Floating Cities: 15 Last-Hope Homes for a Watery World

With so many visions of humanity’s future involving the devastating effects of climate change, architects are looking toward a life without land: entire self-contained cities purposefully built on water complete with housing, schools, hospitals, restaurants and shops. These floating city concepts range from recycled oil rigs to what could be the largest structure ever built (if we ever discover a material strong enough to bear the weight, that is.)

Embassy of Drowned Nations

(images via: oculus)

As sea levels rise, it seems that some nations will inevitably sink beneath the depths, leaving behind thousands or perhaps millions of displaced residents. We may hope that the Embassy of Drowned Nations is never actually needed, but time will tell. The artificial island, conceived by Australian design firm Oculus, would temporarily house climate change refugees.

Drowned London, Rebuilt on Oil Rigs

(images via: io9)

If London, too, falls victim to climate change, where will everyone go? Perhaps they’d evacuate to abandoned oil rigs and recycled ship hulls, as in this concept by Anthony Lau. Says the designer, “By utilising the flooded landscape, a floating city of offshore communities, mobile infrastructure and aquatic transport will allow the city to reconfigure through fluid urban planning. Wave, tidal and wind energy will be ideal for this offshore city and the inhabitants will live alongside the natural cycles of nature and the rhythms of the river and tides.”

New Orleans Arcology Habitat

(images via: greener ideal)

Five years later, New Orleans is just beginning to feel like its old pre-Katrina self again – but that could change all too quickly if another major hurricane happened to hit the city. Perhaps residents should aim for a solution that works with rather than against the water they’re surrounded by – like this concept for a ‘New Orleans Arcology Habitat’, a floating metropolis in the Mississippi River. It’s not just a last-ditch emergency shelter: with housing, hotels, cultural facilities, a school system and even casinos, it’s a self-contained community for everyday living.

Boston Arcology

(images via: ahearn schopfer)

Boston may not be living under the constant threat of flooding like New Orleans, but rising seas could still be a problem for this bustling coastal city. Designer Kevin Schopfer would bring 15,000 Boston residents out into the harbor with the BOA development, a floating pedestrian-only city with all the amenities one would expect in any urban setting.

Seasteading San Francisco

(images via: seasteading.org)

For some libertarians, no government is good government – and that’s why they’d like to find a way to live in self-contained, self-sustainable floating cities located in international waters. The Seasteading Institute imagines “homesteading on the high seas” on mobile platforms. The group’s first project may be ‘ClubStead’, a 200-person resort seastead in the San Francisco Bay.

Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid

(image via: wikimedia commons)

If you’re interested in futuristic architecture concepts on the opposite end of the spectrum from the “tiny house movement”, look no further than Japanese firm Shimizu, which has come up with all manner of mega-projects ranging from electricity-collecting belts for the moon to this “Mega-City Pyramid”, which if built would be the largest building ever constructed. A self-contained city for one million people situated on a river delta, the 1.25-mile-high structure isn’t technically possible yet because no known material can support that kind of weight.

Green Float – Lilypad Skyscraper City

(images via: shimizu)

Another big idea from Shimizu is “Green Float”, which is just as much a sky city as a floating city, given that it places housing in tall skyscrapers perched on lilypad-like platforms. Each skyscraper is insanely tall at one mile high each, and would house 1 million residents, with the ‘stem’ of each tower containing vertical gardens.

Disney’s 1984 Sea City of the Future

(image via: paleofuture)

In 1984, Walt Disney had some interesting ideas of what agriculture would be like in farming areas near the sea by the year 2050. Published in a book called ‘The Future World of Agriculture’, this image was accompanied by the following text: “Robots tend crops that grow on floating platforms around a sea city of the future. Water from the ocean would evaporate, rise to the base of the platforms (leaving the salt behind), and feed the crops.”

1968 Sea City

(image via: darkroastedblend)

Dark Roasted Blend bemoaned the fact that, when it comes to visions of futuristic architecture, “the future’s gotten too damned small.” But that’s definitely not the case with those Shimizu projects, or with this mysterious concept, which the blog identifies as “Sea-City, 1968 – architect Hal Moggridge for Pilkington Glass Company.” The design is sadly bereft of further information but it’s certainly a striking image with its illuminated strip of buildings forming an artificial harbor.

Freedom Ship: City at Sea

(images via: freedomship.com)

Aesthetically speaking, the Freedom Ship isn’t quite on the level of most other floating city designs – but that may actually make it easier to achieve. An amazing mile long, this mega-stretched-out cruise ship could house over 50,000 people with living quarters, work space, retail, education and health care. It has its own full-size airstrip on the roof as well as a giant port for smaller leisure boats and visiting vessels.

Shanghai Expo’s Floating City

(images via: treehugger)

It never did materialize, but if this 2007 vision for a floating city had really been constructed, it certainly would have been the most innovative and eye-catching display at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Dutch designers envisioned an eco-friendly series of honeycomb semi-spheres floating on the Shanghai River, packed with a 3D cinema, pubs, a shopping mall and a restaurant.

Ark City from ‘Brink’

(images via: io9)

The stunning “seagoing eco-city gone wrong” that serves as the setting for the game Brink was inspired by the writings of Geoff Manaugh, founder of BLDGBlog, and by concepts like the Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid. “It was familiar enough to draw on zeitgeist-ish current concerns, but distant enough in time and space that players wouldn’t have seen it before,” wrote Brink developer Ed Stern.

Buckminster Fuller’s Triton City

(images via: a place to stand)

From WebUrbanist’s ‘Retro-Futurism: 13 Failed Urban Design Ideas‘ – “If not for a certain tell-tale 1960s aesthetic, Buckminster Fuller’s ‘Triton City’ could easily fit among today’s designs for floating eco-friendly cities. The futurist, architect and inventor was ahead of his time as usual when he imagined this tetrahedronal metropolis for Tokyo Bay, a seastead for up to 6,000 residents. Fuller wrote about the possibility of desalinating and recirculating seawater ‘in many useful and non-polluting ways’ and using materials from obsolete buildings on land, which were hardly popular ideas at the time.”

The Gyre: Floating Oceanic Skyscraper

(images via: zigloo.ca)

From WebEcoist’s ‘Underwater Cities: 12 Sci-Fi Visions & Real Design Ideas’ – “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.”

Sea City 2000

(image via: futuresavvy)

FutureSavvy.net scanned this unidentified article about ‘Sea City 2000’, a concept based on the ideas of both Buckminster Fuller and Paolo Soleri, which features a pyramid-shaped building covered in solar panels on a floating platform. The pyramid contains apartments, shops, gardens and schools while the equipment underneath it would support jobs like fish farming and “mining the sea bed for minerals – sure to be an important activity in the 21st century.”

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