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The Tides of Tomorrow: Cities on Water

Thursday, April 30, 2015

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SAN FRANCISCO—Tired of mowing the lawn? Tomorrow's floating cities may be your savior.

The cities of the not-too-distant future are bound for the ocean—and substantial political independence, a new forecast says.

“The idea of ocean colonization is no longer the domain of science-fiction writers, Utopian dreamers and scheming free-wheelers,” The Seasteading Institute of San Francisco reports in a new feasibility study for its Floating City Project.

Seasteading Institute
The Seasteading Institute

Initial designs of the first eco sea-village feature three-story structures on 11 floating platforms.

The think tank has been working since 2008 to develop the first floating city by 2020. The group reported its progress in an announcement Thursday (April 16).

The first phase of the project—a 134-page design and feasibility study—was completed last year.

In March, the group launched a design contest, inviting architects, students, engineers and designers to submit ideas for a city to be stationed in protected ocean waters, such as a bay.

The contest registration form is due May 28; submissions are due June 1.

First Eco Sea-Village

For its concept study, the institute commissioned the Dutch aquatic engineering firm DeltaSync. The firm's preliminary design of the first eco sea-village features three-story structures on 11 floating platforms.

The modular and mobile platforms would be constructed of reinforced concrete and shaped like squares or pentagons. The city would be able to rearrange to fit the needs of the evolving community, according to the designers.

The city would also operate entirely off the grid.

Robert Simmons / NASA Earth Observatory / NOAA

About 71 percent of Earth's surface is covered in water. "All land on Earth is already claimed, making the oceans humanity's next frontier," says Patri Friedman of The Seasteading Institute.

The institute says 250 people would be able to call the first floating city home.

Each platform is estimated to cost just over $500 a square foot, or about $15 million each, according to the institute.

Seeking a Host Nation

A market for such a residential seastead exists, the study says.

More than 1,000 people have expressed interest in moving to the first floating city, and more express interest every day, said a spokesman for The Seasteading Institute.

The institute also says it can likely reach a deal with a host coastal nation willing to grant a floating city "substantial political independence."

The group says it is in talks with prospective host nations, but it did not elaborate. The first floating city would be located in shallow, protected waters off the coast of the host nation, making it easy for residents to travel to and from the seastead and reducing engineering costs.

By facilitating the development of floating cities, the institute hopes to fulfill eight moral imperatives, including feeding the hungry, cleaning the atmosphere, restoring the oceans, and stopping fighting.

Design Contest

The institute also hopes to tap into visionaries, including architects and urban planners around the world, who are interested in designing water-based structures to influence the city's final design.

Details on the design contest are available here.

Seasteading Institute spokesman Joe Quirk offers the top five things to know about the Floating City Project.

Designs will be judged by their visionary power, architectural quality, sustainability, survivability, feasibility and practicality, and financial pragmatism.

The first-place winner will receive $1,500; second place, $1,000; third, $500. A "people’s choice" winner will also receive $500. One contestant will be offered an internship at DeltaSync, according to the institute.

The winners will be announced in late summer. The organization held a similar contest in 2009.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Asia Pacific; Commercial Construction; Contests; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Research; Residential Construction; Trends; Waterproofing

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