People who worry about population growth tend to see greater urban density as the solution. By concentrating people and services in one place, you get greater efficiency, and less damage to the countryside. But that’s not how Richard Harries imagines the future.
"People thinking that denser cities are the answer to enormous population growth have the frankly outdated idea that we are dependent on centralized services and facilities in order to just survive," he says.
"Living in over-priced rabbit hutches in some hugely polluted mega-city, with the resultant explosion in stressful lifestyles and implosion on quality of life, seems like no great solution to me."
Harries’s answer, instead, is to reclaim marginal land—tundra, scrub, moorland, heath—and go above ground. His spherical structure, the Ekinoid, is a bubble away from the mainstream, cheap, strong, and self-contained.
"There are literally millions of square miles of marginal land available. All we have to do is be willing to build communities in those environments," he says.
Inspired by the influential architect, Buckminster Fuller, the Ekinoid is still at an early stage of development. But the outline is like this: two main floors, with large storage areas on top and bottom; kitchen, lounge, dining room, and office in the higher space; shower, toilet, sink below; outside stairwell (no internal stairs), with hydroponics attached for growing vegetables and fruit; solar panels or wind turbines, probably, for power.
Harries, who lives in South West England, hasn’t built a full size version yet: the pictures here are models and renderings. But he’s looking to collaborate with universities, companies, and governments, who can provide skills and funding. Eventually, he hopes to construct whole communities ("frontier towns") from self-assembled kits.
To his knowledge, the only person ever to live in a wholly spherical structure is the Austrian artist Edwin Lipburger, who founded the Republic of Kugelmugel in Vienna, in 1982 (Lipburger made himself president, refused to pay taxes, and issued his own stamps). But that doesn’t daunt him. He believes it’s time for a rethink about "spherical living space," despite the association with geodesic domes, and doomed hippie experiments.
Maybe it comes down to a choice—not everyone wants to live on the tundra, whatever the pressures of city life. Harries thinks it wouldn’t be that bad: he’d rather be independent of infrastructure, "excessive regulation," and "outdated industrial systems."
"If you can make houses that are genuinely off-the-grid, then all you essentially have to do is find a suitable mode of transport from there to the local road network," he says. "That’s it. Population growth problem solved, and people’s freedoms and quality of life increased."