The Future of City Living May Reside Somewhere on the Deep, Blue Sea

Climate change is causing sea level to rise around the world. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), “Global average sea level has risen by 7-8 inches (about 16-21 cm) since 1900, with about 3 of those inches (about 7 cm) occurring since 1993.” As sea levels rise, the amount of land available for urban development, particularly in highly-populated coastal areas, decreases and becomes more susceptible to flooding. This is why scientists are hard at work dreaming up floating cities.

Growing concern over the shrinking coastline and the ever-increasing density of the world’s cities has caused many experts to take an if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them attitude about urban development, turning their eye from dry land to the deep, blue sea.

OCEANIX/BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group

Earlier this month, UN-Habitat hosted a meeting between leading experts and entrepreneurs to discuss the viability of floating cities as a future answer to the urban challenges of today. According to the UN-Habitat website, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said, “We have to come together here and reimagine our cities and our urban agenda.”

Oceanix, one of the primary companies responsible for convening the meeting, unveiled its design for the floating city of the future. According to the company’s website, “Oceanix city is a vision for the world’s first resilient and sustainable floating community.”

The design features a series of hexagonal platforms arranged in close proximity to one another around a central harbor. Each 2-hectare platform would serve as a neighborhood housing up to 300 residents. The neighborhoods are clustered together to form villages and the villages, in turn, are clustered together to form a city. Ultimately, the 75-hectare city would provide a close-knit community for 10,000 residents.

The HuffPost reports that Oceanix is partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Bjarke Ingels of the Danish architectural firm BIG to construct a prototype and that while “[n]obody has made a floating city yet…the organizations Oceanix is working with have made a number of ocean infrastructures around the world.”

The realization of a stable, sustainable human community existing on the surface of the ocean may not be as far away as we might think. Property developer Beladon will soon welcome its first residents to a floating structure in the harbor off the coast of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. However, these residents won’t be making their transition from land to water on two feet, because they travel on hooves.

Forty cows will soon call the world’s first floating farm home. The HuffPost Article reports that Peter Beladon, the developer behind the farm, says, “The building is as good as ready, we are now installing and testing the machines, and in four weeks the cows will arrive.”  

According to Beladon’s website, the cows will graze on grass that is grown on the platform, will be milked by robots, and produce 25 liters of milk a day.

The farm is designed to more than just conserve dwindling land resources. The entire system is set up to be eco-friendly. The “Floating Farm produces and retails day-fresh food that runs through a closed cycle,” the website states. “This causes almost no waste streams, reduces the length of the logistics chain and enables the customer to become familiar with healthy, day-fresh products.”

Our bovine friends may be the first to make the leap from dryland to life on the open seas, but if the Rotterdam farm proves successful can we be far behind? Companies like Oceanix are betting that soon we may all need to find our sea legs.