Floating Cities of the Future

Floating Recycling Center

Illustration by Kim Hongseop/Cho Hyunbeom/Yoon Sunhee/Yoon Hyungsoo, eVolo

A larger-than-life lure, the Plastic Fish Tower would attract plastic instead of marine life in an effort to reduce the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch.

Sprawling in the Pacific between California and Hawaii, this vast mass of mostly tiny bits of the world’s plastic debris is twice the size of Texas. Ocean currents pick up millions of tons of discarded plastic and other trash, forming the garbage vortex.

The Plastic Fish Tower would collect and recycle the plastic flotsam with the help of a circular floating fence that creates a 1.2-mile (1-kilometer) circle around the sphere. Arms extending from the bottom of the sphere keep the fence in place. A mixed-use community, the Tower could accommodate residents on its outer rings and above-water sections, while a processing plant in the sphere’s core would turn the trash into plastic fish-farm nets.

Specially designed boats would ferry people to and from the Fish Tower and would be “fueled by chemicals that will be collected from the processed plastics within the skyscraper in an as-of-yet-undiscovered method of chemical extraction,” say the tower’s South Korean designers.

Trash-filled “Oceanscraper”

Illustration by Milorad Vidojević/Jelena Pucarević/Milica Pihler, eVolo

Another solution to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch problem might come in the twisted shape of “oceanscrapers” built on underwater landfills, such as the Lady Landfill Skycrapers imagined above by a Serbian design team.

Trash would be collected at the bottoms of the towers and recycled in their cores. The undersea towers would support above-water islands hosting self-sufficient human settlements.

To keep the housing developments above from sinking, the Lady Landfill Skycrapers would take in or release ocean water to counteract the changing amounts of buoyant plastic trash in the hulls.

Plastics no longer needed for flotation would be converted into energy stored in massive batteries for charging island life, the designers say.

Floating Cruise Ship Terminal

Illustration courtesy Koen Olthius and Dutch Docklands

This 5-million-square-foot (490,000-square-meter) floating cruise-ship terminal could host three large vessels while providing passengers a novel offshore experience, complete with open-ocean hotel stays, shopping, and dining, according to designers.

An inner “harbor” would allow smaller vessels to dock and would provide natural light for the interior of the terminal. Ten percent of the roof would be covered in photovoltaic cells that harvest solar power, according to Dutch architect Koen Olthuis of Waterstudio.NL.

The terminal is just a vision now, but Olthuis’s firm, which is committed to buildings that both adapt to and combat the challenges presented by climate change and sea level rise, has made other floating fantasies come to life.

Waterstudio.NL, based in the Netherlands, has worked on a floating city near The Hague and has started projects in the Maldives, China, and the United Arab Emirates.

Oil Rig Reimagined

Illustration by YoungWan Kim/SueHwan Kwun/JunYoung Park/JoongHa Park, eVolo

The Water Circles concept would convert old oil platforms into water-treatment plants that transform saltwater into fresh water. Remaining fossil fuel extraction infrastructure would be used to channel seawater into the floating desalination plant.

Spherical modules would distill saltwater and store fresh water bound for water-poor countries. The old oil rigs would also house researchers and sustain on-site food production, according to the South Korea-based design team.


Illustration by Mathias Koester, eVolo

With only its stabilizing floating ring and transparent dome protruding above the sea, the Waterscraper is envisioned as a tubelike underwater residence and lab—all designed to withstand crushing water pressures.

Natural light would filter down from the dome as the Waterscraper drifts from one destination to the next. Beaches, restaurants, a marina, and a dive center would cater to luxury-apartment dwellers and hotel guests.

Concepts like the Waterscraper are being touted as potential solutions to the planet’s urban population pressures.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, half of humanity currently calls an urban area home. And before we reach 2050, India’s cities will grow by 497 million people, China’s by 341 million, Nigeria’s by 200 million, and the United States’ by 103 million.

Float House

Photograph courtesy Koen Olthius

Making the most of waterfront views, Dutch architect Koen Olthuis designed this floating single-family water villa in Amsterdam to maximize privacy and versatility.

Completed in 2008, the building’s bedrooms and bathroom are on the first floor, partially below water. Large sliding doors on the top floor open to a wooden deck, offering the illusion of being on a boat.

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