Depthscrapers Defy Earthquakes (Nov, 1931)

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Depthscrapers Defy Earthquakes

THE “Land of the Rising Sun” (Japan) is subject to earthquakes of distressing violence at times; and the concentration into small areas of increasing city populations invites great destruction, such as that of the Tokio earthquake of 1923, unprecedented in magnitude of property loss, as well as life.

It was natural, then, that the best engineering brains of Japan should be devoted to the solution of the problem of building earthquake-proof structures; and a clue was given them by the interesting fact that tunnels and subterranean structures suffer less in seismic tremors than edifices on the surface of the ground, where the vibration is unchecked.

The result of research, into the phenomenon explained above, has been the design of the enormous structure illustrated, in cross-section, at the left—the proposed “Depthscraper,” whose frame resembles that of a 35-story skyscraper of the type familiar in American large cities; but which is built in a mammoth excavation beneath the ground. Only a single story protrudes above the surface; furnishing access to the numerous elevators; housing the ventilating shafts, etc.; and carrying the lighting arrangements which will be explained later. The Depthscraper is cylindrical; its massive wall of armored concrete being strongest in this shape, as well as most economical of material. The whole structure, therefore, in case of an earthquake, will vibrate together, resisting any crushing strain. As in standard skyscraper practice, the frame is of steel, supporting the floors and inner walls.

Fresh air, pumped from the surface and properly conditioned, will maintain a regular circulation throughout the building, in which each suite will have its own ventilators. The building will be lighted, during daylight hours, from its great central shaft, or well, which is to be 75 feet in diameter. Prismatic glass in the windows, opening on the shaft, will distribute the light evenly throughout each suite, regardless of the hour.

Making the Most of Sunlight

In order to intensify the degree of daylight received, a large reflecting mirror will be mounted above the open court, and direct the sunlight directly into its depths. This mirror travels on a circular track; so that it will rotate, following the course of the sun and at the same time change its angle of elevation to agree with his apparent movements. During normal daylight conditions therefore, the Depthscraper will be sufficiently illuminated without artificial lighting. When rain descends, the shaft will be quickly roofed over by a diaphragm, operating like the iris shutter of a vast camera (see the smaller detail at the lower right), which will keep the central well dry, though the rainfall would cause no detriment, other than the necessity of pumping out the water. At such times, no doubt, electric light will be resorted to, just as on dark days in buildings above the surface.

To the objection that living underground is unwholesome, the proponents of the Depthscraper reply that the sanitary conditions in a building of the type de-

scribed will be identical with (when not superior to) those found in large buildings above the ground, where apartments and offices are lighted from interior courts. The conditioned air supply will be uniform and superior to that obtained by natural ventilation, and the inmate of such a building would not be able to detect any difference in conditions from those found in a skyscraper of similar construction, but built up instead of down.

The logic of the Depthscraper is convincing and, although such construction appears too costly for most residences in a district where land values are not excessive, for business buildings it offers a degree of safety against earthquakes (as well as hurricanes) not to be disregarded in a country which is subject to them in-cessantly. We understand, upon good authority, that this principle of construe-tion is therefore to be put shortly to the practical test for construction.

  1. Stannous says: June 1, 20066:48 pm

    Yeah, just where I want to be in a 9.2 quake, at the bottom of a hole…

    And the reflector looks like the parabolic one I used to roast ant swith when I was a kid.

    Of course if they’d had a bunch of these during WW2 they might have been handy.

  2. Stannous says: June 1, 20066:49 pm

    Yeah, just where I want to be in a 9.2 quake, at the bottom of a hole. A giant pre-dug mass grave, how convenient!

    And that reflector looks like the parabolic one I used to roast ants with when I was a kid.

    Of course if they’d had a bunch of these during WW2 they might have been handy.

  3. Alex Railean says: December 27, 20073:04 am

    Wow, that’s a very interesting concept; besides the problem of earthquakes* it solves the problem of insufficient space. In theory, if one day we run out of space on the ground – we can continue by developing more facilities in the underground.

    * I’m not sure it’s safe to be underground during an earthquake. What if the structure collapses? There’s no way to run.

    “The whole structure, therefore, in case of an earthquake, will vibrate together, resisting any crushing strain.”

    It is a bit counter-intuitive to me; I always thought that the closer we are to the hipocenter of an earthquake, the greater the damage can be.

  4. deputydog | depthscrapers says: February 5, 200811:46 am

    […] depthscrapers defy earthquakes. go. […]

  5. mainjurii says: February 11, 20081:45 am

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  6. […] Depth Scrapers! […]

  7. Walter A. Johanson says: March 3, 20093:19 pm

    Please not that I have a patent on a solar hybrid lighting system (US Patent: 6,840,645). Part of it describes a heliostat that can redirect sunlight down a shaft in a building or onto anything. This design two parabolic mirrors with a common focal point take a wide collection of direct sunlight and concentrate it and recollimate it into a shaft of light. This system can collect the full power of the sun where ever it is in the sky (unlike the single mirror shown). The means to get the shaft of light straight down is to use an offset system of mirrors set at 45 degrees to the light beams. By doing this and only this can you beam the full amount of light that you collect down into a building. Please note, that for the building shown in this article I would not use the parabolic mirror to concentrate the light but simply use the two flat mirrors set a 45 degrees to one another. Please feel free to contact me. Walter A. Johanson

  8. Depthscrapers Defy Earthquakes (Nov, 1931) « says: November 27, 20092:45 pm

    […] An underground skyscraper designed to address the issue of earthquakes in japan, published in a newspaper in 1931. Read the text at […]

  9. Wole says: March 18, 20108:37 am

    Are we not begining to toy with the Isostatic balance between surface earth and the subsurface?

  10. Firebrand38 says: March 18, 20108:50 am

    Wole: Not to mention the Mole Men will think we’re invading!

    But seriously, this was never built and in any event would have no more effect on isostasy then a coal or salt mine.

  11. jayessell says: March 25, 20109:23 am

    ‘DepthScraper’ sounds too much like ‘Deathscraper’.

    I’m surprised this idea didn’t resurface during the
    Cold War as protection against Nukes.

    Isn’t there a WWI era picture of an underground Bi-Plane factory?
    Complete with artificial volcano?

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