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 18 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=443701>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down -2

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

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +18

    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.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    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?

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +19

    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

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    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?

  6. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    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…

  7. Thumb up Thumb down -3

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  8. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    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.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    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?!

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  10. Thumb up Thumb down +1

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

  11. Thumb up Thumb down +3

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

  12. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    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.

  13. Thumb up Thumb down -3

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  14. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    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.

  15. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    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.

  16. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    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.

  17. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    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.

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