A Walking City for the 21st Century

© Poliedro

In a world where people live more mobile lifestyles than they have for centuries, cities are facing a problem they rarely planned for: their citizens move away. When jobs and resources start to decline, modern cities, such as Detroit, suffer difficult and often wasteful processes of urban contraction. In contrast to this, Manuel Dominguez’s “Very Large Structure,” the result of his thesis project at ETSA Madrid, proposes a nomadic city that can move on caterpillar tracks to locations where work and resources are abundant.

Of course this is not the first time that the idea of a nomadic city has been proposed. Ron Herron’s Walking City is one of the more recognizable Archigram designs from the 1960s, and has been influential to architectural theory ever since. However, the design for the “Very Large Structure” expands on the by including strong proposals for energy generation on board the city.

Read on to see more on this provocative project – including a full set of presentation boards in the image gallery.

© Manuel Dominguez / Zuloark

Dominguez admits that the impulse to design the “Very Large Structure” came from his desire to stand out from his peers: “knowing that all final thesis are ‘Utopical’, I decided to do a self-consciously utopical one, utopic for real.”

However, Dominguez also felt it was important that his design be theoretically feasible, which is why he looked to the world of heavy engineering to inspire the structure’s colossal steel frame and caterpillar tracks. With all these additions, Dominguez’s design seems less of a fantasy than Herron’s giant shell on stilts.

© Poliedro

Moreover, the Very Large Structure, despite its enormous size, has much less of an impact on its surrounding ecosystem. Its mobility is proposed as a way to encourage reforestation of the static cities which it replaces, and part of its day-to-day function is the management of this environment. The specific social conditions of the Spanish territory it is designed for also add to its relevance: it provides work for the high number of unemployed citizens in Spain.

Although almost 50 years have passed since a moving city was first proposed, when one considers how many western cities are currently experiencing devastating slowdowns, both economically and in terms of their population, Manuel Dominguez’s intriguing, fantastical proposal begins to seem far less absurd – and far more relevant – than it may at first seem.

Cite: Stott, Rory. "A Walking City for the 21st Century" 03 Nov 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=443701>
  • The Angry Architect

    Extraordinary graphics, and the volume of work is eye-watering…

  • The Angry Architect

    Extraordinery graphics, and the volume of work is eye-watering… takes me back to my Uni days (and nights, of course!)

  • CSquire

    This is exactly what Philip Reeves describes in his series “Mortal Engines”. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, mobile cities roam the landscape devouring slower, smaller cities unable to escape their gigantic jaws.

  • wolfgang thompson

    walking pollution…awful…

  • javier

    Something like an oil rig on wheels … okay. But has Spain so many untapped reservoirs of natural ressources that would justify building such huge machines?

  • Philip

    As a second year studio project fine, as a final thesis well rather silly really no matter how clever the graphics. If something relocatable of this scale was ever required the logical thing is to make it a marine based structure, far more oceans and seas than flat land suitable for a monster of this size

  • Luka Anic

    Excellent and inspiring work, thanks for sharing!

  • Mohamed


  • Donatello D’Anconia

    The visualizer said it himself, he wanted to “stand out from his peers” It would be nice for archdaily to champion quality ideas, not just those that “stand out” Volume of work is a poor substitute for a good idea. If praise is going to be given to this project for being socially and environmentally aware, shouldn’t it also receive criticism for the impracticality of it’s economical logistics?

  • Noel Okello

    Frankly this is one of the stupidest idea I’ve ever encountered. And to think that so much time and detail was spent pursuing such an unworkable pie-in-the-sky contraption…

  • John

    Any chance of getting an English translation for the panels?

  • Michael

    This is horrrible! Ideas from XIX century! O.o

  • Michael

    This is horrible! Ideas from XIX century. O.o

  • Steve S.

    When I saw this Nomadic City, my first speculation about its probable location was in the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya) wandering around the Sahara powered by the sun, financed by the Chinese. The comment about its being amphibious would work great in this region. Imagine it emerging from the desert and migrating onto the Mediterranean Sea, to be understood as a techno-territory ready to interact with international cargo shipping, ferry traffic, port cities, conflict zones, refugees, etc.

    I think it’s a fascinating idea once positioned in this more believable contemporary context.

    DISCLAIMER: I’m an M.Arch student in Dr. Antonio Petrov’s seminar on the Mediterranean. My brain is in “Mediterranean”, “Region-Crsis”, State Space, mode.

  • simon

    I keep thinking of the mobility in relation to what? it seems like the context the structure covers is not really a context of importance, and that the structure becomes it’s own context, in which it can’t escape from.

  • Not A Cynic

    I really don’t understand all the negative commentary here. This is obviously someone with an enormous amount of talent intelligently using his thesis project to showcase his considerable representational and technical abilities. The project itself is fun, visually stunning and provides plenty of food for thought. I doubt that the author mean it as a blueprint to be followed, but rather a fantastical vision of an interesting theme (albeit one that has been covered before in sci-fi literature).

    Stop hating and start honing your own skills.

    I would hire this guy in a split second if he applied to my studio, which I suspect is more than I could say for the majority of the negative commentators here.

    As architects do we really have our heads so far up our own backsides that we can’t enjoy something fun and well executed for what it is?!

    • John M

      Well contact him them, if you are that keen. I’m sure he’ll work for you.

      But we’re not criticising creativity. We criticising the po-faced self-belief that this is a contribution to some serious issues. If your studio believes that it is, then not only are you welcome to his work, you deserve it. But frankly, I think you aren’t work on solving anything, so you don’t need to concern yourself with the dirty business of real-world problems needing real-world solutions.

  • Aaron

    …as it destroys everything in it’s path, compacting the soil and decimating all below it. ha.

  • elexis

    I thought this was an amazing idea and should be implemented immediately, until I realised that it wasn’t a minecraft project.

  • thread

    seems like it should also float. would be able to address other global issues.

  • yenaingsoe


  • Boyan Manchev


  • Birdie_num_num

    Despite some of the obvious issues a project like this disregards, I am impressed by the level of resolution of the ideas. A great deal of thought has gone into the various scales required to be considered on a project like this. Its almost too bad that the brain power executed on this project wasn’t utilized to solve a more realistic / exigent architectural issue.

  • John M

    This is the reason why architecture, and ArchDaily is so poorly respected in the real world.

    This is rubbish on every sensible level. In what remote way is this sustainable, or social, or in any way doable or desirable?

    Fantasies are not always good because fantastical.

    This is appallingly useless.

  • khazaishak

    this is a good design and ideas. but when comes into surroundings, it will demolish many places and it needs huge spaces to take this city machines to do its work. its getting more issues and pollution to the areas.

  • jerry Veverka

    Very beautiful, however do we really want cities like this with the inhabitants so far removed from the ground? So we place it somewhere where “work and resources are nearby”? So those places exist in empty locations where you don’t have to destroy what’s in its path?

    Beautifully illustrated, otherwise self indulgent.

  • jerry veverka

    Beautifully illustrated, and otherwise a really bad idea. Do we really want to have cities where the inhabitants are so far removed from the earth? The idea of parking it where work and resources are abundant??? Sure, can you imagine what it would have to run over to get near work and resources?

    Absolutely gorgeous presentation and otherwise self indulgent.

  • Ptyarch

    Seems to me like a giant beast, utilizing a certain place’s resources until their done with them, passing onto the next and so on… The idea is there, the development lacks reasoning I think.