Underwater structures until recent times have been ruins and lost cities of the ancient world. The architectural design realm has shifted from being mesmerized by skyscrapers to exploring possibilities of living underwater inspired by the fictional world of Atlantis. Here is a list of firms with incredible designers, architects, sculptors, engineers, and artists having executed a stepping stone into subaquatic spaces and the kind of opportunity for possibilities of sustainable permanent underwater metropolitan cities in the future.

1. Yuji Yamazaki Architecture – (YYA)

Yuji Yamazaki Architecture PLLC, a firm in the Landmark Cable building in New York City, New York, USA. The firm works with designs that emerge from careful analysis of the subjects in diverse design disciplines. Yuji Yamazaki, an AIA registered Japanese architect from Tokyo; the principal architect for the firm has a range of disciplines and projects with architecture, interiors, landscape and product design. However, his hospitality projects around the globe have won many awards – Best conceptual architecture by the German Ministry of Economics and Technology in 2019, Hottest Design Hotel by Architectural Digest in 2019, Best Sustainable Resort by Hospitality Design. Some of the projects involve designing underwater structures; most famous being the Muraka villa, Conrad Maldives in Rangali Islands, Maldives – a 700 sq.m overwater suite, and 100 sq.m suite underwater interior design in collaboration with Ahmed Saleem, a local executive architect. About 75% of the walls underwater are made of clear acrylic to take advantage of vivid marine life while the bedroom consists of dark brown leather and a floor with silk carpet to cut down the reverberations.

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View from the bedroom of Muraka Villa. © www.yyany.com
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Ocean’s just outside the bathroom or The bathroom’s inside the ocean. © www.yyany.com
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Underwater Suite room at Conrad Hotel, Maldives. © www.yyany.com
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Gallery/ Corridor with a view of marine life all around. © www.yyany.com

2. Snøhetta 

A Norwegian firm that began as a collaborative landscape and architectural workshop remains true to its trans-disciplinary design thinking to enhance the senses of surroundings, identity, and relationships with physical spaces one inhabits. The projects range from Museums, products, reindeer observatories, dollhouses, residences, and landscape design where every space is given the same care in the process. Some of the famous works by them are, in 1989 re-conceived the great Alexandria Library, Egypt. In 1999, The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, The only cultural building on the World Trade Center Memorial site in 2004 and SFMOMA expansion in 2013. They designed Europe’s first underwater restaurant of 450 Sq.M in the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline at the confluence where North and South sea storms meet. The restaurant also functions as a research center for marine life as a tribute to the wild fauna of the sea and rocky coastline therefore this 34-meter long structure is half-sunken into the sea. The structure completely integrates into the marine environments with rough concrete shell functioning as an artificial reef that welcomes limpets and kelp to inhabit it. The massive windows in the restaurant like a sunken periscope offer breath-taking views of marine life and seabed according to the seasons.

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View of the Ocean from the Seating area. © snohetta.com
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Double Height window opening a narrow view into marine life. © snohetta.com
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Double Height window opening a narrow view into marine life. © snohetta.com
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Top-view of structure above the waters. © snohetta.com

3. Deep Ocean Technology – (DOT)

DOT founded in Gdynia in 2010; now operates under Deep Ocean Technology, Poland. They design and construct water discus units with manned and remotely operated underwater vehicles associated with scientists and engineers from the faculty of Ocean Engineering and Ship Technology, Gdańsk University of Technology and other Polish scientific, R&D institutions. The Water Discus was designed to help Eco-science and research institutes, Hotels, Civil, and Navy military functions. The hotel units in Dubai have two parts, underwater residential disc and above-water residential leisure disc offering various experiences to explore the ocean and the connection between the discs established by three or five solid legs and a shaft for lifts and staircase for mobility.

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Render of the structure. © waterdiscus.com
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Overall rendered view of the structure above and below the surface of the water. © waterdiscus.com
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A rendered interiors view looking into the coral reef. © waterdiscus.com

4. Fuseproject

Yves Behar, Principal architect at Fuseproject an industrial design and innovation firm in San Francisco, USA. They believe design creates new categories and their design approach works towards changing people’s lives for the better. PROTEUS™, a project of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center (FCOLC) conceived the underwater version of the international space station over 4000 Sq.ft to accommodate twelve people at once. The legs of the structure are designed to adapt to the variable terrain and a series of modular pods attached to the main body that has laboratories, sleeping quarters, bathrooms, medical bays, storage and life support systems. A spiral ramp that connects two levels of the structure encourages physical activity and movement for the inhabitants and it will include the first underwater greenhouse to grow fresh plant food to compensate for the challenge of not having open flame cooking.

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Rendered view of the structure. © www.fuseproject.com
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Top view render highlighting two levels connected by a ramp. © www.fuseproject.com
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The living pods highlighted in this rendered image © www.fuseproject.com

5. Vincent Callebaut Architectures

The award-winning eco-prospective and visionary architectural firm by Time Magazine, headed by Vincent Callebaut; a Belgium-born Paris-based archibiotect. The projects focus on biomimetic buildings that produce their power, vertical forest and food farms, pollution-removing towers and boats, floating cities, and ocean-scrapers that present solutions to urban-ecological challenges in the 21st century. Tao Zhu Yin Yuan Tower, Taipei and the Asian Cairns, sustainable farm-scrapers, Shenzhen, China have won many awards between 2014-2015. Also, the most celebrated project being Lilypad – a self-sufficient amphibious floating Ecopolis city for climate refugees as a long-term solution to rising water levels and climate change along with Dragonfly – a metabolic eco-urban agriculture farm in New York City. Aequorea, an oceanscraper 3D printed project in 5 ocean gyres, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil made with plastic trash received the European prize 2017 of Architecture Philippe Rotthier. The housing surface area is 13,375,000 Sq.M with 10,000 houses, fab labs, offices, workshops, sea farms, organic agriculture, community gardens, Phyto-purification lagoons and coral gardens.

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Rendered view of the city above the surface of the water. © vincent.callebaut.org
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underwater view of the city’s renders. © vincent.callebaut.org
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Renders of Aequorea. © vincent.callebaut.org
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Render showing the interior sustainable garden/ urban farms. © vincent.callebaut.org

6. A.T Design Office

A construction company based in London, United Kingdom, that undertakes design, build, operate, manage and maintenance of projects. They believe the quality of their surroundings influences the quality of the kind of lives people live. Therefore, the design requires to meet the needs of material and spaces that achieve a spiritual essence concerning the context, culture and climate of a place. Sustainability being their core value to bring the urban, the natural and the technological realm of a design project that meets the objective of low carbon footprint emissions. Floating water city project in Dawan District of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau consists of units made of prefabricated concrete body spanning to a length of 150 meters and 30 meters. The transportation facility includes a cruise port terminal, marina for small yachts, and a dock for civilian submarines. The design of the city can handle residential, farming and garbage collection needs with two green belts – one on the water and the other on the bottom that provides various recreational public spaces for people.

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Top view of the rendered masterplan. © www.atdesignoffice.com
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Underwater renders highlighting the co-existence with marine life. © www.atdesignoffice.com
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Rendered view of the spaces inside the city. © www.atdesignoffice.com

7. Poole Associates private limited

A multi-dimensional design firm based in Singapore deals with projects ranging from large commercial buildings to small retail stores. Each project is unique in detail and the firm has no specific design style as they experiment with different forms and materials to bring out a fresh take to contemporary structures. In 2015 they designed the world’s first underwater nightclub called Subsix in the Maldives. The clam-inspired bar in the middle of the club is located 500m offshore and 6 m deep from the waterline. The interior glistens with thousands of Capiz shell strands that drape from the ceiling and mimic an undersea forest complemented by coral inspired chandeliers and silver paneled columns. The club features floor-to-ceiling glass windows allowing the magnificent marine life.

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The bar gets a clear view of the marine life outside the structure. © www.poole-associates.com
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Private seating for two to admire the marine life. © www.poole-associates.com
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A view of dining space in the club viewing the ocean and marine life. © www.poole-associates.com

8. Kleindienst

The European firm based in Dubai, UAE focuses on property development and construction along with specializing in coral engineering, yacht building, and sustainable energy. The solutions and concepts are innovative to include limits of sustainability and concept that transcend further from current contemporary designs that protect the environment and help communities to generate avenues of income. A luxurious residential project – the floating Seahorse villas in the heart of Europe islands, Dubai bay, Dubai are state of the art homes with underwater bedrooms and baths that open views to the coral and marine life 4 km from the main shore.

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Masterplan of the entire project. © www.kleindienst.ae
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View of the ocean from the underwater bedroom. © www.kleindienst.ae
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View of the ocean from the underwater bedroom. © www.kleindienst.ae

9. Jason deCaires Taylor

Jason deCaires Taylor, a sculptor, professional underwater photographer and environmentalist who became the first new generation of artists to dive into concepts of marine environments with permanent site-specific collections that span several continents that explore modern themes of conservation. In the past decade, large-scale underwater museums and sculpture parks were designed with 850 life-size public works by him. World’s first underwater sculpture garden in the west coast of Grenada, West Indies designed by Taylor was instrumental in the government declaring the site a National Marine Protected Area in 2006 followed by co-founding MUSA ( Museo Subacuático de Arte) with a collection of 500 sculptures installed between Cancun and Isla Mujeres, Mexico and 300 submerged sculptures and architectural forms called Museo Atlantico in Lanzarote, Spain. Few noted works include The Rising Tide in Thames London, Ocean Atlas in the Bahamas, 60-ton monolithic sculpture, and The Sculpture Coralarium, Sirru Fen Fushi, Maldives.

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The Sculpture Coralarium. Sirru Fen Fushi, Maldives © www.underwatersculpture.com
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sculpture Deregulated, Lanzarote, Spain © www.underwatersculpture.com
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The Coral Greenhouse, MOUA, Great Barrier Reef, Australia © www.underwatersculpture.com

10. Hellmuth Obata Kassabaum (HOK)

HOK – an American architecture, design, engineering, and urban planning firm with over 1,700 professional staff marking it the largest U.S based architecture firm. They designed the Atlantis in Sanya, China and Dubai, UAE with underwater suites that view into lagoons with marine biodiversity giving hospitality experience a new dimension where people wake up to interact or observe a school of fishes and other marine animals by the floor to ceiling window that ensures even the larger fishes like sharks and rays are visible.

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View of the marine life from the dining area. © www.hok.com
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View of the underwater life from the bedroom. © www.atlantis.com
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School of fishes swimming outside the bedroom window. © www.atlantis.com

11. Phil Pauley Innovation Consultant

Phil Pauley a British futurist and designer known for his concepts and designs for underwater habitats. He created the floating solar farms that help the marine environments and underwater vehicles for underwater tourism. Pauley later developed the idea for a sustainable Sub-Biosphere 2 having the capacity of 100 inhabitants in 8 interactive living biomes with a central supporting biome powering and controlling life support systems. The central pod rises forty floors above water and twenty levels submerged beneath while smaller pods split ten stories above and under the surface of water respectively creating a 1,105-foot complex anchored to the seafloor.

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Rendered view of Sub-biosphere 2. © inhabitat.com
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Rendered underwater image of the structure. © www.philpauley.com
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Rendered view of the structure from underwater. © inhabitat.com

12. Maritime World Resorts (MWR) X Siemens IBC

The project called Hydropolis in Dubai UAE – an underwater water hotel with an idea to form a connection between humans and water; where water plays a fundamental role in being the basic element for all life forms.designed by Prof. Roland Dieterle from Siemens IBC and German architect and designer Joachim Hauser from MWR known for their works on development of areas around the coastal line and underwater structures. The hotel’s plan covers an area of 260 hectares equal to the size of Hyde Park in London where the entire plan segments into three parts:- A land station covering 30,000 Sq.M above ground; A connecting train that links the land station to the underwater hotel 20M below the ocean surface and the jellyfish dome-shaped hotel made of plexiglass, reinforced concrete and steel; the main hotel covers an area of 75,000 Sq.M

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Rendered view of the dining area. © bleedingarchitectura.wordpress.com
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Rendered view of the suite room looking into the ocean. © bleedingarchitectura.wordpress.com
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Rendered view of the landing segment of the structure. © bleedingarchitectura.wordpress.com

13. Mickael Genberg

Swedish artist Lars Mikael Genberg designs small hotels as an experiment for alternative living conditions. Some of the acknowledged projects include a 13 meter above ground on the highest tree Hotell Hackspett in Vasaparken and Ooops Hotel that floats outside Vastra Holem that float outside Vastra Holmen in Västerås archipelago, Sweden. He designed the underwater hotel – Hotell Utter Inn that portrays itself as an art piece and marine life observation station. The structure’s divided into two parts, an above-water cabin consisting of toilet and pantry while underwater consists of a bedroom with windows on all four sides looking into the Swedish Lake Malaren. In 2013, based on a similar concept Genberg designed The Manta Underwater Room in Pemba Island, Tanzania.

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The Manta Underwater Room in Pemba Island, Tanzania. © www.homecrux.com
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View from The Manta Underwater Room. © www.homecrux.com
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Hotell Utter Inn above the surface of the water. © www.booking.com
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Hotell Utter Inn underwater room viewing into marine life. © www.booking.com
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Hotell Utter Inn the connection staircase between over and underwater parts of the structure. © www.booking.com

14. U.S Submarine structures L.L.C

In 1993, the U.S Submarine structures L.L.C company began a business to build various civil submarines for commercial, research, luxury at a length of 65 meters. Following the success of the business, they began looking into designing and constructing permanent seafloor structures with the project called Poseidon, an underwater resort located at a private island in Fiji which lead to expansion into ideas for the world’s first permanent residence and commercial project called H2ome built on surface pressure avoiding any requirement for diving or decompressing.

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Rendered image of section view of the residence. © www.ussubstructures.com
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Rendered image of the bedroom window looking into the coral reef. © www.ussubstructures.com
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Top plan of the restaurant with the dining area. © www.ussubstructures.com
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Rendered view of the dining area looking into the ocean. © www.ussubstructures.com

15. Studio RHE

Studio RHE, a London-based architecture and design practice gained its reputation globally for its experimental and bold concepts and details to residential, leisure, and workspaces. Their project Six Sense Zil Pasyon is recognized as the world’s leading innovative hotel & resort design. 

They designed the world’s first underwater spa 6 meters below the surface at a luxury resort Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives. The area consists of 150 Sq.M with windows made of five-inch thick solid-cast resin that provides better clarity over laminated glass where guests can observe diverse marine life.

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The School of fishes visits the massage room windows. © www.studiorhe.com
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A relaxing space at the spa while the windows open the door to the entertainment in the marine world. © www.maldiveswatervillas.com
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The entire underwater spa space is designed to get the maximum underwater experiences. © www.studiorhe.com
Author

Subhay Baberwal, a practising architect at Taller-S and a visiting faculty at SJB School of architecture and planning, Bangalore. He is an art and culture enthusiast as well as a certified wildlife Eco-volunteer by the Karnataka Forest Department for activities regarding conservation, census, preservation. Furthermore, he is a poet and currently exploring his voice in architecture writing along with being a ghostwriter for mobile application, fashion collections and bloggers.

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