While California’s High Speed Rail system broke ground last month in California, Elon Musk’s dream of a Hyperloop, a rocket-propelled system that would shuttle passengers (and/or freight) across the state (and perhaps the country) in minutes, not hours, is making surprising progress, with new teams, and visions emerging.
Manufacturing is returning to Buffalo, New York in a big way. In late September, SolarCity broke ground on a 1.2-million-square-foot solar panel manufacturing plant that will be the biggest facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The company, which Elon Musk chairs, is investing $5 billion into the project that will rise on the site of a former Republic Steel factory. When fully operational, the panels produced at the factory are expected to generate one gigawatt of energy, that’s roughly enough power to power 145,000 homes.
Buckle up: the gap between commercial space travel and the present moment is rapidly narrowing. Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America (designed by Foster + Partners) recently signed an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration granting access to airspace in New Mexico, with designs to turn the ground beneath into a commercial spaceflight center.
Speaking of rumors, Texas Monthly spread the word that Silicon Valley billionaire visionary Elon Musk may be locating facilities for two of his future-looking companies in the Lone Star State. Musk’s SpaceX has been buying up land in Cameron County in South Texas with the implicit purpose of building a space facility on the site to launch an expedition to Mars. In more terrestrial affairs, the South Africa native is also considering building a battery factory in the state for his electric car company, Tesla Motors.
“This thing is real,” architect Craig Hodgetts said in an email about the Hyperloop, Elon Musk’s proposal for a high-speed transit system somewhere between a train and a human-scale pneumatique. Hodgetts would know: next year, he’ll direct a studio on the urban implications of the technology for SUPRASTUDIO, UCLA Architecture and Urban Design’s Master of Architecture II program. The partnership between SUPRASTUDIO, part of UCLA’s IDEAS laboratory, and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, the startup company formed to make Musk’s concept a reality, is part of a strategy to crowd-source much of the research and development behind the Hyperloop.
When Elon Musk makes plans he makes no little ones. And he feels California shouldn’t either. This is the rationale behind Hyperloop Alpha, a supersonic, solar-powered, air-cushioned transit system (and future “Never Built”?) he views as the bolder alternative to conventional high-speed rail. It’s not a train, exactly. It’s more a hybrid between high-speed rail and the Concord.
On Monday, members of LA’s design and architecture cognoscenti descended on the Tesla store on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade to celebrate the official relaunch of KCRW’s DnA (Design and Architecture). The event featured a discussion between DnA host and executive producer Frances Anderton and Elon Musk, the visionary founder-CEO of Tesla and Space X. Those present included Michael Rotondi, Ray Kappe, Thom Mayne, developer Tom Gilmore, and Getty architecture curators Wim de Wit and Christopher Alexander.