Going Underground – The Amazing Depthscrapers

While the rest of the world was planning skyscrapers reaching to the heavens, planners in Tokyo were looking to dig deep.

In the 1930s, they drafted plans for ‘depthscrapers’ to defy earthquakes by building enormous buildings reaching dozens of storeys underground rather than going upwards like rivals in New York and Chicago.

Only one floor of the 35 or more depthscraper floors would be visible above ground to allow light, fresh air and access.

Light would be reflected down the huge structures by mirrors on the walls, while air would be pumped in from above.

The blueprints show the massive depthscrapers would sit inside concrete tubes to safeguard them from damage during an earthquake.

Going down…

The aim was to protect Tokyo from the devastation that followed a shattering quake in 1923.

Architects believed going down instead of high rise blocks was the answer.

Depthscrapers were never built, losing out to the race into the sky.

Although science and design have combined for some deep buildings, only one is significantly underground – the Jinping Laboratory in China, which sits 7,00 feet or nearly 1.5 miles under the surface.

The lab is so far down to shield experiments from cosmic and other rays.

The next deepest building hardly scratched the Earth’s surface by comparison.

The Large Hadron Collider that spans the France/Swiss border is just 575 feet below ground.

Who wants to live 35 floors below ground?

Next is Arsenalna station, Ukraine (350 feet deep), which is on Kiev’s underground railway, followed by the Gjovik Olympic Cavern Hall, Norway (180 feet deep) and the Sydney Opera House, Australia (120 feet deep).

Geology and the fact most people don’t want a subterranean lifestyle stops us building deep.

In most places around the world, bedrock is 100 feet or lower from the surface, which hardly gives room to sink a deep shaft.  Breaking through bedrock to build would involve a tremendous amount of tunnelling rather than building, which is expensive.

Flooding is another problem, along with pressure from the Earth’s crust pushing against a deep borehole.

Technology is there to build depthscrapers, but the task is extremely expensive and time-consuming, with no one likely to live 35 floors down even if an underground block of apartments was completed.