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Changsha, Where’s The Sky City?

It is looking like the unbelievable Sky City One may have succumbed to reality.

Changsha shook the world by announcing that they were going to be the first city on the planet to actually build a sky city. A sky city is just that: a skyscraper large enough to house an entire city worth of people and everything that they need. The idea is that if you could compress 100,000+ people within a single structure you could optimize space within a city while cutting out some of the demand placed upon its infrastructure. This vision started out in Japan in 1989, and has been floating around East Asia ever since.

Now, a local company called Broad Sustainable Building boasted that they were going to build a sky city in Changsha. Not only would this be the first sky city to actually be constructed, but it would also be the largest building in the world. On top of this, they claimed that they could build it in just 90 days.

Needless to say, this sent the international media and the world’s engineering communities into a frenzy.

But nobody in Changsha seems to have even heard of the damn thing.

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I had a little free time in between researching stories in this city and set out to find the proposed building site of the sky city. I knew that the project had previously been postponed, but I wanted to check in on it anyway. It sometimes takes a while for news from the interior of China to make its way to the international stage.

I figured that if the largest building in the world was going to be built in this city then somebody would have at least heard of it and could perhaps tell me where to find the building site.

Unfortunately for me, this project is called Sky City One, and the Chinese name is a pretty close translation: 天空城市; pinyin: tiānkōng chéngshì. This means “sky city,” and as I found out it is taken to mean something along the lines of “city in the sky.”

So I went around Changsha asking taxi drivers, people in engineering firms, and just about everyone I could find if they had ever heard of this city in the sky. Invariably, they looked at me as if I was cracked.

At one point I found a group of engineers looking over blue prints in front of a development, and asked them if they could tell me how to get to the sky city. They looked at me bewildered for a moment, then one of them spoke seriously:

“I think you need an airplane.”

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The Broad Engineering Group announced a plan to the world that was so incredible that people could not help talking about it. They have a very innovative method of construction that consists of putting together entire buildings with prefabricated pieces — kind of like legos. They have gained attention for being able to throw up high-rises in a matter of weeks, but when they said that they were going to put up a sky city with this method the world took notice.

It was a four for one media pitch: a sky city, the world’s tallest building, prefab construction, all to be built in record time. The international media took the bait, and the Broad group got a literal deluge of media attention and global air time.

Now that this project seems to have been put on indefinite hold, I have to question whether it was a genuine proposal in the first place or a media hoax to promote a very innovative engineering company?

The first sky city proposal was made public by Japan’s Takenaka Corporation. It was merely a visionary projection, and was not meant to be taken as a serious plan. It was simply a tactic to promote the engineering firm, and to inspire thinking on future urban designs.

Perhaps Broad took a page out of Takenaka’s page book.

Skepticism about the project is widespread. Lauren Hilgers at Wired professed that, “It’s hard to say for sure that the 16-million-square-foot plan isn’t entirely a publicity stunt.”

It is looking like Changsha may not be getting a sky city or the world’s tallest building after all. But nobody here seems be grieving the loss — in fact, few seem to have even known about it to begin with.

Filed under: Architecture, China, Engineering, Travel Guide, Urbanization

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3548 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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