Living in the desert is no piece of cake. So to imagine a glittering city in the desert is to imagine something awesome and fantastical—and maybe a touch of crazy. Like architect Stephane Malka's, "The Green Machine," a mobile city on caterpillar treads that farms the desert as it walks.

A Walking City is not a new idea. Ron Herron first proposed his utopian-inflected idea of cities that roam the the globe in 1964. (And here's another modern interpretation from a Spanish architect.) "The Green Machine" is both a throwback and a look forward into the potentially green future of the Sahara.

Malka's vision is simultaneously an industrial city with houses, schools, restaurants, parks, and a farm that produces 20 million tons of crops per year. Its "bread basket" is the desert underneath the city. The caterpillar treads—inspired by the machines NASA uses to transport rockets—also double as agricultural infrastructure. As designboom explains, the first pair of treads plow the land, and the rear ones inject water, fertilizer and seeds.


The idea, however fantastical, is that over the years the land underneath would progress through the stages of ecological succession, making the leap from desert to shrubs to trees.

"The Green Machine" is also meant to be entirely self-sufficient. Nines balloons float above the city to condense water from the air. Electricity comes from its nine solar towers and turbines inside the balloons.

What's interesting about these renderings is that they don't show a shiny new city. The Green Machine is rusty. The paint is peeling. It's as if Malka wants to present us with a Walking City successful in middle age, rather than newly created one with an uncertain future.


The Green Machine questions the idea that the desert is meant to be a barren landscape forever. It roams the the sands like a gigantic creature tending to its nest, remaking the landscape around it. [designboom]