Architects turn to the sea with real proposals for subaquatic living

Architecture Environment International Technology Urbanism
FLOATING CITY BY AT DESIGN. (COURTESY AT DESIGN)

FLOATING CITY BY AT DESIGN. (COURTESY AT DESIGN)

Sub-aquatic colonization is as alien as inhabiting Mars, yet both topics trend in the design world. Some designers believe residing in the deep sea would resolve crises over food, energy, water, and carbon dioxide. Here are six proposals for subaquatic cities, some of which are being realized, despite resembling post-apocalyptic films.

AEQUOREA. (COURTESY VINCENT CALLEBAUT ARCHITECTURES)

AEQUOREA. (COURTESY VINCENT CALLEBAUT ARCHITECTURES)

Aequorea

Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut has revealed ambitious plans for Aequorea, a series of self-sufficient floating villages constructed of recycled plastics from the Great Pacific garbage patch. Each jellyfish-like eco-village would spiral down to the sea floor—forming 250-floor “oceanscrapers”—and house up to 20,000 people. The 250 floors would contain science labs, offices, hotels, sports fields, and farms.

AEQUOREA OCEANSCRAPER. (COURTESY VINCENT CALLEBAUT ARCHITECTURES)

AEQUOREA OCEANSCRAPER. (COURTESY VINCENT CALLEBAUT ARCHITECTURES)

Micro-algae would grow in the aquatic walls, and the villages would operate on algae fuel or hydrocarbons. According to Vincent Callebaut Architectures, the objective of Aequorea’s residents would be to “explore the abyssal zones in a respectful way, in order to speed innovation and to democratize new renewable energies – by definition inexhaustible – massively.”

See the Aequorea project page here.

LILYPAD. (COURTESY VINCENT CALLEBAUT ARCHITECTURES)

LILYPAD. (COURTESY VINCENT CALLEBAUT ARCHITECTURES)

Lilypad

Callebaut also designed Lilypad, a floating city that could house 50,000 people. The proposed city’s form mimics the intensely ribbed Victoria water lily. An artificial lagoon would lie in the center, surrounded by three marinas and three mountains. These ribs would house work, shopping, and entertainment, while food and biomass would be produced below the water line.

LILYPAD UNDERWATER. (COURTESY VINCENT CALLEBAUT ARCHITECTURES)

LILYPAD UNDERWATER. (COURTESY VINCENT CALLEBAUT ARCHITECTURES)

Callebaut hopes for Lilypad to be built by 2100. See the Lilypad project page here.

THE OCEAN SPIRAL. (COURTESY SHIMIZU CORP)

THE OCEAN SPIRAL. (COURTESY SHIMIZU CORP)

The Ocean Spiral

The Ocean Spiral, an underwater metropolis proposed by Japanese construction firm Shimizu Corp, would drive energy from the seabed and house up to 5,000 people. Homes, businesses, and hotels would reside in a sphere 1,640 feet in diameter and connect to a 9-mile spiral that extends to a submarine port and factory. Ocean Spiral would use micro-organisms to turn carbon dioxide into methane.

THE OCEAN SPIRAL ATRIUM. (COURTESY SHIMIZU CORP)

THE OCEAN SPIRAL ATRIUM. (COURTESY SHIMIZU CORP)

According to Shimizu Corp, the project is being researched by Tokyo University, Japanese government ministries, and energy firms. Shimizu Corp believes the necessary technology will be available in 15 years and construction would take five.

See the Ocean Spiral project page here.

SUB BIOSPHERE 2. (COURTESY PAULEY)

SUB BIOSPHERE 2. (COURTESY PAULEY)

Sub Biosphere 2

London based design consultant, Phil Pauley, designed Sub Biosphere 2, a network of biomes to house 100 people below water. The center biome would rise 400 feet above water, submerge 20 feet below water, and regulate fresh air, water, food, electricity, and atmospheric pressure.

SUB BIOSPHERE 2 UNDERWATER. (COURTESY PAULEY)

SUB BIOSPHERE 2 UNDERWATER. (COURTESY PAULEY)

The surrounding biomes would split ten stories above water and ten below. Residents would live off hydroponic crops, grown in the biome seed bank.

See Phil Pauley’s webpage here.

FLOATING CITY. (COURTESY AT DESIGN OFFICE)

FLOATING CITY. (COURTESY AT DESIGN OFFICE)

Floating City

Chinese construction firm, CCCC-FHDI, commissioned England and China based firm, AT Design Office, to design a four-square-mile floating city utilizing the technologies CCCC-FHDI is using to build a 31 mile bridge between Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhunai.

INSIDE FLOATING CITY. (COURTESY AT DESIGN OFFICE)

INSIDE FLOATING CITY. (COURTESY AT DESIGN OFFICE)

AT Design Office proposes prefabricated hexagons connected by underwater tunnels. The hexagons would contain residential, commercial and cultural facilities. All residences would have ocean scenery from every direction. The top of each block would have a club, while the bottom would contain an equipment room and a gravity regulation system.

Architect Slavomir Siska said, “China Transport Investment is reviewing the proposal and is likely to start to test this ambitious project from a smaller scale next year.”

See AT Design Office’s webpage here.

THE CITY OF MERIENS. (COURTESY JACQUES ROUGERIE ARCHITECTE)

THE CITY OF MERIENS. (COURTESY JACQUES ROUGERIE ARCHITECTE)

The City of Mériens

This 3,000-foot-long, 1,600-foot-wide manta ray is actually a floating university campus, called the City of Mériens. French Architect Jacques Rougerie designed the city to accommodate 7,000 academics for research and education. The city contains classrooms, lecture halls, laboratories, residences, and recreation, which would all run on renewable marine energy to produce zero waste.

THE CITY OF MERIENS FORM. (COURTESY JACQUES ROUGERIE ARCHITECTE)

THE CITY OF MERIENS FORM. (COURTESY JACQUES ROUGERIE ARCHITECTE)

Rougerie told Weather.com, “I designed the City of Mériens in the form of a manta ray because it was the best design to accommodate such a community with regards [to] the best possible correlation between space and stability needs.” The manta ray form is to counteract turbulence, while the descended structure is to maintain steadiness—rising 200 feet above water and 400 feet below.

See Jacques Rougerie Architecte’s webpage here.

Although these ambitious proposals and renderings can be mistaken for science-fiction, organizations are seriously investing in their research and implementation. Maybe we will see smaller scale aquatic cities in our lifetime, but in the meantime, here is Kevin Costner’s Water World:

Related Stories