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Earthscraper concept takes urban planning underground


August 8, 2011

"The Earthscraper is the skyscraper's antagonist in an historic urban landscape where the latter is condemned and the preservation of the built environment is the paramount ambition," says BNKR. (image by BNKR Aquitectura)

"The Earthscraper is the skyscraper's antagonist in an historic urban landscape where the latter is condemned and the preservation of the built environment is the paramount ambition," says BNKR. (image by BNKR Aquitectura)

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This ambitious "Earthscraper" concept from BNKR Aquitectura seeks to address several problems faced by Mexico City - a growing population, the lack of new plots for construction, the need to conserve historic buildings and height restrictions on new structures. "The historic center of Mexico City is in desperate need for a pragmatic make-over," says BNKR. The solution - build an inverted pyramid underneath the main plaza at the heart of the city.

A kind of reversal of the historical Aztec pyramid, the Earthscraper would aim to preserve the visual aesthetic of the historic city square whilst also retaining the public space, commonly used year round for events such as concerts, political gatherings, open-air exhibitions and cultural celebrations. The 775,000 square meter design is capped with a glass "roof" and habitable spaces are positioned around the central void, allowing natural light to filter down to even the lowest of levels.

The first ten stories would offer a tourist attraction, with all floors displaying Aztec and Mayan artifacts in a pre-Columbian museum. The design sees the next ten stories filled with retail shops and domestic housing, whilst the deepest levels offer 35 stories of office space.

The concept is reminiscent of the famous glass pyramid featured at the center of Le Louvre Museum in Paris, but with mammoth proportions. "The Earthscraper is the skyscraper's antagonist in an historic urban landscape where the latter is condemned and the preservation of the built environment is the paramount ambition," says BNKR.

The BNKR Aquitectura "Earthscraper" concept was a finalist entry in the eVolo Magazine Scraper Competition.

Via: Archdaily.

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema. All articles by Bridget Borgobello

looks awesome, but also sounds depressing to live underground

Jacob Shepley

Sounds awesome. The natural light is an excellent idea (Although I wonder how many panty-shots will result from a glass roof being the centre of public space) and if the bottom of the pyramid could have a small garden - and each higher levels perhaps a small balcony garden, so as to not restrict the light from above for the lower levels - then there\'ll always be fresh air and reduced claustrophobia. I\'d be interested in how people get down - 4 elevators at all 4 corners? The space between the pyramid and access tunnels could be utilised too. I don\'t know, hydroponic gardens maybe. :D

Von Meerman

given the geology of the area though, this seems like a bad idea. mexico city is located on the soft bottom of a filled in lake. one that is tectonicaly unstable to boot.

the city has enough issues with sinking foundations for stuff above the ground, i wouldn\'t want to think about the problems a massive underground facility would have.

Mark Temple

I\'m wondering what is supposed to happen during a fire. In a typical highrise, you have fire-stairs which are descended, while in this design one would have to race up how many flights? It\'s not like the elevators would be operational. Maybe they have a non-mechanical safety solution....


Is not Mexico City in an earthquake zone? Supposing the whole thing floods? Lastly, where is all the excavation soil going to be put? There is enough fuss made about garbage mountains. This looks like another fanciful idea which will never come to fruition.


Agreed on all questions windykites1.



Earthquake survival, and flooding are engineering problems that have been repeatedly solved. There is always a market for clean fill. The excavated material will be sold.


Re: slowburn\'s comment: tell that to the Katrina, Haiti, and New Zealand survicors, not to mention all the flooding that\'s been taking place in the U.S. and elsewhere. The Earthscraper in Mexico City is a bad, bad idea, as mentioned by Mark Temple. Besides, the area taken is the same as a high-rise would be.



Haiti didn\'t have any enforced building codes.

People in New Orleans after refusing orders to evacuate attempted to escape rising water by climbing into attics that did not have roof access.

In Christchurch there were apparently undamaged building standing next to piles of rubble after the earthquake.

The fact that people have died does not invalidate my assertions.


Sounds interesting and the finished work may look great, but there are some inconvenients to be taken into account: Cases like México City would require a very stiff substructure in order to support loads due to earthquakes of at least Grade 8 in the Richter scale. Also, the whole underground structure needs to be designed as a floating foundation, due to the extremely softness of the soil. In the other hand, isolation from the exterior might represent an issue. The architecture and accesories such as illumination and Air Conditioning, must be of a very high quality so that living in the underground will not affect the inhabitants mood. Don´t you think?

Domestic Engineer

This concept will probably never fly. The aversion to living below ground level was one big reason underground houses fizzled after the 1970s. Besides, why a pyramid? Why not just have simple vertical sides which would be much more space-efficient?


wow I really hope they do it but the big question does Mexico have the budget to do it? I hope it will bring a bunch of futurism I would love to go see it and if they do it when would it be done?

Juan Hernandez
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