Share on:

Floating structures: Architecture for the post-climate change era

This is how architecture firms are future-proofing your office, stadium and home: by making them floating structures.

With rising sea levels and a steadily growing population, humanity might need to think bigger to meet our ever-growing needs: that’s where floating structures and visionary architects can help.

With the ocean covering 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface, it could just be the next logical step – be it for housing, farming or even entertainment.

Not old news

Off-shore structures aren’t exactly revolutionary: kelongs (floating fish farms) have been around for centuries. More recently, oil rigs are another way humanity has begun to colonise the ocean.

(Related: Could cities floating on the ocean be the solution to land scarcity?)

Of those, only kelongs are truly floating, and they usually remain relatively close to shore. Building a true floating city out in the ocean is no mean feat: the super-structure will have to be sturdy enough to withstand the continuous torrent from the ocean (and potential storms) and be self-sufficient in food, water and power.

For now, architects are coming up with ideas that push the limits one step at a time. Take Florian Busch Architects’ concept for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium (now 2021) for example.

(Related: Book ahead for a table onboard Alain Ducasse’s floating restaurant in Paris)

What’s in the box?

His provocative critique of the controversial selection process for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium comes as a mysterious black box purportedly from the future. He posted the opening of the box on his website, unveiling clippings from famous magazines and more. Glowing headlines from The Economist and Time lauding the effort by Tokyo to push the boundaries and think for the future. The structure they’ve chosen? A floating stadium.

Floating Structures Florian Busch Floating Stadium

In actuality, “mediocrity was the last actor standing in this tragicomedy,” as was written on Florian Busch Architect’s website. The original, more futuristic design for the stadium was scrapped in favour of a cheaper one.

However, both, according to Florian Busch, were painfully docile and unimaginative.

His sustainable floating stadium could be naturally cooled by the waters it floats on and potentially infinitely reused by future Olympic hosts. This isn’t really a proposal complete with schematics and feasibility matrices. It’s a commitment to think for the future, and one that Busch was disappointed the Japan Sports Council wasn’t willing to make.

For more projects by Florian Busch, you can visit their website or Instagram (he’s even been the lead architect for several projects in Singapore: see if you can spot them.)

(Related: This floating luxury villa in Dubai offers underwater ocean view)

Here are other water-borne structural concepts from architecture firms that are slowly proving that floating cities might not be as far-fetched as we think.

Other floating structures

  • Floating Structures NLE MFS III


    Makoko Floating School III by NLE

    The inaugural Makoko Floating School was built in the heart of Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos. Makoko is a community with most of its residents living on stilt structures. It only had a base of 100 square metres and collapsed due to lack of maintenance after being handed over to local authorities. However, the idea lives on - with the third prototype having been housed in Bruges for half a year as a museum space, and the fourth coming soon to Cape Verde as a floating music hub. With every iteration, NLE contributes to research on floating architecture and the feasibility of prefabricated timber structures.

For now, a true ocean city might not hold water – but with architects and scientists constantly pushing the boundaries, floating structures might become the new reality sooner than we think.