This story features in Unearthed: The cities of the future

In our Unearthed Report, we look at some of the more interesting developments that are going on beneath the surface, including underground cities, farms, business parks and more.

Reso, Montreal

Reso – otherwise known as The Underground City – is the massive complex of offices, homes, convention halls, shops and more, connected by a network of underground tunnels beneath Montreal. It exists to keep residents away from the harsh conditions of the region’s long winters. Reso first took root in the early 1960s when a shopping precinct developed an underground space previously used by trains at the city’s Central Station. Since then the complex has blossomed into 32 kilometres of tunnels connecting 4 million square metres of space. It’s not uncommon for Montreal residents to avoid the frosty surface of their city for days on end by careful negotiation of its subterranean pathways.

The Lowline Project, Lower East Side of New York

In 2015, the Lowline Project on the Lower East Side of New York began experimenting with new solar technology to bring daylight down into an old trolly terminal, with the ambition of creating a massive underground park lit by natural light. The project’s Sunportal system tracks the sun through the day, then beams what it collects through a series of tubes to an underground distribution point. In 2017 the Lowline Lab closed, having successfully grown 3,000 plants across 1,000 square feet, and declared the concept proven. When it can raise the finance and support, it aims to open a full-scale version, hopefully by 2021.

Earthscraper by BNKR Arquitectura

A little less likely to move from concept stage any time soon, is the Earthscraper – proposed and designed by BNKR Arquitectura. Even so, it must take the award for the most audacious underground project proposed for a capital city. It envisages driving a 65 storey development down into the ground of Mexico City, beneath the capital’s central square (incidentally, the largest in the world). The inverted pyramid would effectively be one enormous hole with multiple terraces of green walkways covered by a colossal glass ceiling that would form the square’s new floor.

Growing Underground, London

On a far smaller scale, but nonetheless remarkable for its location, is Growing Underground, London’s first (and probably only) underground farm, which raises herbs in an old Second World War bunker. It uses hydroponics and LED lighting to grow crops all year round in pest free conditions – while 33 metres above, the busy streets of London’s Clapham thunder with traffic. Leading chef Michel Roux Jr. has lent his support and advocated Growing Underground’s ability to get fresh herbs from soil to the capital’s kitchens within four hours.

Subtropolis, Kansas City

Touted as “the World’s Largest Underground Business Complex”, Subtropolis comprises 6 million square feet of industrial space scattered across abandoned limestone mines near Kansas City. In the process of excavating the 270 million-year-old limestone deposits, the miners left a series of 25ft square pillars supporting the ceiling. It’s in and around these dazzlingly white structures that the likes of Fed-Ex park their trucks, and production lines churn out products from food to pharmaceuticals. Around 1600 people work down there every day.