Oscar Newman’s Underground City Beneath Manhattan

The architect and city planner Oscar Newman, better known for his dreadful “Defensible space theory“, (pdf here) also fostered in 1969 the bizarre possibility of clearing out, with nuclear explosions, a massive underground sphere beneath Manhattan. The hollowed space would be then occupied by just a half of the volume with a regular city with a grid of streets and buildings, several levels of further undeground spaces and giant “air filters” reaching the surface.

Newman writes:

“Manhattan could have a half-dozen such atomic cities strung under the city proper…the real problem in an underground city would be the lack of views and fresh air, but its easy access to the surface and the fact that, even as things are, our air should be filtered and what most of us see from our window’s is somebody else’s wall.” (1)

You know how much we dig all-things-undeground, but this is just a weird idea. Except only for the cinerama projection onto the vault, which would have been glorious hadn’t a Coca-Cola advertisement appeared.

John F. Ptak calculated the volume:

“The author of this plan speculated on building this spherical city in Manhattan bedrock–a structure which so far as I can determine would have a volume of 1.2 cubic miles (5 km3) with its top beginning some 1,200′ under Times Square. Its an impressive hole “just”to dig–it would be a goodly chunk of the volume of Lake Mead. And it would make the world’s largest man-made hole–the Bingham Copper Mine in Utah–seem like the very beginning efforts to digging this beast out to begin with. The Bingham Pit is 2 miles wide and about .75 miles deep, which means that the hole needed to be excavated to reach a 1.2 mile diameter of this sphere some 3,500 feet under the surface would be, um, “big”–like needing to divert the Hudson and the East rivers, and extending the digging into Jersey, which would be a, well, “task”.”

1. Alison Sky and Michelle Stone. Unbuilt America. McGraw Hill, 1976, page 192.

Via: Ptak Science Book

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