A rapid expansion fueled by population growth and urbanization, combined with a shortage of land to build on, forced humankind to look for alternatives to meet their infrastructure demands. During the early stages of this crisis, developers took the easy way out by displacing other natural resources. The impact of these actions, albeit was overwhelming, and the subsequent precarious scenario forced people to innovate.
Going vertical was widely seen as the solution to this problem. However, this transition came at the cost of culturally normal interaction and sufficient space to move around. It may be concluded that the trend of simply going vertical is not healthy or sustainable for the human race. Add to this the problem of flooding and coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels, and there is an urgent need to find alternatives to using land for construction.
Here, the problem is also the most obvious solution: expanding into the sea! The Oceanix city is such a project aimed at the sustenance of mankind. Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) works with MIT’s Center for Ocean Engineering in this project commissioned by Oceanix (a company specialized in building on water), as part of the UN-HABITAT’s new urban agenda.
Resilient and Sustainable
The Oceanix city is a set of prefabricated, modular, buoyant, and mobile structures that are planned to ensure maximum efficiency concerning the management of available resources. Above being self-sufficient, they contribute back to the development of their surroundings. The city is a flag-bearer of the UN’s sustainable development goals that are considered the blueprint for a better future.
The system also follows 10 key principles: Economic modular construction, Net-zero energy, Freshwater autonomy, Zero waste systems, Habitat regeneration, plant-based diet, Locally sourced recyclable materials, shared mobility, diverse program, and sharing culture. This structure may be prefabricated on land and moved to its designated location, thus saving the expense of constructing on water.
The smallest unit of the system consists of a 2-hectare spread of the hexagonal island-neighbourhood that is home to 300 people. A village is a cluster of six such neighbourhoods. Six of these villages form an archipelago called a city. The hexagonal shape is maintained at every stage of this expansion; a city is 75 hectares in size and can accommodate 10,000 people. This pattern may be repeated to form a much larger community. All the villages in a city are well connected.
Each city is rendered with a unique identity so as to encourage residents from other villages to visit and take part in certain special programs. Each village has 3 edges dedicated to connectivity, production, and protection. The villages have designated areas for living, market, co-working, maker space, research, retail, restaurants, and a farm.
The planning is done in such a way that there is an induced sense of community and a subconscious urge to socialize, within the residents. The island also has a sub-structure that is very important to the smooth functioning of this ecosystem. Matters of mobility, waste management, food, water and energy production, underwater habitat regeneration, etc., are handled here.
Design and Detailing
The buildings are typically only 4-7 stories tall in order to maintain a low centre of gravity and avoid wind pressure. They are hexagonal in plan with a roof area greater than the floor area. This facilitates self-shading and helps save cooling costs. Greater roof area also implies more space to accommodate solar panels. Locally available materials are preferred in order to reduce transportation costs.
Bamboo timber is more prevalent in the neighbourhood due to its ease to produce, negative carbon footprint, and structural integrity. Each structure will have a distinct form that maximizes solar capture and creates wonderful, interactive indoor and outdoor spaces.
The environmental implications are of utmost importance in this model. Not just the city, but each island is self-sufficient concerning the production of resources and consuming its own waste. In addition, the system helps reverse natural resource depletion by playing host to the efficient growth of these resources. Historically, one of the most dangerous by-products of expansion has been pollution caused by the increased dependency on transportation.
This system, however, minimizes the need for transportation. In cases where it is required, bicycles, drones, electric vehicles, and watercraft will do the job.
The social implications are of importance to the Architectural community, which in turn reflects on the development of the society. The Oceanix city is not just damage-control but also a model for the future. The work done is an advertisement and representation of the power of Architecture. Healthy collaborations with the scientific community have helped venture into new avenues.
A key goal of this project is for it to be available and affordable to everyone and not just the privileged few. Hence the entire society will get to experience a lifestyle it could never imagine before. The model shines a light on the opportunity to emulate our success on land and much more. Great cities can now be constructed on the water with less to no negative implications.
- designboom | architecture & design magazine. (2019). bjarke ingels group unveils floating city concept made up of hexagonal islands. [online] Available at: https://www.designboom.com/architecture/bjarke-ingels-big-floating-city-oceanix-04-04-2019/.
- Gibson, E. (2019). BIG unveils Oceanix City concept for floating villages that can withstand hurricanes. [online] Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2019/04/04/oceanix-city-floating-big-mit-united-nations/.
- Anon, (n.d.). BIG | Bjarke Ingels Group. [online] Available at: https://big.dk/#projects-sfc.
- Anon, (n.d.). Oceanix | Leading the next frontier for human habitation. [online] Available at: https://oceanix.org/.
- www.youtube.com. (n.d.). Floating cities, the LEGO House and other architectural forms of the future | Bjarke Ingels. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieSV8-isy3M&t=668s [Accessed 4 Jul. 2021].
- www.youtube.com. (n.d.). Floating Cities: the New Urban Frontier. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jupldxz9-BI.