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Water Miner: PCWCP 5.0

Project City

Johannesburg, South Africa

Student Name

Fangyuan Sheng

Mingyang Sun

By 2025, frequent extreme weather and air pollution have rendered Johannesburg no longer suitable for human habitation on the ground. As a result, the residents of Johannesburg established an underground city by expanding old abandoned gold mines for survival. However, the worsening water crisis has made people realize that only by giving back to nature and restoring the ecological environment can they obtain stable and sustainable water resources capable of supporting habitation.


The people of Johannesburg have united to initiate the Plant Cultivation and Water Conservation Project (PCWCP), hoping to improve soil health and restore groundwater levels through technologically enabled plant cultivation. Through the efforts of several generations, the turning point came in 2050 brought on by PCWCP 5.0.


Site Context

The gold mine and the processes of socio-spatial transformations in Johannesburg

More information about Johannesburg


By 2025, frequent extreme weather and air pollution have made Johannesburg no longer suitable for human habitation on the ground. As a result, the residents of Johannesburg used advanced engineering technology to develop the underground structure of the former gold mining belt into a new underground refuge. Through 10 years of development, the new underground city has been developed through the optimization of a smart city management system that includes an environmental simulation system; an energy cycle system; a high-speed transportation system; and a mature disaster warning system. As a result, the underground city is able to meet the long-term residential needs of all Johannesburg residents.


Here, each resident has been allocated optimized living facilities including a smart living space; a 3D food printer; uniforms for collecting evaporated water; and protective clothing used to enter and exit the city above the ground. However, due to the lack of water resources, the government had to assign limited water to each resident. Despite all efforts to reuse water, the allocated share has continued to decrease each year.


People quickly realized that the escalating water crisis was hindering the prosperity of the underground city. From 2035, people had tried to construct above ground infrastructures that collected precipitation in order to expand water resources. However, the huge demand for water adds to the burden on nature which was adversely impacted by these infrastructures. At the same time, extreme weather has led to unstable precipitation, coupled with the further decline of the groundwater level. Residents realized that only by restoring the ecological environment on the ground above can they obtain sustainable water resources to support life below. As a result, since 2035, more and more people have returned to the ground above to engage in research on green infrastructure and the optimization of water resources.


As part of this work, a large amount of former Township lands has been converted into experimental fields for ecological restoration. Only the commercial core of Johannesburg retained high-rise buildings as research centers, water monitoring labs, memorial towers, and entrances to the underground city. To achieve the common goal of "water prosperity", the boundaries and prejudices of race, class, and gender disappeared for the first time in Johannesburg.


Establishment of underground city


Precipitation collection

Start of PCWCP



Of all the plans to solve the water crisis, the Plant Cultivation and Water Conservation Project (PCWCP) is the most ambitious plan. Its goal is to hybridize and cultivate new water-retaining plants under extreme weather conditions such as high temperature, water shortage, and occasional floods, and ultimately improve the soil environment and restore the groundwater level. With the implementation of plant cultivation in the PCWCP 1.0-4.0 programs, new man-made and diversified planting landscapes and ecosystems have been formed on the ground throughout Johannesburg. However, plants were still vulnerable to extreme weather and the water circulation system was very fragile. The turning point occurred in 2050, when the successful planting of plants from PCWCP 5.0 promoted the gradual restoration of the groundwater level, raising hopes for the integrated development of Johannesburg's above ground and underground cities.

Our story begins with the launch of Plant Cultivation and Water Conservation Project 5.0…




Underground City


Above Ground

Growing Process

Back to Ground



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