Unbuilt Tokyo: 'depthscrapers' and a million-person pyramid

Had the creators of the underground skyscraper had their way, the Japanese capital might have looked very different indeed

Protected by cylindrical walls of reinforced concrete, the steel and glass “depthscrapers” extend hundreds of metres underground. Only a single floor of each inverted 35-storey skyscraper is visible at ground level.

Giant mirrors mounted directly above the central wells reflect sunlight to the apartments below. Prismatic glass ensures even light throughout the day, while fresh, conditioned air is pumped down from the surface.

Depthscrapers featured in the November 1931 edition of US magazine Everyday Science and Mechanics

Kenzo Tange’s 1960 masterplan for Tokyo. Images: Tange Architects

The Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid. Image: Shimizu Corporation

A model of the Norman Foster-designed Millennium Tower. Photograph: SSPL/Getty

The Sky Mile Tower was the centrepiece of Kohn Pedersen Fox’s Next Tokyo 2045 project. Images: KPF

Zaha Hadid’s design for the National Stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Images: Japan Sport Council/EPA/AP/Zaha Hadid Architects

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