Touted as an eco-friendly floating city, the Seascraper (pictured in an artist's conception) is among a raft of concepts for sustainable offshore settlements. With more than seven billion people on the planet, mass migrations to cities, and increased risks of flooding and sea level rise, more and more architects and innovators seem to be weighing anchor.
The Seascraper—a self-sufficient community of homes, offices, and recreational space—was designed with the intention of slowing urban sprawl, according to its designers.
The vessel's energy independence would come from underwater turbines powered by deep-sea currents as well as from a photovoltaic skin that could collect solar energy. The concave hull would collect rainwater and allow daylight to reach lower levels. Fresh water would come from treated and recycled rainwater via an onboard desalination plant.
This green machine would also help keep marine populations afloat, so to speak, with a buoyant base that serves as a reef and discharges fish food in the form of nutrients pumped from the deep sea, the U.S. design team says.
Illustration by William Erwin and Dan Fletcher, eVolo
Floating Recycling Center
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.
Illustration by Kim Hongseop/Cho Hyunbeom/Yoon Sunhee/Yoon Hyungsoo, 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.
Illustration by Milorad Vidojević/Jelena Pucarević/Milica Pihler, 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.
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 YoungWan Kim/SueHwan Kwun/JunYoung Park/JoongHa Park, eVolo
Floating Cruise Ship Terminal
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.
Scheduled for completion in 2014, the Citadel could be Europe's first floating apartment building, according to architect Koen Olthuis of Waterstudio.NL. The 60-unit complex is to be built in the Dutch city of Westland, near The Hague, and is meant to protect people from flooding in a country that sits, to a large degree, below sea level.
Holland is home to more than 3,500 inland depressions, which can fill with water when it rains, when tides come in, or as seas rise overall. These so-called polders are often drained by pumps to protect residents.
Floating single-family homes are not uncommon in this soggy country, but the Citadel—to be built on a flooded polder—will be the first high-density floating residential development. The complex's floating concrete foundation will be connected to higher ground via a floating road.
Olthuis predicts the Citadel—and its five planned neighbors—will consume 25 percent less energy over its life span than a conventional building.
Slated to open in 2014, the Greenstar is to be a floating hotel and conference center off the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. The island nation is the world's lowest-lying country, making it among the most threatened by anticipated climate change-induced sea level rise.
Designed by Waterstudio.NL to blend in with its ocean surroundings, the Greenstar will have room for 800 overnight guests and 2,000 conference attendees.
Intended to be highly efficient, the development's small environmental footprint is a tribute to the country's determination to fight global warming, according to Waterstudio.NL architects. Appropriately enough, organizers intend the Greenstar to be the number one meeting place for global climate change discussions.
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.