Technology has made a lot of things once only seen in sci-fi works of fiction a reality, and now floating cities may join the list. Earlier this month, UN-Habitat, the UN’s Human Settlement Programme, showcased a project for floating villages that could house up to 10,000 people.
Oceanix City was developed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and the MIT Center for Ocean with the support of a specially set up vehicle, Oceanix, and is truly impressive. What’s more important, however, is that it is realistically buildable, according to the people behind it.
The city will be a cluster of small islands, each capable of accommodating up to 300 people. Below the surface, there will be farms for seafood, including scallops and kelp, and above the surface will be the regular land farms that will allow the community to be self-sufficient. Plans are to also have the islands produce their own energy and have all waste repurposed or recycled.
The islands will be car-free, although there is space for autonomous vehicles to take people to the coast and back, as well as drone deliveries, according to a Business Insider report. It will also be resilient enough, thanks to its construction, to withstand tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes, and continue to operate without suffering any devastating consequences. In case of an extremely harsh weather event, the platforms could be towed to safety.
Though all this sounds like a project from the future, the truth is that floating homes are nothing new. There are many floating homes in various parts of the world where waterways allow it.
In Europe, the Netherlands and Denmark are notable for it. Yet, a repurposed ferry like the one the Oceanix City architects lives on is not really the same as a city. According to Ingels, however, a city is better. "At the city scale you can achieve more," the architect told Business Insider.
The project aims to address the problem of rising sea levels that are threatening some coastal communities and, according to its authors, there are virtually no technological challenges. There are other ones, though.
"The biggest question in people's minds is if these cities can actually float," the chief executive officer of Oceanix, Marc Collins Chen, told the BBC.
"The main obstacles at this point are psychological and are not technological," said another supporter of the project, Richard Wiese, president of The Explorers Club. "People psychologically get nervous at the term 'floating city'. I used this term to my wife, and her immediate response was not technological but rather visceral, she didn't like the idea of something that could drift away."
Whatever the misgivings of land dwellers, the project is already getting a prototype on the East River in New York, courtesy of UN-Habitat’s support. Oceanix, The Explorers Club, and the MIT will work jointly on the prototype.
“Everybody on the team actually wants to get this built,” Oceanix’ Collins says, as quoted by Business Insider. “We’re not just theorizing.”
Some people have found cause for concern with the project: according to them, this sort of project goes counter to the idea of fighting climate change because it suggests there is a way of dealing with the consequences of climate change instead of trying to prevent them.
Since there are many scientists who argue it is already too late to prevent the consequences of climate change, it might actually be a good idea to try and find ways around them rather than lament the possibility that such ways exist.