The Tall Tower


The tower project began when Neal Stephenson started asking a simple question: how tall can we build something? As he started working with structural engineer Keith Hjelmstad, it turned out that this question has some surprising answers. To learn more about the project or get involved, check out the Tower Group.

The Premise

Inspired by some papers on the subject authored by Geoffrey Landis, Neal Stephenson began wondering how tall we could build a structure. After initial conversations with Dr. Keith Hjelmstad of Arizona State University, it became clear that it might be possible to build a very large structure using high-grade steel. Keith developed some simple models to explore the structural requirements of such a tower and Neal began thinking about where such a building might be placed.

As the tower conversation continues, the circle of collaborators has expanded to include aerospace engineering, sophisticated digital modeling and architectural design. In a sure sign that the tower project is about to get excitingly weird, Bruce Sterling wants in.  In the months to come the tower project will continue to serve as a pilot for the larger ideal of Hieroglyph: a freewheeling conversation about a radically ambitious project that could be accomplished within the next few decades.

In the Press

“A Place Where Science and Science Fiction Can Be of One Mind,” John Markoff, The New York Times

“Neal Stephenson on Science Fiction, Building Towers 20 Kilometers High…and Insurance,” Stephen Cass, Technology Review

“How Neal Stephenson’s 20-Kilometer Space Tower Could Change Everything,” George Dvorsky, io9

“Space Tower: Could We Build a Stratosphere Skyscraper?” Jim Giles, New Scientist

In Other Skyscraper News…

eVolo (architecture and design journal) annual Skyscraper Competition

Neal Stephenson is the author of the three-volume historical epic “The Baroque Cycle” (Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World) and the novels REAMDE, Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and Zodiac. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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