Albedo - Strata
Athaja, The City of Winds. Athaja was built after Naddakra and straddles the midlands to highlands border, with the midlands section originally dedicated to water treatment and water pumping and the highlands section intended for the residential and recreational areas.
Over time the midlands section became home to other areas not requiring sunlight, hence most of the industrial sector, and shortly afterwards to high density lower class housing. The highlands section became upper class suburbs, figuratively and literally in this case. This makes Athaja the unofficial poster-city of Strata and a model for future cities straddling the midlands and highlands border.
The border between the midlands and lowlands is not well defined in Athaja leading to contention on whether some of the newest and lowest portions of the city are technically lowlands habitation or not.
Athaja is divided into three broad sections, the upper city, the middle city, and the lower city. In terms of layout the city is best described as a wedge (roughly 50o) beginning with the Upper City in the highlands forming the point, with the city spreading to the Middle City
The Upper City
The upper city, located in the highlands, has become upper class suburbs, some high priced corporate zones, and contains the cities political areas. The highlands area available to Athaja was always restricted and so this is still densely used space. High rise towers are the norm, with roof top gardens and penthouse mansions. A number of garden-towers are also present, masterworks of hydroponics and architecture, creating vertical parklands for the recreation needs of the upper city residents. This is a matter of some resentment from residents of the middle city.
While most residents of the middle city and lower city strive to be elevated to the upper city, many residents of the upper city hope to move to the much less dense and cramped city of Naddakra.
The Middle City
The middle city is that portion of Athaja where towers can be built tall enough to breach the fog. Though some of these closest to the highlands can be multiple stories, the outer (and newest) towers often add just a few stories and a artificial ‘island’ emerging from the fog. Paradoxically these ‘private islands’ are often the most sought after than the older ‘tenements in the sunlight’.
For those in the body of the tower, however, it is another story. Engulfed in perpetual fog, knowing that more privileged citizens enjoy the sun above and that travel means descending to the ground level or navigating the maze of connecting bridges between towers. Some rooms on each level of a tower might have ‘windows’, but the best view one can hope for is distant lights through the fog from some other nearby tower. The worst is an endless battle against damp and mold if the seals are poor quality or cheap. On the other hand, access to fresh air always commands a premium price.
These mega-towers all differ in design but paved the way for the arcologies used in the lower city and in Besheni. They are also the beginning of the self contained arcologies but still carrying traces of the high rise apartments they were initially modeled off. Specifically, while each level of such a tower might house hundreds of residents, not each level would be set up to support them fully. So middle city residents need to commute for shopping, for food, and for work. While each tower typically includes commercial and industrial space, it is common for residents to need to travel to their workplace in other towers.
This commuting is much more haphazard than in a normal city (where peak hour traffic is usually inwards in the morning and outwards in the evening). The option of travelling to the surface and navigating foggy streets open to the air is treated as an extreme measure by many, as opposed to attempting to navigate the network of covered walkways and bridges between towers. Since the middle city was built by private industry without a guiding plan, the bridge system is far from convenient. Having to change levels to get to the next bridge, for example, or needing to pass through multiple other towers to get to an adjacent tower when the two aren’t directly connected.
Mass transit in the Middle City takes the form of arterial rail connections, connecting from the Upper City through to the Lower City. This is an element of some rancor among Middle City, as it is easier for Upper City residents to travel radially from the upper city to rail stations in the Middle City than it is for Middle City residents to travel within the Middle City by rail. Since there are no connecting lines, only the radial lines, it is necessary to travel to the Upper City, switch services, and travel back down to the Middle City along another rail line. Dozens of attempts to build a connecting rail system have failed due to planning complexities, primarily the lack of usable space.
Compared to the lower city, the middle city is less densely populated but not as well organized, so more comfortable in some ways but less comfortable and convenient in others.
The Lower City
The lower city of Athaja was built with no hope of building high enough to breach the fog. Also, the lower city is often divided among the higher midlands water harvesting facilities, specifically catchment dams. There is some quesiton on whether the lower and newer sections of the Lower City technically count as built in the lowlands
Unlike the middle city, the lower city of Athaja is primarily composed of arcologies, self contained megastructures where residents work, live, shop, eat, and in many cases partly or fully self sufficient for food production. Also unlike the middle city, small conventional structures are present between arcologies. Supplementing arcologies like this is often necessary, particularly if the arcology is deficient in some aspect. It is also a good way for arcology residents to ‘get out in the open’ and for activities that break the rules of the arcology in some way. Since arcologies are usually run in part by the corporations who own or lease the facilities, the internal rules do vary.
‘Older’ arcologies are less likely to have levels dedicated to hydroponic farms (and artificial sunlight) for food production. The following generations would use their upper levels for this and the later designs finally freed themselves of the notion that farms and gardens must be at the top closest to the sun, since that isn’t a factor in the midlands. It is also a general rule that the newer the arcology, the more self sufficient it will be but also the further from the highlands it will be.
Quality of life in an arcology is largely dependent on the quality of the arcology. Some amount to little more than high density accommodation for corporate employees who work in the same megastructure. Others are self contained communities complete with schools, parks, recreational zones, internal food production as well as residential and occupation zones.
One noted problem is that one’s residency in an arcology is usually tied to employment in that arcology, with limited options for family or a spouse (depending on the individual arcology and its individual rules). This is less of a problem in an arcology cluster, where several arcologies are in close proximity.
As a result of arcology construction the residential areas of the lower city are denser than those of the middle and upper city, however generally very convenient. They are planned communities and provide for residents basic needs, with it being normal for residents to not need to leave an arcology for months at a time.
The stereotype of attitudes to the fog in Athaja is that all residents are struggling for financial and career success to rise in society and escape the fog, or to avoid misfortune and ‘falling into the fog’. It is true that the majority of jobs and of accommodation in Athaja is within the fog in the Middle City and Lower City, further disadvantaging those trying to seek promotion and enter the Upper City.
Contrary to stereotype, a growing percentage of the population are embracing ‘the fog life’. For some it’s the simple realization that being in the fog makes little difference if they are working full time and only ‘see the scenery’ commuting too and from work. For others the hidden advantages of living in the fog can be attractive, especially the fog’s interference with monitoring devices and the opportunities for true privacy that the fog offers.
The streets of the Middle City are shunned by many, but embraced by a minority. Many set up stalls at the base of the towers, or operate mobile vendor carts. It is also a favoured location for secret rendezvous and those who wish their conversations to be truly off the record.
The examples from the Lower City are more striking, with conventional buildings and streets around the bases of arcologies in some arcology clusters. An emerging attitude of “why shelter from the fog, let’s just live here and get on with it”. This has also seen the formation of ‘black markets’ in some districts.
Media and Entertainment
One major genre of Athaja cinematography is ‘arcology horror’ where an arcology or under-construction arcology is ‘cut off’ for some reason and then must survive a typical horror movie threat such as infectious fog, zombie plagues, xeno creatures, ADF covert operations, computers turning against their makers, or just a natural disaster. Or the ever popular post apocalyptic genre where suddenly the rest of Strata falls silent but for one lone arcology, which must discover what happened (and then survive it).