitive models hold quite a few people in exchange for producing considerable pollution, but later models are denser and cleaner. When 301 of the most advanced model, the "Launch Arco," are built, an "exodus sequence" starts in which all Launch Arcos blast into space. This parallels parts of Soleri's book, in which hyperstructures were shown as being appropriate for environments in space, under the sea, in polar lands, etc.
  • January 28, 2013
    captainpat
    This is a really long descriptions. I'd recommend shortening it and moving the cut info to the Analysis tab when it's launched.
  • January 28, 2013
    DRCEQ
    Ok, a proper example for Sim City. Please note that the following descriptions are mostly copypasta of the actual descriptions, with a little bit of more informal text added in by me.

    • SimCity 2000 features 4 different types of arcologies, each one invented 50 years after the last.
      • The Plymouth Arco. Plymouth Arcologies are designed primarily to support heavy industries, as visually demonstrated by the sewage and pollution literally oozing down the grungy outer walls of it's obelisk-like design. Combined with the giant television screen built at the base, this arcology has a distinct 80's dystopian cyberpunk theme going for it.
      • Going in the complete opposite direction from it's predecessor, the Forest Arcology is a series of habitat rings built on top of each other, and is named for its attractive forest setting on the top level. Unlike the polluting Plymouth Arcology, the forest arco is completely green and environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, the youth of Forest Arcos are bored silly and roam out into your city where they stare mindlessly at soap operas and sports programs displayed in the electronics department at local malls. Almost all of the residents are filthy tree-hugging hippies.
      • The Darco - slang for "De-Urbanized Arcological Construct". Originally designed by a twisted genius artist/architect who proclaimed it a reactionary response to the rigid, archetypal Arcologies of his day. No one really knows what that means, and many engineers are frankly baffled at how the thing stays standing. Inside, the ill-lit corridors twist into odd, meandering corkscrews that mysteriously turn back on themselves. Non-Euclidean would be the best way to describe it. There are rumors that a strange sub-species of man inhabits the air ducts. The Darco can attract up to 45,000 brave souls.
      • "Launch" Arcologies are nicknamed for their intentional resemblance to modern orbital launchers. Sophisticated methods of biological support are necessary to oxygenate and feed the thousands of inhabitants. While never tested, the manufacturers claim the occupants could stay self-contained for up to two decades. A small nuclear facility independently powers the building; spare energy is stored by electrolyzing water into two tanks for oxygen and hydrogen. Build 450 of these in your city and the Exodus will occur. All of the launch arcos will explode, demolishing themselves while a message appears on your screen: "Your launch arcos have departed into space to find new worlds. You have been compensated for the construction." Note: building 450 of them will take up roughly 90% of your entire city's area, meaning you will need to destroy most of what you've already built just to compensate them.
  • January 28, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    ^ I was afraid someone was going to say that. I'm considering doing another rewrite to cut down on the problem. I'll see what the next few hours hold.
  • January 28, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    And I'm going to copypasta that myself. If someone wants to pare it down later, that's on them. I don't like compacting examples, but that's just me.
  • January 28, 2013
    DRCEQ
    yeah I'll trim it down, don't worry.
  • January 28, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Okay, I Lied. I didn't just copypasta. I added links. I can't control myself sometimes.
  • January 28, 2013
    DRCEQ
    I trimmed up my example a bit so it's not as wordy.
  • January 28, 2013
    DanielCase
    Literature: The 3 km-tall "urban monads" in Robert Silverberg's The World Inside that house 800,000 people each were inspired by Paolo Soleri's earliest elucidations of the concept.
  • January 28, 2013
    zarpaulus
    Compare also Layered Metropolis, City On The Water...

    Tabletop Games

    Video Games
    • A possible industrial tech in Sword Of The Stars that increases the population capacity of colonies.
  • January 29, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Are the Hive World really made up of arcologies? I wouldn't think the Imperium would give two squirts about ecology.
  • January 29, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Then again, they're concerned with survival... okay, that makes sense.
  • January 29, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^ Apparently hives are usually pressurized and the citizens live on nutri-vat slime and Soylens Viridians. Granted they're usually pressurized because they strip-mined the planet and polluted the atmosphere but yeah they're self-contained artificial ecologies.
  • January 29, 2013
    StarSword
    Time for hats, people. Mine's in the ring.
  • January 29, 2013
    Xtifr
    Oh, Cities In Flight can be turned into a blue-link, as can Robert Silverberg. (Just don't forget those namespaces.)

    Also, for the laconic, I think "mega-building" would work better than "megacity". They may or may not be city-sized (some are more like big towns), but they're always a mega-building.
  • January 29, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Would somebody like to code the image in? I have no idea how to accomplish that. This is the best one I've found so far:

    link
  • January 29, 2013
    StarSword
    I got it. For reference, you go to the Image Uploader and follow the directions. The caption markup will apply properly when the page launches, or you can take it off; your choice. You can also bluelink the image to whatever work it came from, if any.
  • January 29, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Thank you! Okay, so we have five hats, and I feel really awesome right now. This is the fifth time I've started a YKTTW, and this is the first one that has taken off. SQUEE!!!

    We still need to wait another day before launcing it, though, right?
  • January 29, 2013
    DRCEQ
    It's more of an unspoken rule around here. It's not enforced, but it says that YKTTW's SHOULD stay active for three days, so it's more of a suggestion. People still like to follow it anyway.
  • January 29, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Sounds good. Until then, I'll keep searching for examples.
  • January 29, 2013
    StarSword
    Considering that the launch button is physically disabled until three days have passed, I don't think we have much of a choice...
  • January 29, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Yeah, I was wondering about that...
  • January 29, 2013
    Xtifr
    I think I can come up with another example or two if I look around. Waiting three days is definitely not a bad thing. :)
  • January 29, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    See if you can find more film examples. I'm having trouble in that department.
  • January 29, 2013
    DRCEQ
    Oh, I didn't know the launch button was disabled until then.
  • January 30, 2013
    Arivne
    Some of these may be a Citadel City as well.

    Literature
  • January 30, 2013
    StarSword
    Ok, page is launchable now; time to start thinking about indexes.
  • January 30, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Well, it's certainly a setting, that much is obvious.

    I'm hesitant to index it with Mega City, because there are so many examples in which it's part of a city instead of a city unto itself.

    Any other suggestions?
  • January 30, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    The article I linked to near the top of the article will be copypasta for the analysis page, since I just got an email from the author authorizing us to use it. I'll be rewriting that paragraph accordingly, since we don't need an external link to something that will be found on the analysis page.
  • January 30, 2013
    StarSword
  • January 30, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Indexes:

    After that, I can't really think of anything concrete to list.
  • January 30, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Do we have to stick to the most specific indeces? I'd like to put it in Speculative Fiction Tropes and Building Tropes in addition to their sub-indeces I listed.
  • January 30, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Also, I have no idea how to apply a page to an index.
  • January 30, 2013
    DRCEQ
    Simply go to an index page, edit it, and drop down the list until you reach the alphabetical order that your trope fits on the list.

    Basically, it's just like adding a trope to any other page: You scroll down, hit return to clear some space, put a Bullet point in and then the trope in the alphabetical order of the page. Indexes are no different. Edit the index page, put Arcology where it belongs, and it will index itself.
  • January 30, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Makes sense.

    So, can I add it to all four index pages, or should I stick to just Architechture and Future Tech?
  • January 30, 2013
    VandalHeartX
    Never mind. I see several pages appearing on multiple levels of the same index tree. Launching!

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable