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The Ugliness Of The Future Tallest Building In The World

As we’re building as quickly as possible to jam more people into cities, do we also have to sacrifice beauty?

The world’s population living in cities is expected to grow dramatically in the coming decades. By 2050, seven out of all 10 humans on Earth will live in cities. When you have that many people cramming into relatively small spaces, aesthetics aren’t always going to be at top of mind.

Think about that while you’re watching this video of Sky City One, a prefab skyscraper in Changsha, China, that will take only 90 days to build—and will be the world’s tallest building when it’s finished.

Over at QZ, Christopher Mims calls the residential building, which has 202 floors, "a giant stack of trailer homes." That’s fairly accurate.

He writes:

A look at the plans…for Sky City One reveal that the maximum width of each unit of the building will be just 3.9 meters, or 12.8 feet. That’s the width of a "single-wide" mobile home in the U.S. Save a dizzyingly tall interior atrium extending from the first to the 170th floor, any interior spaces wider than that will be interrupted by the steel columns that define the edge of each pre-fabricated unit.

Here’s the rub. The rapid growth of cities means that a lot more buildings need to be constructed. In China, construction quality is often an issue. But Broad Sustainable Building, the developer of Sky City One, emphasizes the quality of the building materials—and the fact that its prefab nature means it will be difficult for builders to mess up. From Wired:

In a nation where construction standards vary widely, and where builders often use cheap and unreliable concrete, Broad’s method offers a rare sort of consistency. Its materials are uniform and dependable. There’s little opportunity for the construction workers to cut corners, since doing so would leave stray pieces, like when you bungle your Ikea desk. And with Broad’s approach, consistency can be had on the cheap: The T30 cost just $1,000 per square meter to build, compared with around $1,400 for traditional commercial high-rise construction in China.

What more can a rapidly growing city ask for besides cheap, safe construction? Perhaps earthquake resistance (the structure can resist a 9.0 quake) and energy efficiency (the video claims that the structure decreases "CO2 per capita usage from 5.5 tons to 2 tons").

All city-goers want to live in beautiful buildings. But the reality is that ugliness may be the price we pay for sticking the majority of the world’s population into cities.