Offshore/ naval architecture and marine engineering go hand in hand. Naval architects design the vessels that take to the seas and oceans. These vessels have a series of characteristics that need to be determined- shape, size, stability, maneuvering characteristics, necessary structures to resist the forces, and the power needed to push against the waves. Cargo ships, powerboats, cruise ships, navy ships, mega yachts, offshore drilling platforms, floating wind turbines, underwater robots, nuclear submarines, and autonomous sailing vessels fall under this category. 

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An overview of Offshore Architecture - Sheet1
Offshore architecture_©designboom

Among the many complexities associated with this field of work, time zone differences majorly impact such projects. An undesired gap between the offshore team and the onshore client develops over time. An onshore architect could help bridge this gap and coordinate the requirements of the two parties. 

Numerous offshore projects have been reimagined and imagined over time. 

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Offshore torpedo base in Poland expecting to be transformed into a water sports hub

An overview of Offshore Architecture - Sheet2
Existing building_©archdaily
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Proposed building_©archdaily

A former Polish observation tower in the Baltic sea is being refurbished into a space for water sports enthusiasts and researchers that is only accessible by boat. The existing structure has only one level and the concept behind the proposed form is to make a second level that’s an inverted version of the first level. To retain the historic essence of this structure and establish the old-new concept, a modern version of the original clinker brickwork is being used for the second level. An observation area will be sandwiched between the two levels. The building harvests renewable energy from the wind and sun. A decked platform will serve as a water break and a harbor apart from being used for other purposes. Three “floating islands” connect the deck to the building. They consist of a vegetable and herb garden, a rainwater collection tank, and a designated area for birds. This project was supposed to be concluded in 2016. Adaptive reuse forms the core of its design concept. 

Australia’s Big Whale Offshore Marine Observatory

An overview of Offshore Architecture - Sheet4
Australian Underwater Discovery Centre by Baca Architects_©archdaily
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Underwater trail_©archdaily

This Underwater Discovery Centre is set out to become the world’s largest marine observatory and will be built at the end of the Busselton Jetty. It has an underwater trail in conjunction with underwater dining, underwater sculptures, and marine art. The cetacean-inspired form design creates an immersive experience for its visitors. It resembles a whale emerging from the water. Bustleton Jetty Chairman Barry House said, “This is as authentic as it gets because people are in the tank and the fish are looking in”. It is expected to enhance the Busselton Jetty’s 155-year-old experience. The notion is to lure people to this observatory and experience the marine life from close quarters so that they comprehend their contribution and value. Creating awareness about climate change and its immediate impact is an integral part of this project.

An overview of Offshore Architecture - Sheet6
Berkut oil rig_©popularmechanics

Oil rigs are structures that were built in the last century to extract the earth’s natural resources. Their magnitude and weight have blown many minds. The massiveness and intricacy of the oil rigs like Berkut, Stones, and Perdido make them resistant to the strong currents and icebergs. Evidently, offshore architecture encompasses both- structures that are accessible to people and structures that are built for economic purposes at a global scale. 

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Maunsell Army and Navy forts_©designingbuildingswiki
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No Man’s Fort_©portsmouth

Most historic offshore structures were built out of necessity. For instance, the Maunsell Army and Navy forts in the Thames Estuary were erected in 1942 to guard the UK against German bombings by air and water. A Victorian sea fort, ‘No man’s fort,’ that was built to guard the coast of England against invasion was later converted into a deluxe hotel that throws extravagant events. Similarly, many offshore platforms are being imagined as radical housing in the future. Oil rig structures can be easily adapted to create housing. Now, offshore structures are being built to educate people about the urgent need to protect our environment. The cause behind its origin has certainly changed. 

Offshore architectural structures are being implemented with extreme sensitivity towards the immediate context and climate change. Sustainable design choices are paving the way towards a better future. It is disheartening to witness the fact that humanity needs to be placed in close quarters to understand the severity of the environmental situation. Steel structures need to make it to the ocean so that people can be informed about the climate crisis that we’re in the middle of. News articles and urgent fundraisers aren’t enough to keep them engaged. The distance between the issue and the contributors to this issue is closing in gradually. Is this type of architecture indicative of how we need to immerse ourselves into our ecosystems to understand them? 

This field of architecture is directing attention towards another important issue- are our population and the corresponding demands escalating to a point that the land is not enough, thereby perpetuating the creation of artificial land in the middle of an ocean? 

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References

ArchDaily. 2021. World’s Largest Natural Marine Observatory Takes the Shape of a Whale. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/960122/worlds-largest-natural-marine-observatory-takes-the-shape-of-a-whale> [Accessed 21 August 2021].

ArchitectureAU. 2021. WA’s big whale offshore marine observatory. [online] Available at: <https://architectureau.com/articles/australian-underwater-discovery-centre/> [Accessed 21 August 2021].

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Atlas Obscura. 2021. No Man’s Land. [online] Available at: <https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/no-man-s-land-fort> [Accessed 21 August 2021].

designboom | architecture & design magazine. 2021. XTU architects imagines offshore oil rigs transformed into radical housing of the future. [online] Available at: <https://www.designboom.com/architecture/xtu-architects-offshore-oil-rigs-transformed-into-housing-of-the-future-03-16-2020/> [Accessed 21 August 2021].

Insider. 2021. Take a look inside the Maunsell Forts, a group of abandoned navy towers you can only reach by boat. [online] Available at: <https://www.insider.com/tour-abandoned-world-war-ii-maunsell-sea-forts#the-answer-was-to-build-forts-out-at-sea-so-that-foreign-planes-and-boats-could-be-destroyed-before-reaching-the-coastline-2> [Accessed 21 August 2021].

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Mairs, J., 2021. MFRMGR reveal plans to remodel offshore WWII torpedo base in Poland. [online] Dezeen. Available at: <https://www.dezeen.com/2014/11/12/mfrmgr-remodelling-world-war-two-observation-tower-water-sports-centre-poland/> [Accessed 21 August 2021].

Popular Mechanics. 2021. 7 of the World’s Biggest and Baddest Offshore Structures. [online] Available at: <https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/infrastructure/g2926/7-of-the-biggest-offshore-structures/> [Accessed 21 August 2021].

Webb.edu. 2021. What is Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering? | Webb Institute. [online] Available at: <https://www.webb.edu/about-webb-institute/what-is-a-naval-architect/> [Accessed 21 August 2021].

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Zhu, W., 2021. The Architect Role in Offshore Development Projects. [online] Perficient Blogs. Available at: <https://blogs.perficient.com/2014/09/23/the-architect-role-in-offshore-development-projects/> [Accessed 21 August 2021].

Author

An aspiring public space designer who believes that every space has an interwoven narrative that establishes its being. Effective conceptualization is the core of her design identity. She aims to use writing as a tool to spread awareness on the subliminal aspects of architecture and design.

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