Build a heated dome covering the city

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It’s a concept that’s been pitched for cities across the globe - from Manhattan to Houston to Siberia and Vermont.

Legend has it former populist mayor Stephen Juba even proposed to build one over downtown Winnipeg in the 1960s.

But is building a domed city a futurist’s wet dream forever stuck in the pages of science fiction?

Most likely.

It’s too hard to say whether or not a comprehensive feasibility study on one has ever been commissioned, let alone completed. However, the small city of Winooski, Vermont (population: 6,500), came close to securing federal grant money in 1979 to study the prospects of building a 250-foot high dome to encase the city, spread out over about 800 acres.

Though the proposal garnered international media attention - and an endorsement from famed architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller, who pitched a dome over midtown Manhattan in 1960 - the funding request was rejected.

Reports of a proposed dome over downtown Houston (about .75 square miles, according to the local newspaper there) to fend off heat and hurricanes went viral after appearing on a Discovery Channel TV show.

Ultimately, it’s a plan with elusive veracity.

And in 2010, architecture firm AB Elis Ltd. released renderings of a domed city for an abandoned diamond mine in eastern Siberia. It would house 100,000 people, be naturally ventilated, and contain farms and trees.

As the proposals suggest, the limits of the imagination, certainly when it comes to costs, are astronomical to the point of being unknown - which likely explains why none of them have come to fruition.

Meanwhile, Mayor Sam Katz is telling reporters Winnipeg’s infrastructure deficit - the money needed to fix roads and bridges, community centres, libraries and emergency stations - will surpass $7 billion by 2018.

Part of the series: The Urban Issue 2013

Published in Volume 67, Number 25 of The Uniter (March 28, 2013)

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