Healing Mining Pits with Self-Sustaining Underground Skyscrapers

The earth is pocked with giant pits like scars, left behind by mining operations that take what they seek from the land and then leave the site in ruin. But what if we could use those gaping holes as the basis of new underground cities? ‘Above Below’, a proposal for the 2011 eVolo Skyscraper Competition, gives one such mining pit a new life with a bustling underground skyscraper where a self-sufficient community can live, farm, work and play.

This unusual inverted skyscraper design, by Matthew Fromboluti of Washington University in St. Louis, was created specifically for the massive Lavender Pit Mine outside of Bisbee, Arizona, which measures an astonishing 900 feet deep and 300 acres wide. Built around a ‘solar chimney’ that provides light and ventilation to the deepest reaches of the structure, ‘Above Below’ would be virtually undetectable on the surface, with a dome roof covered in native vegetation.

The underground tower is entirely self-sustaining, with its own source of electricity and a water recycling system. Below, in the steppes of the mining crater, tiered platforms planted with crops benefit from sunlight that streams in through skylights in the roof. A light rail system would even provide an easy means for residents to reach the nearby town of Bisbee.

While such underground structures wouldn’t be a viable solution to reclaiming all of the mining pits that dot formerly pristine landscapes in such places as the Appalachian Mountains, especially because such sites tend to be isolated, ‘Above Below’ is an intriguing idea for Bisbee in particular. Not only does the design completely turn the concept of a skyscraper on its head, it could be an interesting solution for habitable communities in harsh desert environments like that of Arizona.