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Where to Find a Vertical City? Alaska!

Those who actually read this blog, the six of you, must have read my take on vertical cities, being really a topic that only exists in architectural competitions or marketing brochures. The most interesting example is, or better put: was an unfinished skyscraper in Venezuela taken over by squatters who organized their own vertical neighbourhood.

However, today’s video shows there is another example of a building that has an actual urban structure inside, and it can be found in one of the most unlikely places: a small village in Alaska called Whittier which regularly receives fishermen, hunters and cruise boats as visitors. It can be found 121 km southeast of Anchorage.

The population is a bit below 200, and here comes the interesting bit, pretty much all of them live in one 14-storey building. The Begich Towers, as it is now called, was constructed in 1952 by the U.S. Army as one of two projects out of ten planned. The 196-unit building is now operated by the Begich Towers Condominium Association Of Apartment Owners Inc. and has its own Web site.

begich_towersBegich Towers. Source: Google Maps

Next to shops, a police station, a 15th floor lounge which serves as the village square, it contains an elementary school. The video shows an interview with a teacher, who tells us a bit how it’s like to live in a actual vertical village.

Update (February 3)
A SkyscraperCity member contacted me saying he actually has stayed in this building in 2010. His experience in his own words:

It’s an extremely fascinating place, you can get everything you need without ever leaving the tower. There are convenience stores, a library, a market, and tunnels to the elementary school and the shops in the Whittier town center. … On one side we had a large window overlooking the town of Whittier and the Prince William Sound. and on the other side we had a view of the mountain with a cascading waterfall right in front of our window! Really amazing place.

He also points out one of the convenient things about living tall where it can be cold:

Whittier’s climate in Coastal South Central Alaska means that the town can be buried in up to 3 meters of snow after a winter storm. So the town has nearly everything in one tower and what is not located inside the tower is connected to it by a system of underground tunnels. You can literally last all winter without ever stepping one foot outside. Whittier residents experience the closest thing to human hibernation that I’ve ever heard of!

Indeed no shoveling for you!

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  • Bapak E.

    As one of the six I can at least say I enjoy reading this blog, so keep up the good work!

    • Jan Klerks

      Thanks for sharing that Bapak, much appreciated. We’ll keep it up. 🙂