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Art experiment Planet City imagines a climate change metropolis

Created by architect and production designer Liam Young, Planet City is a science fiction art experiment that critiques and responds to the threat of climate change.

If you’ve been keeping up with Thred’s antics over the past year, you’ll likely be aware of the growing urgency of climate change.

We’re now seeing weather patterns become more extreme, with seemingly no sign of slowdown in resource usage or population growth despite the concerning data.

Given our rapidly changing environment, how can our cities cope in the coming decades? To that end, how would we build civilisation differently now if we could start over given the environmental cost of large-scale construction?

These questions are the central focus for Liam Young’s art experiment and sci-fi concept piece called ‘Planet City’, which imagines a super city that houses the entire population of Earth using only 0.02% of its overall land mass.

Sounds impressive – as long as you’re not scared of heights.

This piece incorporates a variety of media in its world building, including elaborate costume designs, portrait photography, and CGI cinematics. It’s practically Netflix ready.

Were it to be a real, tangible city, this place could house 10 billion people in 1.4 million neighbourhoods that climbs 165 stories. According to Young, the rest of the planet’s surface would be vast and free of civilisation or people. It’s an extreme idea, but is intended to demonstrate the extent with which our current way of life could be much more sustainable.

Credit: YouTube

Young is a production designer and architect who creates environments for film and TV. He’s the head of the fiction and entertainment graduate program at the Southern California Institute of Architecture too, meaning he knows his stuff. Perhaps we’ll see these ideas become a fully fleshed series in the future?

It’s not all just for decoration and aesthetic, either. Many of the structures have been created with new and emerging climate change technologies in mind.

One is pumped storage hydro power, for example, which incorporates solar and wind power to move water uphill. This water is then drained downhill through turbines. This system could provide electricity for a super city and create waterways with algae and fish farms.

Young also added solar panels in the canyons of the buildings and included a waste recycling process based on NASA’s Mars research. All bases are covered, essentially – though its creator is keen to stress this is a thought experiment and not an attempt to offer a solutions-focused utopia.

Credit: YouTube

If all this sounds up your street (pardon the pun), Young has published a book that explores the idea of Planet City more extensively, and has also discussed his ideas via the YouTube channel ‘The World Around’. Check out his video below.

Crucially, Young notes that this project is a response to the ‘failure’ of countries and nations to do ‘anything meaningful’ to combat climate change.

As well as the intricate architectural designs, Young also focused on the cultures, costumes, and visual imagery of the citizens that would inhabit this super city. In his words, Young believes that ‘cultural movements’ will ramp pressure onto the global elite to get the gears really rolling on climate solutions – and so the lifestyles and arts of these fictional citizens was just as important as the buildings they live in.

Credit: Liam Young/National Gallery of Victoria/NGV Triennial

The clothing and outfit designs (as shown above) have a tribal flair to their colours and patterns, adopting animalistic symbolism that juxtaposes the sci-fi aesthetic of the city itself.

Young says he wanted the costumes in this piece to be deliberately optimistic and embrace nature. Planet City represents a hybrid relationship with our environment, where traditionalism and advanced technology can co-exist without damaging the world at large.

Credit: Liam Young/National Gallery of Victoria/NGV Triennial

‘If we start to imagine what a harvest festival looks like in rows and rows of automated crops, then I think we start to come to terms with how that kind of infrastructure can be reimagined in a new world’, Young said in an interview with Fast Company.

We’ll need to readjust our association with nature on a fundamental level if we want to continue to expand our civilisation exponentially – perhaps in a way not too dissimilar to Planet City.

I’ll take a flat on the bottom floor if you don’t mind, though.


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