One of the oddest features I remember about SimCity 2000 was the inclusion of “arcologies,” which were gigantic, highly populous and dense hyperstructures that provided a perfect balance between human needs and sustainability. Being that the game came out in 1993 before “sustainability” became a household word, I found SimCity’s inclusion of these as something way ahead of its time, in retrospect.

And even odder, it may become a reality in our world:

The Boa

The Boa (Boston Arcology) stretching into the harbor

Next Stop: Holy Crap This Is Implausible Station

Allow me a minute to breathe.


Here’s another image.

Revel in its implausible largeness.

While the concept is so incredible, I actually have very little faith in its practicality. I do hope that it goes ahead and becomes a success story, but the more logical part of me says it’s never going to get out of the design room.

These are the basic facts of the Boa:

  1. It can house 15,000 people, complete with hotels, offices, retail, museums, condominiums, and a new city hall.
  2. Sky gardens in the three main towers every 30 floors with landscaped atria (yes, the plural of atrium).
  3. All-pedestrian environment, though select floors will have moving walkways and electric train carriers.
  4. Eliminates the need for cars as a carbon neutral entity.
  5. LEED certified.
  6. It’s a fucking golden box.

There are some issues I can point at, though. The Boa claims to be a carbon-neutral entity and provides several features within its confines such that residents wouldn’t ever have to leave. But the Boa would never be able to replace everything inside the city—the entire working population of the Boa would not possibly be able to find employment totally within the confines of the arcology. There is no mention of educational provisions (school or college), and if these are left out, the children are going to have to get to school somehow. Those things considered, the people who live inside the arcology are going to need cars, unless there’s a hyper-viable public transit system in the vicinity that can sustain an additional 15,000 people.

Meanwhile, being able to access the amenities of a city is largely one of the reasons why people move to the city in the first place. The arcology, while a structure that inspires shock and awe in its presentation, is really just a suburb disguised as a city. Sitting in the Boston Harbor, the Boa would ever be a spectacle of the city, something that outsiders would have wildly different reactions about and that insiders would not be part of. If the purpose of the Boa is to confine all life within its walls, then there’s no point to putting it in the city in the first place. Not to mention, being that city land values are functionally highest, it would make more sense for arcologies to be built elsewhere.

Not to mention, this design does not contextually fit with Boston at all. There would be no end of anger from preservationists and residents of adjacent neighborhoods—imagine the anger surrounding a certain university’s invasive expansion with buildings considered to be eyesores and multiply that by however much larger the Boa is.

Arcologies will probably remain something out of science fiction for a long while. What designers need to do is figure out how to make these hyperstructures part of the city instead of being an added appendage.