A domed city is a kind of theoretical or fictional structure that encloses a large urban area under a single roof. In most descriptions, the dome is airtight and pressurized, creating a habitat that can be controlled for air temperature, composition and quality, typically due to an external atmosphere (or lack thereof) that is inimical to habitation for one or more reasons. Domed cities have been a fixture of science fiction and futurology since the early 20th century, and may be situated on Earth, a moon or other planet.
It is not clear exactly when the concept of a domed city first appeared. The phrase "domed city" had come into use by the 19th century in a different sense, meaning a skyline with dome-topped buildings. One catalog of early science fiction mentions the 1881 socialist and white supremacist fantasy Three Hundred Years Hence by British author William Delisle Hay. Hay's book describes a future civilization where most of humanity lives in glass-domed cities beneath the sea, allowing the surface of the earth to be used primarily for agriculture. Several examples from the early 20th century are also listed.
Authors used domed cities in response to many problems, sometimes to the benefit of the people living in them and sometimes not. The problems of air pollution and other environmental destruction are a common motive, particularly in stories of the middle to late 20th century. In some works, the domed city represents the last stand of a human race that is either dead or dying. The 1976 film Logan's Run shows both of these themes. The characters have a comfortable life within a domed city, but the city also serves to control the populace and to ensure that humanity never again outgrows its means.
The domed city in fiction has been interpreted as a symbolic womb that both nourishes and protects humanity. Where other science fiction stories emphasize the vast expanse of the universe, the domed city places limits on its inhabitants, with the subtext that chaos will ensue if they interact with the world outside. Action comics featured Superman caring for the "bottled city of Kandor," a miniaturized chunk of the doomed planet Krypton in the DC Universe, with the last of their race.
It is sometimes posited that a dystopian government could keep its population sedate and happy by putting behavior modifying gasses into the controlled atmosphere of a domed city.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the domed city concept was widely discussed outside the confines of science fiction. In 1960, visionary engineer Buckminster Fuller described a 3 km geodesic dome spanning Midtown Manhattan that would regulate weather and reduce air pollution.
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