Earthscrapers: Is Going Down Instead of Up a Greener Way to Build?

earthscraper 2007
via. Evolo
earthscraper section


Every year, TreeHugger and all the architectural websites troll through the Evolo competition entries, looking for the most imaginative work from young architects with time on their hands. Sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder at the creativity and drawing skills. In 2010, I did not pay a lot of attention to Bunker Arquitectura's proposal forEarthscraper, an upside down pyramid in downtown Mexico City.

earthscraper top

Bunker Arquitectura/viaIt was not a new idea, and it was not the best iteration of it that I had seen. But in two years, it has become a worldwide sensation. Emily Gertz at EcoImagination writes:

Earthscraper has become the architectural equivalent of a shot heard ’round the world. Since first surfacing this past summer on a handful of major design and tech blogs like,, and, this conceptual design for a 65-story, 82,000-square-foot inverted pyramid underneath Mexico City now commands over a quarter-million stories in diverse publications around the globe.

She spoke with Jeremy Faludi, who had some issues with the concept:

I think it would work much better in a dry area in a northern, colder climate, where solid ground keeps you warm, and the glass top acts as a greenhouse. In a hot climate, putting a building underground removes many ventilation opportunities—and you don’t want all that heat.
earthscraper 2007
via. Evolo


I discounted it at the time for some of the same reasons; while I admired the density, I didn't think it resolved the environmental issues. I also remembered an earlier proposal from 2007 that had the same name,Earthscraper. and I thought, from an environmental point of view, was perhaps a bit better resolved:



Sunlight goes into the building through the central hole and a system of autoregulated mirrors induces complementary light into the depths. The circulation of natural air is forced through four suction nozzles that injects renewed air to the "green rings".
section below grade


But when it comes to resolving environmental issues, nobody comes close to Matthew Fromboluti, who

has designed a skyscraper that seeks not only to hold a veritable society worth of people and uses, but simultaneously heals the scarred landscape of the desert outside of Bisbee, Arizona. His project, titled “Above Below,” proposes the infill of a 900-foot deep and nearly 300-acre wide crater left by the former Lavender Pit Mine with a structure that will hold living and working areas, and green space for farming and recreation.
climate section

Matthew Fromboluti/via

He's designed passive systems that work well in hot climates, including evaporative coolers and a solar chimney to create air circulation.

top of fromboluti proposal

Matthew Fromboluti/via

The land carved out by the Lavender Pit Mine is reclaimed by the desert, resembling its condition before the mine took place.
things to come

Things To Come/Screen capture

I couldn't write this post without noting the wonderful design for an underground city in Alexander Korda's wonderful 1936 film Things To Come. A giant hologram of Raymond Massey is about to fill the place.

Back at EcoImagination, Emily Gertz notes that it the popularity of the scheme took the architect by surprise:

“We were expecting to have some controversy,” says Emilio Barjau, Chief Design Officer and Design Director of BNKR Arquitectura, the Mexico City firm that created the concept. “But this recent boom is really amazing, it really surprised us. We were not expecting this to be all over news.”

It surprised me too, given the competition. Which do you like best?