Amphibious Garden Produces Own Power, Cleans Rivers

As we approach World Water Day 2010, it’s important to take a moment to consider just how essential clean drinking water is. More than a billion people worldwide have no access to safe drinking water. Millions die each year from their lack of access to clean, potable water. Many initiatives have been proposed to address this global concern, but it’s a continuing threat in developing nations around the world. Vincent Callebaut Architectures has proposed a novel way to both purify European waterways and raise public awareness of the water shortage problem.

The proposed solution is this self-sufficient, positive-energy floating garden called the Physalia (which means “water bubble”). The design is zero-emission, in keeping with the firm’s commitment to an environmentally-responsible design. But even more importantly, the structure actually produces its own power with photovoltaic cells and hydro-electric turbines. By producing more power than it consumes, the Physalia crosses over into positive-energy territory.

The Physalia is designed to travel between the major rivers of Europe, purifying the water and facilitating international water conservation research. By far, two of the most prominent physical features of the Physalia are its rooftop garden and its massive sunroof. The garden would be nourished by the water in which the vessel floats, while the sunroof and side windows let passengers admire their surroundings. Because of its reflective windows and natural contours, during daylight hours, the vessel looks more like a biological presence or a trick of light than a carefully constructed fluvial craft.

While it glides along in river waters, the TiO2-coated surface reacts with ultraviolet rays to purify the fluvial water. It absorbs and neutralizes waste from agricultural and industrial sources, as well as the water pollution created by other river vessels. It would become a sort of floating laboratory, a testing ground to see just how successful an innovative vessel like this can actually be. At the same time, it could be a floating classroom, a tourist attraction and a conference location all centered around the idea of clean water accessibility.

The vessel itself is an eco-minded traveler’s paradise. It contains four distinct areas with themes based on the four elements. The Water Garden is the vessel’s main entry point. The open-air reception area would house temporary exhibitions and provide a seamless view of the water below and to every side. The Earth Garden houses the research laboratory. The Fire Garden is a womb-like chamber in the underwater section of the Physalia; it features a roaring fire in the fireproof hull and would be home to permanent exhibits on aquatic ecosystems. The Air Garden is described as “an audacious avant-garde project” that would educate visitors about water respect.

Will we ever see a vessel like the Physalia floating between the major rivers of Europe? That remains to be seen. But such an ambitious project would certainly prove to not only raise awareness of the clean water shortage, but also help to cut down on the widespread pollution of river water. Let’s hope that one day, we can look out over the Seine to see this floating bubble drift by.

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