The Earthscraper / BNKR Arquitectura

model 01

The Earthscraper, designed by BNKR Arquitectura, is the Skyscraper’s antagonist in the historic urban landscape of where the latter is condemned and the preservation of the built environment is the paramount ambition. It preserves the iconic presence of the city square and the existing hierarchy of the buildings that surround it. More images and architects’ description after the break.

aerial view

The Historic Center of Mexico City is composed of different layers of cities superimposed on top of each other. When the Aztecs first came into the Valley of Mexico they built their pyramids on the lake they found there. When a new and bigger pyramid was conceived and the Aztec Empire grew in size and power, they did not search for a new site, they just built on it and around the existing one. In this manner, the pyramids are composed of different layers of historical periods.

main section

When the Spanish arrived in America and ultimately conquered the Aztecs, they erected their Christian temples atop their pyramids. Eventually their whole colonial city was built on top of the Aztec one. In the 20th century, many colonial buildings were demolished and modern structures raised on the existing historic foundations. So in a way, Mexico City is like a massive layered cake: a modern metropolis built on the foundations of a colonial city that was erected on top of the ancient pyramids that were constructed on the lake.

empty plaza

The main square of Mexico City, known as the “Zocalo”, is 57,600 m2 (240m x 240m), making it one of the largest in the world. It is bordered by the Cathedral, the National Palace and the City Government buildings. A flagpole stands at its center with an enormous Mexican flag ceremoniously raised and lowered each day. This proved as the ideal site for the Earthscraper: an inverted skyscraper that digs down through the layers of cities to uncover our roots.

communal space

The design is an inverted pyramid with a central void to allow all habitable spaces to enjoy natural lighting and ventilation. To conserve the numerous activities that take place on the city square year round (concerts, political manifestations, open-air exhibitions, cultural gatherings, military parades.), the massive hole will be covered with a glass floor that allows the life of the Earthscraper to blend with everything happening on top.

Architect: BNKR Arquitectura
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Partners: Esteban Suárez (Founding Partner), Sebastián Suárez
Project Leader: Arief Budiman
Project Team: Arief Budiman, Diego Eumir, Guillermo Bastian, Adrian Aguilar
Collaborators: Jorge Arteaga, Zaida Montañana, Santiago Becerra
Area: 775,000 m2
Status: Competition
Photography: Sebastian Suárez


Cite: Furuto, Alison. "The Earthscraper / BNKR Arquitectura" 04 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 19 Sep 2014. <>


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        The first time I saw this project I was hoping it could be just a joke or a creative idea proposed… I really really hope that there’s still someone there that can talk about respect for our culture and history!!! The cost to keep up the palaces arround would be much more that to construct that “bunker”

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    This would be really cool… if you appreciate not having any natural daylight in most of the ´building´.

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    How about the energy you need to push the waste up?
    Ventilation in a void with no way out?

    please do not show this kind of project in Dubai ou any country ruled by a Sheik!

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    what about rain? this would just fill up like a bucket. it’s a cool idea for a movie, but a terrible idea realistically speaking.

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    oh babe,,,,,,,,i can definitely say that the designer is just idling away his time

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    This definitely isn’t a new concept by any means nor one I’d expect to see built while sane humans walk the earth. The reason we build up instead of down is because its much easier to push that air out of the way than excavating that much soil. I think its encouraging to see these arcology-esque concepts emerging but not examples like this.

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    Whattt!!?? I cant believe we are still making this type of proposals… Firstly, the technical challenge that arises when you build on lake-bottom soil is of course: the pumping out of the water.. The amount of energy needed to drain the water ir even stop it from coming in is enourmous, making the project not only anti – ecological, put expensive just to exist. Secondly, I hope they have at least considered that the historic district was built on TOP a prehispanic “chinampa” city. If so, i hope they aren’t really intending on digging out the remains… This would mean cultural murder and a betrayal of our heritage.

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    Actually, what worries me is how people get out the building in case of fire. I can´t imagine people going upstairs from the bottom of the building to reach the ground level exit successfully.

    May be if the building was 25m depth could be feasible, but 240m depth is a f*** tomb.

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    lol this is awful. it doesn’t even work as a manifesto. an insult to one of our most interesting and iconic urban spaces.

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      It’s a pretty deep pit to store all of the headless corpses they like to make, so there’s that.

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      Mexico got more graduate engineers every year than the U.S., what Mexico needs is more jobs for the graduate students.

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    nice concept, but to really make something like that feasible, there is the need for a keen construction phasing and system.

    just an example from a real experience: many underground carparks constructed in the city center of Milan during the last years, have produced serious damages to the existing surrounding buildings.

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    The only big problem is that there is water underneath… (and what about Earthquakes???) If they learn about the history of Mexico and how it was founded, this project wouldn’t be a realistic project. Cool idea but find a different place to do it… In fact the “Palacio de Bellas Artes” is drowning year by year…

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    its a weird shape, very occult idea I imagine being there, it will be intimidating- you can even see from one of the renderings – and my first instinct is to get back up will not be nearly as comfortable as what they are trying to show, regardless of lighting, because its a pyramid narrowing at the bottom.

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    So that thing is right next to Mexico City Cathedral that’s already having sinking into the ground problems? Add earthquake to that which could turn soft ground into quicksand and you’ve just created a giant tomb.

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    Stop! dont hurt the EARTH anymore then we already have. This is agaisnst the sustainability environment concept! the world will just get even worse if this were to build. more carbon will evaporate. =’(

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    So it rains and you drown, or you can always exit the building, climbing up 300 meters, don’t even mention a zombie apocalypse, what the hell would you do. This would be awesome as a Call of Duty, Halo or Gears of War map.

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