Underwater Cities: 12 Sci-Fi Visions & Real Design Ideas

Whether it’s adventure or necessity that ultimately propels us to venture beyond our shores and build new communities in the sea, we’ve got plenty of space to work with: over 70% of the Earth is covered with water. The world’s oceans can provide a dreamy setting for all manner of submerged societies, from self-sustaining utopian cities to ultra-modern inverted ‘skyscrapers’ and museums. These 12 ideas range from science fiction to theoretically achievable projects, possibly leading to the world’s first permanent aquatic abode.

Sub Biosphere 2

(images via: phil pauley)

Imagine an entirely self-contained city that could go practically anywhere as the need arose – from floating on the surface of the ocean, to hidden in the depths. Sub Biosphere 2 is a concept for a submerged city featuring eight live/work/farm biomes surrounding a large central biome containing all necessary equipment to keep the city running. Theoretically, with enough notice and supplies, Sub Biosphere 2 – which is also a seed bank – could survive everything from a hurricane to a nuclear war.

The Gyre – A Floating Skyscraper

(images via: zigloo.ca)

Technically, the Gyre isn’t a floating skyscraper – it’s more like a seafloor-scraper. Rather than reaching high into the air, the tip of the Gyre descends 400 meters under the ocean’s surface from a floating platform with four arms that buoy the building and create harbors for massive ships. The Gyre, powered by the solar, wind and wave energy, would house a research station and a resort complete with shops, restaurants, gardens, parks and entertainment.

Jellyfish-Inspired Ocean City for Australia

(images via: design boom)

Some ocean cities aim not to look like a modern metropolis that has simply been submerged, but like part of the ecosystem of the sea. The beautiful ‘Syph’, a jellyfish-inspired Ocean City concept for Australia, proposes not buildings but ‘organisms’ that each have a specialized task like producing food or housing residents. Designed by Arup Biometrics for the ‘Now + When Australian Urbanism’ competition, this concept has a flowing elegance that’s fitting for its environment.

Trilobis 65 Underwater Home

(images via: sub-find.com)

Not everyone is eager to pack into densely populated underwater skyscrapers and housing complexes, whether more of us live under the sea as a novelty or by necessity. Some deep-pocketed lovers of luxury may choose partially submerged abodes that are a variation of modern-day yachts. The round Trilobis 65 features an ‘observation bulb’ that provides a 360-degree view at a cost of just $4-5 million.

Amsterdam’s Underwater Future

(images via: treehugger)

Amsterdam has been dealing with a multiplying population and a shortage of land, a problem that will only get worse if the seas rise with global warming. While many forward-thinking architects have proposed a floating future for Amsterdam, this proposal would take certain functions of the city beneath sea level. Moshé Zwarts believes that draining canals, building under them and then re-filling them could provide space for parking, shopping and leisure.

Water-Scraper Self-Sufficient Floating City

(images via: evolo.us)

Like a combination of the Gyre and Australia’s ‘Syph’, the Water-Scraper is an inverted underwater skyscraper but also employs some stunning biomimicry. Designer Sarly Adre Bin Sarkum of Malaysia says “Its bioluminescent tentacles provide sea fauna a place to live and congregate while collecting energy through its kinetic movements.”

Hydropolis Hotel

(images via: builder blog)

It was supposed to be the world’s first underwater hotel, a massive 220-suite structure with a submarine ‘leisure complex’, an above-water land station and a tunnel connecting the two. But the Hydropolis Hotel was just a bit to ambitious of a project for the worldwide economic troubles of 2008-2010, even for Dubai, and though construction was set to start anytime, the project has been shelved.

Poseidon Undersea Resort

(images via: one nation)

Now that Hydropolis is off the table, Fiji’s Poseidon Undersea Resort really will nab the title of ‘world’s first underwater hotel’ – maybe. The resort was first supposed to open in 2008, but got pushed back to early 2010, which didn’t happen either.  It’s unclear whether construction has even begun. But if it does ever become a reality, the resort will offer 24 suites on the floor of a 5,000-acre lagoon with stunning views for a fee of $30,000 per couple per week.

Alexandria’s Underwater Museum

(image via: national geographic)

Few people ever get a glimpse of the remnants of ancient Alexandria, long since sunken into the Mediterranean Sea. But all the treasures discovered by divers in the 1990s, including 26 sphinxes, could be visible to the public if the world’s first underwater museum ever gets built. The partially above-water museum would feature four sail-shaped structures representing the points on a compass, and would keep the ruins underwater to follow the UNESCO convention of preservation of underwater heritage. A team is still trying to determine how to build around such priceless artifacts without disturbing them.

Minnesota’s Secret Underwater City

(images via: io9)

Since 1996, people have been mesmerized by online accounts of a “secret underwater city” not under the sea in some exotic location, but deep within the Minnesota River. The “official Mankato, MN web page” has even lured tourists in with  stories about an ancient city dating back to about 4,000 B.C., confirmed by “world famous astrogeologist Seymour Bottoms.” Getting the drift yet? The page was created by a professor at Minnesota State University to show his students that you can’t believe everything you hear on the internet – and yes, it has definitely resulted in some very disappointed and confused tourists.

Bioshock’s Underwater City of Rapture

(images via: the next side)

It never was and never will be a reality, but one of the most stunning underwater cities ever imagined is actually from a video game. The city of ‘Rapture’, from the game Bioshock 2, is entirely submerged somewhere off the coast of Iceland. Initially built as a utopian refuge from the post-World-War-II world, it fell victim to unrest from within, and it is the abandoned Rapture that gamers get to explore. This image is one of several by concept artist Tim Warnock depicting Rapture in all of its initial Art Deco glory.

R’lyeh, Home of Cthulu

(images via: john coulthart)

Long before any of the other undersea cities and buildings on this list were ever dreamed up, H.P. Lovecraft’s vision of R’lyeh was the most fascinating submerged metropolis since Atlantis. Illustrator John Coulthart brought it to frightening life in this incredible work of art, reminding us that undersea living isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

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