COVID-19 almost certainly won’t be the last pandemic we contend with in our lifetimes. At the same time, we’ll be dealing with both climate change and unmitigated loss of wildlife habitats through deforestation. How can we balance the continued growth of human populations against these threats? We have to find new ways to live in harmony with nature and each other if our species is going to survive.

O2 Design Atelier's Post-Pandemic

Architecture firm O2 Design Atelier proposes looking up. Instead of sprawling development that voraciously consumes what little forestland we have left, we could be building vertical cities that preserve our natural environment. Their post-pandemic “City of Tomorrow” concept envisions a future in which long-desired technological advancements make it possible to take to the skies.

In this city, streets and cars are mostly a thing of the past. Uber-tall mega-skyscrapers contain everything we need to live, including offices, shops, restaurants, schools, entertainment, and health care. Instead of having separate residences and vehicles, the concept imagines what are essentially flying capsule houses that can “plug in” to the modular buildings at will, providing freedom of movement. Various ways of interacting with others offer different levels of safety from potential contagions, and a medical hub at the bottom of each tower acts as a checkpoint and quarantine zone.

Each tower community in the City of Tomorrow concept would contain retail, gym, entertainment, dining, and park facilities.

“Each tower has work meeting platforms where individual capsules can meet physically within a controlled and sanitized environment,” the architects explain. “There is a retail street to cater to daily needs and dedicated sport complexes with sport courts and various physical activities and programs. After plugging in to the tower, people can remain indoors and interact through the capsule glass panel or disembark and interact physically with people at the central interaction platform. The central platform is a controlled street where one can meet people and travel between floors and visit neighboring capsules.”

“Flying fleets of live-work-travel crossover capsules use clean energy to run. Stationed capsules use energy charging receptors to hold on to the tower core while the rest cruise freely along the infinite airspace from one tower neighborhood to another. There are mass transit and logistic capsules to help big volume movements. The travel is based on a computerized auto navigation system.”

Modular Home Pods move freely above the forest canopy in O2 Design Atelier's

With pretty much all human activity lifted above the canopies of the forest, and footprints on the ground limited, nature would theoretically be free to recover from our overzealous expansion under this model. Recreational and scientific visits to the forests would be allowed, of course, but for the most part, the ground is given back to the wild.

Of course, we’re a long way away from a concept like this becoming reality. We’re nowhere close to achieving flying cars, let alone flying residential capsules, so it’s hard to imagine anything like the “City of Tomorrow” materializing in the 21st century. It likely won’t be us, but rather our great-grandchildren enjoying possibilities like these (assuming we make it that far).

Flying cars zip between tower communities in O2 Design Atelier's

What concepts like this offer us is something to potentially work toward. Laying out all of the steps that would be necessary to live in this reforested future reality, starting with vertical developments that also keep access to the outdoors, ventilation, and sanitation in mind, could very well set us on a path toward the paradise these architects seek.