The Sea is our Fate and Maybe our Future!
You could probably live in a floating sustainable, flood-resistant city by 2025! Backed by the United Nations, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) the Danish architecture firm leading the project, along with the tech company Oceanix are working on making this seemingly futuristic idea into a reality in the South Korean City of Busan. By Naomi Mathew
Faced with the threat of rising sea levels predicted to jeopardize 90% of the world’s largest cities by 2050, the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) has backed the vision of building sustainable offshore hubs for living, also known as floating cities. The project is lead by the Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG) along with the tech company Oceanix that develops innovative ways to build on water. “9 out of 10 of the world’s largest cities will be exposed to rising seas by 2050. The sea is our fate – It may also be our future,” explains BIG founder Bjarke Ingels. The vision, titled Oceanix City, is a collaboration between designers, architects and engineers to create a ‘flood-proof’ city which can withstand a category 5 hurricane. The group has signed an agreement with the city of Busan to host the first of its floating neighborhoods off South Korea’s coast. “Sustainable floating cities are a part of the arsenal of climate adaptation strategies available to us. Instead of fighting with water, let us learn to live in harmony with it. We look forward to developing nature-based solutions through the floating city concept, and Busan is the ideal choice to deploy the prototype,” said the Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif.
Designed as a man-made ecosystem, Oceanix City is envisaged as a flood-proof floating infrastructure that can rise with the sea while producing its own food, energy and freshwater with fully integrated zero waste closed-loop systems. It is designed to grow, transform and adapt organically over time, evolving from neighborhoods to cities with the possibility of scaling indefinitely. The modular unit of the city is a neighbourhood of 2 hectares that can house upto 300 residents with mixed use space for living, working and gathering. All built structures in the neighborhood are kept below 7 stories to create a low center of gravity and resist wind. Every building fans out to self-shade internal spaces and public realm, providing comfort and lower cooling costs while maximizing roof area for solar capture.
The modules are made to float using biorock technology which safely applys low voltage electrical currents to seawater causing the dissolved minerals to crystallize on structures growing into a white floating limestone. This is also capable of repairing itself and withstanding adverse weather conditions. Communal farming is the heart of every platform, allowing residents to embrace sharing culture and zero waste systems. Food would be planted using vertical farming techniques and transport to and within the neighbourhood would be exclusively electric. Below sea level, beneath the platforms, ocean farming would facilitate the generation of seaweed, oysters, mussels, scallops and clams, which in addition to serving as food, clean the water and accelerate the regeneration of the ecosystem.
Six of these neighbourhoods can be clustered around a protected central harbour to form larger villages of 12 hectares that can accommodate up to 1,650 residents. Citizens are encouraged to gather and move around the village by walk or electric boats to the social, recreational and commercial functions placed around the sheltered inner ring.
Six such villages can be connected to form a city of 10,000 residents with a strong sense of community and identity. The clustered villages will form a larger protect harbour in the heart of the city. Specialised landmark neighbourhoods with a public square, market place and centers for learning, spirituality, health, sport and culture would create destinations that can draw residentes from across the city while anchoring each neighborhood in a unique identity. All communities regardless of size will prioritise locally sourced materials for building construction, including fast-growing bamboo that has six times the tensile strength of steel, a negative carbon footprint, and can be grown on the neighborhoods themselves.
The floating cities can be prefabricated on shore and towed to their final site, reducing construction costs. Floating cities can be prefabricated on shore and towed to their final site, reducing construction costs. This paired with the low cost of leasing space on the ocean creates an affordable model of living. These factors mean that affordable housing can be rapidly deployed to coastal megacities in dire need. The first Oceanix Cities are calibrated for the most vulnerable tropical and sub-tropical regions around the globe. “Sea level rise is a formidable threat, but sustainable floating infrastructure can help solve this looming catastrophe. We are excited to make history with Busan and UN-Habitat in ushering in humanity’s next frontier,” said the co-Founders of OCEANIX, Itai Madamombe and Marc Collins Chen, adding that the prototype would be approached at a hyper-local level, taking into account the rich social, economic, political and cultural uniqueness of Korea as the host country.