October 29, 2021

Article at Lloyd on Authory

The Cubic City


A few years ago I wrote this post, long gone from Treehugger, after seeing this image of a city in a cube. I thought of it after seeing the design for a new residence at a university in California and dug it up...

We have shown many visions for cities of the future on TreeHugger, from King Gillette’s grand idea for Niagara Falls (which I still hope they will build) to Sky City in China. So when I saw the image of the Cubic City, shown above, I was intrigued. It was an idea put forward in 1929 by a Reverend Louis Tucker, in a science fiction story called “The Cubic City.”

It took a bit of digging to find the story behind the image that was evidently published in a 1929 issue of Science Wonder. According to Marten Kuilman of Quadralectic Architecture, the Reverend was “inspired by descriptions of the Bible (Revelation 4: 6-8) to create his utopian world.” 

This got me very excited; when I was in architecture school I studied the Sharon Temple, north of Toronto, and learned these verses of Revelation because David Willson, the founder of the religious sect that built the temple, used the same passages as his blueprint. 


I started searching for the story and the only place I could find it was in an anthology of old science fiction, which I was able to buy on Amazon for ten bucks (I love the Internet). The Cubic City is a terribly written story, with a healthy dose of racism, sexism, and ableism thrown in. But there are some interesting ideas, including the concept of the crime of Inurbanity, of not being a good urban citizen:

It goes on to describe other crimes of Inurbanity, including being boorish or stupid, “people with complexes and phobias, “in short, who bother others too much and will not change, are classed as “Inurbane.” It then gets even more seriously politically incorrect. 

But there are also the descriptions of the city, where Reverend Tucker shows how if you don’t need windows, you can pack people into a very efficient building. 

There are also vast sunbathing decks where people spend half an hour a day minimum in skimpy clothing to catch a few much-needed rays and let doctors check out their bodies. There is terrific internet service that gives you all the information and entertainment you could possibly use. 

In the end, There was not a lot to learn from the Reverend Louis Tucker about urban design that we did not know already: that going vertical is very efficient thanks to elevators and that you can pack a lot of people into a smaller amount of land, leaving the rest for parks and recreation and food. But I do like the idea of making Inurbanity a crime. 

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