10 Architectural Designs for a Future Water World


Global warming is real, according to basically every legitimate scientist in the world. And as a result, many parts of the world will experience more water than they are used to. Fortunately, however, there are some people out there preparing for when this scenario will happen. Now, regardless of these gloomy facts, we humans have a natural affinity for water, which we can use to our advantage.

Instead of running away, we should welcome it, and even go as far as to make the open water our home. This is where these architectural designs come in. While some are already a reality, others are still on the drawing board. Nevertheless, they all stand to show that we are ready to move beyond the coast, so to speak, and embrace the waves.

10. The WaterNest 100

After years of diligent research, architect Giancarlo Zema, together with EcoFloLife, a design and construction company, have developed the WaterNest 100, an eco-friendly floating habitat, perfect for life on the water’s edge. With over 1,000 square feet of surface area, the circular house is 40-feet in diameter and 13-feet high. It is made almost entirely of recycled materials, and with a roof covered in solar panels that are capable of generating all the electricity the house needs.

The WaterNest 100 makes use of state of the art natural micro-ventilation and air conditioning systems, classifying it as a low-consumption residential habitat. It also sports two large balconies on its sides, and several large windows that allow for both natural light to get in, as well as for a perfect view across the river, lake, or bay it is located on. Its shape and design also support for a wide array of uses besides being just a residential space. These pods cans be turned into offices, restaurants, bars, shops, or whatever else a floating community might need in its immediate vicinity.

Besides the spacious and homey design, the WaterNest makes use of an all-in-one digital system that controls everything inside and out. Not only will it allow you to monitor the amount of energy used, it will also facilitate streamlined control over the lighting and sound systems, fixtures, and alarm systems.

9. Under – Europe’s First Underwater Restaurant

Norway’s southernmost tip will be home to Europe’s first underwater restaurant. Known as Under, this semi-submerged, 6,400 square foot restaurant will also act as a research facility for marine wildlife. Seen from a distance, Under looks like a concrete monolith that fell from the sky and is now being slowly swallowed by the North Sea. Its seemingly smooth surface is in stark contrast with the surrounding jagged rocks. And by the looks of it, it’s built to last. It has 16-foot thick walls and massive acrylic windows that offer an awe-inspiring view of the depths. The base of the structure will rest firmly on the seafloor, some approximately 16-feet below the water line, so don’t worry. Its main mission, also seen in its architecture, design, location, and even menu, is to inform its guests about the biodiversity displayed before their very eyes.

Designed by Snøhetta, a Norwegian architecture firm, the underwater restaurant will also benefit its surrounding ecosystem in a more direct way. The exterior walls, though smooth and sleek in appearance, have a rather coarse surface. This is an invitation for various mussels to attach themselves, and over time, form a reef that both purifies the surrounding water and draws in more marine species for the people inside to admire. The design, lighting, and atmosphere inside will reflect the North Sea, as if you were in a futuristic submarine of sorts, scouring the ocean floor.

8. The Sea Tree

During its brief existence on Earth, civilization has taken over much of the land once shared by many other living creatures. Some urban areas are so densely packed nowadays that only a very small percentage of land makes up the entire green space. As a means of counteracting this unfavorable situation, a Dutch architecture firm by the name of Waterstudio has come up with a design that will both solve the issue of green space within a city, as well as not to take up any more valuable real estate within the city itself. The Sea Tree, as it is called, utilizes offshore-structure technology, similar to how oil storage towers operate on the open seas. Anyway, these Sea Trees can be anchored in harbors, lakes, or even rivers, moving slowly with the wind. What’s particularly interesting about this design is that they will only be accessible to small animals like birds, bats, bees, insects, and so on.

Humans are not allowed. The Sea Tree will hold multiple horizontal layers of vegetation, among which these tiny creatures can feel at home, without the fear of any direct human intervention. Below the waterline, the tree will form a perfect habitat for marine species, and even allows for the creation of coral reefs. The technology required to make this “Spire Island” already exists in the form of the previously mentioned oil towers. And with several modifications, one of those could easily become a Sea Tree. The only problem, however, is that the project is based on the premise that one of the many oil companies will donate one of their towers to be used in this fashion – as a way of showing their concerns about the environment, if you will. Sufficed to say, the Sea Tree is still waiting for one such donor.

7. Hurricane-proof Livable Yachts

Even though it is not an actual yacht per se, this floating house is oftentimes described as such. Designed by architect Koen Olthuis, part of Waterstudio, together with Arkup, a design company based in Miami, these Livable Yachts will probably be the future of coastal living. Developed to be 100 percent sustainable and self-sufficient, these homes will be capable of withstanding high winds, heavy storms, and even category 4 hurricanes. Fixed on four 40-foot, sturdy hydraulic legs, these houses can be raised and lowered, either automatically or at will, so as to keep up with rising sea levels and to prevent sea sickness. The roof is completely covered in solar panels, and the excess energy is stored in state of the art batteries. Its exterior walls have high-grade insulation, keeping the inside temperature constant all year round. The 288 square foot terrace is retractable and surrounded by shock-resistant glass panels.

The Livable Yacht comes fully equipped with rainwater harvesting and water purification systems, as well as waste management facilities. A smart-communication system, which includes WiFi antennas, LTE, VHF, and satellite TV, will allow you to keep in constant contact with the rest of the world, regardless of the weather conditions outside. Now, if for whatever reason you want to move, either to get out of the way of an incoming storm, or simply to take a tour around the coast, the Livable Yacht can detach from its legs and move around at speeds of up to 7 knots, thanks to its two 136 horsepower electric thrusters.

6. The Shoal Tent

Even something as simple as going camping will likely need to be adapted to a future sea level rise. And you may be surprised to know that there actually is something to address the issue – the Shoal Tent. Created by SmithFly Designs, this floating tent was probably not produced with the idea of climate change in mind. Nevertheless, if you are looking to camp directly on the water, then the Shoal Tent is for you. Made with only the hardiest of materials, this waterproof tent makes no use of metal poles, and instead utilizes an inflatable structure that keeps it upright. It is made in such a way so there will not be any risk of capsizing, even in high winds. The Shoal Tent also makes use of heavy duty zippers and Velcro that are easy to reach from the inside, allowing the user to get out through any side, just in case of an unforeseen emergency.

The purpose behind this tent is to have a unique outdoor experience, by allowing the hiker to sleep under the stars while feeling like on a waterbed. It comes fully equipped with a storage bag, manual foot pump, and patch set. The company recommends setting up camp on a tranquil lake, gentle creek, salt water flat, or even a favorite river, and let them lull you into a gentle sleep. Be careful not to sleep too long though, or you may end up being swept out to sea.   

5. The Ocean Spiral

Back in 2014, Shimizu Corp, a Japanese construction team, unveiled its concept for a potential underwater settlement known as the Ocean Spiral. Unlike the tent above, this city was definitely designed with climate change in mind. When built, it will be able to house some 5,000 people inside a sphere-like structure, located close to the water’s surface. This habitation sphere will be connected to the ocean floor via a 9-mile-long spiraling construction that will reach all the way to the bottom, some 2.5 miles below. This spiral will play a double role of keeping both the sphere in place, as well as to allow it to draw energy directly from the sea itself. At the very bottom, there will be a so-called “earth factory.” This factory will use microorganisms to turn carbon dioxide into methane. At the same time, many power generators will be placed along the spiral, which will create energy by using the difference in water temperature through a process known as ocean thermal energy conversion.

Now, even if this concept seems to be nothing more than wishful thinking, the company’s spokesman said that “this is a real goal, not a pipe dream.” The entire project is estimated to cost somewhere around $25 billion to complete, but it will have to wait roughly 15 years before all the technology needed will be perfected. Projects on this scale, however, will always draw their share of critics, and with good reason. Christian Dimmer, for instance (an expert in urban engineering at Tokyo University), said in an interview that these sorts of outlandish projects have been proposed in Japan since as early as the 1980s, and that they may have an elite-only characteristic attached to them, if ever built.

4. The Pipe

With a constantly growing population, California will need to find new and better ways of generating both electricity and drinkable water, all the while doing it in a sustainable way. Luckily for them, however, the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition focused on Santa Monica Pier in particular. And as part of this competition, one of the finalists was the Pipe. According to Khalili Engineers, the Pipe’s creators, the project “reminds us about our dire dependence on water and on our need to appreciate and value this vital gift.” Resembling an elongated disco ball, the Pipe will be located a relatively short distance away from Santa Monica Pier. Much of its surface will be covered in solar panels, capable of generating 10,000 MWh of electricity annually.

This will be enough energy to power its electromagnetic filtration (EF) system, which will, in turn, produce 1.5 billion gallons of fresh, drinkable water every year. Unlike other conventional desalination processes, the EF system used here does not require any chemicals to get the job done. Furthermore, the Pipe requires just 55% of the total energy used by traditional processes. Another advantage is its design. While you cannot build a desalination plant right next to Santa Monica Pier, the Pipe will actually make the place even more alluring.

3. The Urban Rigger

For all the projects presented so far, none have tackled the issue of low-cost housing. Well, maybe with the exception of that floating tent. But rest assured that the good people at Bjarke Ingels’ (BIG) have, and their solution is the Urban Rigger. Its layout is comprised of nine shipping containers arranged and stacked over each other at different angles, allowing for 15 studio apartments and a shared garden complete with a BBQ to stand on a floating platform. Docked in Copenhagen’s harbor, the Urban Rigger is actually a student residential area. Its windows and doors are located at the ends and flanks of each of the containers, which are connected to each other with greenhouse-like spaces, in-between the studios. Below sea level and inside the floating platform itself, there are 12 storage rooms, as well as a fully automated laundry.

The topmost three shipping containers also make use of their roofs, which act both as a shared space between the residents, as well as a means of generating electricity. One of the roofs is a terrace, another is covered in solar panels, while the third is carpeted with grass. “By introducing a building typology optimized for harbor cities we can introduce a housing solution that will keep students at the heart of the city,” said the designers in an interview.    

2. The Yarra Pool

The Yarra River, passing through Melbourne, Australia, used to be a favored swimming spot for many of the city’s inhabitants. In fact, there were 3-mile swimming races taking place regularly, with dozens of Melburnians engaging in the sport. But since 1964, however, swimming has been banned in the city because of the growing concerns of pollution. Nevertheless, Yarra Swim Co, a nonprofit organization, has decided to bring this popular pastime back to the citizens of Melbourne. And to do that, they invited Studio Octopi from London, England, to build them a floating pool right in the Yarra River.

“Our vision is to have Melburnians talk about our river differently,” said Matt Stewart from Yarra Swim Co. “To be proud of the Yarra, and to see it as an active place of nature, recreation and play.” Now, even though the project is still on the drawing board, if the pool gets the go-ahead from the local government and it receives enough investment, it will become a reality. The blueprints depict a pavilion that will house a ticket office, changing rooms, and a café, which will all be located on the riverbank. A walkway then traverses at the far end of the 82-foot lap pool, to the other side, where it will join with a decked pontoon that surrounds the pool on three of its four sides.

What’s particularly fascinating about this project is that it will take advantage of the river’s tidal properties in order to filter the water inside the pool, allowing for safe swimming all year round. “The Yarra Pool is an exciting project that talks to a wider conversation globally around access to urban waterways,” said Chris Romer-Lee from Studio Octopi. 

1. Floating British Parliament

The Palace of Westminster in London, England houses its Parliament. The thing is that the palace is in urgent need of some refurbishment work, which is estimated to cost over $7 billion (5.5 bn pounds) and will take roughly 6 years to be completed. The MPs and Lords will be relocated for the duration of the restoration. This relocation is said to cost the British an extra 2 billion pounds. But fortunately, however, Gensler, the world’s largest architecture firm, has put forward a radical concept of building a temporary parliament building right next to Westminster and directly on the Thames River.

This would be an 820-foot long, 137-foot deep floating glass dome, of sorts, made out of modules and a wooden frame. Its curvy design was inspired after the hammer-beam roof of Westminster Hall, the oldest structure part of the palace, and which is also the largest medieval timber roof in the whole of Europe. “The structure would add a new iconic landmark to London and would not impact the protected vista of the Palace of Westminster from the summit of Parliament Hill,” said Gensler.

The firm’s managing director Ian Mulcahey also went on to say that “the Palace of Westminster is one of the most important symbols of democracy in the world. This scheme provides a powerful expression of continuity and reinforces the UK’s world-leading creative expertise.” Equally as important, however, is the fact that the whole project would cost some 160 million pounds to build, sparing the British public from a roughly 1.8 billion-pound expense.

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