Though the space colonies would likely have been much more like shopping malls, O'Neill and the painters hoped these romantic depictions would convey the grandeur of the proposed colonies, according to Don Davis, who painted this scene.
“The idea was that these things are big enough that you could basically build nations in them,” he says. O'Neill had suggested this sort of scene, he continued. “I lived in the Bay Area at the time, with the green hills and such, and I was very enthused to encapsulate that life and that area.”
Was there ever any possibility that the colonies might eventually evolve into these lush landscapes, hundreds of years after their founding?
Davis's response is optimistic. “The first ones might not—they’re going to be very austere—but as they get bigger, more elaborate, then it will happen. Part of the project of what we have to bite off to begin to contemplate something like this is the ability to create our own ecosystems.”