The sculptor uses the armature to organize and hold together his plastic art. This armature is not seen on the surface of the work, yet it is crucial to the nature and existence of the.art object. Cities and their metropolitan areas are not unlike the work of the sculptor, for they too are held together by an unseen armature. This armature exists below the surface of the earth. Without this armature, cities, if they could exist at all, would be without form and without structure. This paper examines the nature of the underground armature for cities and suggests that this vital armature be used as a positive tool in shaping cities to the demands of the next energy scarce century.
The underground armature for cities of all shapes and sizes is, first of all, the water supply and the sewage disposal systems. No city can endure long without the fundamental necessity of water and waste disposal. Since Roman times, civil engineering has provided the great technical blessing of underground water and sewer systems for urban areas throughout the world. No major surface development is possible without these core services into which buildings and other urban facilities are connected. One of the surest ways to control the location of urbanization and its intensity is to regulate the availability and capacity of its water and sewer systems. Underground transportation is the second most important aspect of the urban armature. According to the Handbook of International Urban Transport (UI''IP), forty-two major metropolitan areas have a combined subway trackage of over 5,000 km, ''Twenty-six cities have in construction or planning an additional 3,300 km of subway. Other important aspects of the underground armature, and these vary from region to region and city to city, are electrical distribution, gas distribution, district steam, telephone and other communication systems, processed and raw material distribution, and in some cases, rail and water born passenger and freight transportation.
What does this have to do with how cities will be shaped in the future? Haven''t we done an exceptionally good job providing water and sewer services in urban areas? Haven' t we done a good job of extending communication systems using the underground? The answer to these questions, in my opinion, is yes and no, Yes, in the sense that we have avoided most major public health disasters, citizens seem to move about, albeit with sane inconvenience, and the economic and social functions of metropolitan areas seem to creak along. No, in the sense that we have not foreseen or made use of all the potentials of the undergroundarmature, particularly in a world whose resource balance is rapidly changing. It has been the tradition in the United States, and in many other growth oriented industrialized countries. to extend underground water and sewer service and even transportation, on the basis of demand, rather than using these armatures as tools to shape and control growth for maximum human benefit.