Is travel going underground?

It's something that we've grown up reading about in fiction books; with JRR Tolkein's and Jules Verne's alternative worlds being set in underground labyrinths.

But now, these visions look as though they're starting to become a reality, as architects realise the benefits to the environment if we started going down into the earth. With so much time and effort being spent on taking us further away from our planet than ever before, should the future of travel see dive deeper into the soil we already stand on?

We take a look at visions from a handful of architects who show us the realities of living underground...

Caved in 

Down in the dusty crevasses of Jordan, Florida-based architect team Oppenheim Architecture + Design are just one of a myriad of designers hoping to adapt nature into high concept living spaces. 

The pictures you see before you are the Wadi Resort, based on the concept of adapting clifftops to live comfortably inside. 

Comprised of 47 lodges, the idea for the project was to reappropiate the way society looks at surrounding nature. Indeed, the way the lodges are built are designed to be perfectly intertwined with how nature works - such as taking advantage of the natural cooling nature of the rocks the lodges are built out of. 

"We tapped the inherent power of the desert through primal and instinctual design moves, informed by the forces, rhythms and patterns of nature - past, present, and future." Oppenheim, the design company's founder explained to Dezeen.

The resulting effect, as the stunning images show, enable people to live in the clifftops of Wadi Rum, an ancient valley of sandstone dating back to 8000BC. A prime filming and tourist location, it is often called "the Valley of the Moon". As such, it served the perfect backdrop to be transformed into a resort.

Although these are only designs, the ecologically friendly aspects of the venture show that such a resort could serve wonders for the environment. And the Florida-based team are not the only ones harnessing nature to be our hidden homes. 

Going Underground

In Britain, leading architects Heatherwick Studios (responsible for many of the splendid scenes at the London Olympics opening ceremony) have been exploring the opportunities of an underground park, set to be built under shaded canopies in Abu Dhabi. 

The project, called Al Fayah park, is a homage to subterranean life.

Inspired by the sand dunes of Al Fayah in Dubai, Thomas Heatherwick, chief designer, wanted to bring the state back to its roots, saying that a lot of Dubai's momentous designs are inspired by Western architecture instead of celebrating its own. The question they asked in order to create this project was, "Can you make a park out of a desert?" 

"There can be a mentality that can easily exist here that sees the desert as a surface to be covered up, instead of maybe celebrating its uniqueness." Heatherwick explained to CNN

The 'submerged oasis' not only is designed to celebrate the sandscapes of Dubai, but also to provide a greener way of living. The canopies that would rise above the tourist park, (intended for families to picnic and shop) would be created from Dubai's greenery itself: trees, vegetable gardens and grassy knolls. 

"We wanted to go back and reinvent a public space of nature, contemplation and leisure in the context of the utterly different climatic conditions of the Middle East." Heatherwick told The National UAE

Alongside Heatherwick and Oppenheim, a number of other architects have set their sights on a world underneath the floorboards. For James Ramsey of Raad Studio, the message he wanted to explore was simple. 

"How can we build more green space in our cities? What if the answer lay just below our feet?" Employing this idea, a Kickstarter was launched in 2012, pledging a need for $100,000 to build on an abandoned trolley terminal underneath the feet of millions of New Yorkers. 

The project devised solar optics to harbour the sunshine on the outside to bring it on the inside. From here, the underground park LowLine would be able to function just as easily as any park in New York City. 

As the official website enthuses: "When it's really cold, or pouring rain, how much fun is it to hang out in Central Park? The High Line? Not so much. The LowLine can be the 21st century answer to traditional parks: instead of building up, let's build down!"

Would you live underground?

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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