Horizontal Skyscraper

In the outskirts of Rome lies one of the Eternal City's most impressive modern structures: perched on top of a hill in the Corviale quarter is the "Serpentone" (Big Snake), a building designed with the principles of Le Corbusier in mind, containing over 1200 apartments and close to 6'500 inhabitants.

About half of it.


It is 11 stories high (of which 9 above ground), and runs almost a kilometer in length. Upon seeing it for the first time, it gives a good idea of the impression the spaceships in "Independence Day" would make on an unsuspecting human being.

The spaceship has landed.


Similar in style to Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse in Marseille, it was supposed to provide housing units, shop & office space, administrative & recreative areas, thus creating an integrated environment reminiscent of a small town.

Nicely integrated plants.


The Cité Radieuse was completed in 1952, and by the sixties the concept of creating large, village-like structures was deemed impractical, as quality of life was not satisfactory, and the integration of the different services proved innefective.

At least it comes with electricity.


This did not hinder a team of architects led by Mario Fiorentino to start planning the Serpentone in 1972. By the time it was handed over to the first tenants in 1982 (it has never been completely finished), it was already hopelessly outdated.

The shops, for which the fourth of 9 above-ground floors was reserved, never materialized; instead, the floor was used by squatters to create additional housing units.

Typical fourth-floor shop.

The Serpentone has a special place in Roman urban culture: it is a symbol of dysfunctional urban planning, and as such thought to be in an abandoned state, poorly maintained and outright dangerous.

"You can get cancer just from the name!"

Even though it is certainly not a delight to live in it, this is not true: criminal activity is not higher than in other (comparable) suburbs, the interior is surpringly well maintained, and the public areas of the housing units (corridors etc.) are cleaner than in my apartment building.

Not a speck of dust to be seen.


A popular urban legend states that the architect, upon seeing the monster he had created, jumped off of the building. This is untrue, he just happened to die in the same year the place was inaugurated. He could have included a swimming pool on the roof though (as does the Cité Radieuse).

Note the complete absence of water.


In one respect they completely goofed it up though: if they had constructed the building as a proper skyscraper (i.e. long side up) it would now be the world's tallest building. Bummer.

On the bright side, there are ducks. Awesome!

The entire photoset can be found here.


Eco-friendly Horizontal Skyscraper

One of China's most exciting new architectural designs isn't rising in Shenzhen, the country's southern megalopolis, so much as it's being floated there. Where Steven Holl Architects' Linked Hybrid in Beijing envisions a system of residential towers connected by bridges like a dance circle, their new Shenzhen project, set for completion next year, lingers above the ground like a cubist flying dragon. By turning tall into long and raising the snaking, aluminum-encased building on pillars, the Vanke Center encourages more communication within, offers better views of a nearby lake and mountains for inhabitants and provides welcome shade over an expanse of walkways and green space below.

Impressive! Interestingly, there is (at least) one...

Impressive! Interestingly, there is (at least) one example of such gigantic, never-ending housing structures from the pre-Corbusier era which actually seems to function quite well: The Karl-Marx Hof in Vienna.

--> http://www.dasrotewien.at/online/page.php?P=11897

It is even longer (so would make the higher skyscraper), has more apartments but less inhabitants (that also tells you something, but that's a different story...).