(ORDO NEWS) — The prototype of the world’s first self-sustaining floating city is being born in South Korea’s largest port (and second largest city). The first segment of the project should be ready by 2025.
The design concept for the so-called Oceanix Busan, which was announced yesterday at UN Headquarters, is compelling.
Architectural renderings show a 15.5-acre site for 12,000 people built on a trio of floating platforms that can support the full range of urban infrastructure – from residences, markets, offices, parks, green power grids to hydroponic farms. A smart city that will provide 100% of its needs for energy and water.
While there are several innovative flood-proof settlements around the world – HafenCity in Germany, “sponge cities” in China and Appgrading Wet Slums in Bangladesh, among them – Oceanix Busan is the first attempt to build a fully sustainable city from scratch.
Led by tech company Oceanix, the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) and the Busan city government, with BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group and South Korean firm SAMOO as architects, the project will feature a set of smart building technologies to warm the planet.
“Imagine a master plan that does not consist of laying roads or building foundations, but directing the flow of energy, water, food and waste, and create such a plan for a maritime metropolis,” Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, founder of BIG, explained at the event. dedicated to the start of the work of the UN.
Paradise for eco-friendly living
The pilot project in Busan is a key milestone in the grand idea of building floating harbors for sustainable living, capable of supporting 85,000 residents in various coastal cities around the world. In his 2019 TED talk, Ingels described the idea of creating a man-made ecosystem that would meet all 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals:
We must design it so that it can produce its own energy using the thermal mass of the oceans, the power of the tides, currents, waves, the power of the wind, heat and energy from the sun.
In addition, we collect all the rainwater that drips on this man-made archipelago, process it organically and mechanically, store and purify it.
We have to grow all our food locally, it has to be fish and plant based, because you won’t have the space or resources for a dairy diet. And finally, we will dispose of all waste on site: compost, recycling and turning waste into energy.”
The programs are designed to help residents become more environmentally conscious: For example, household waste will be weighed and billed accordingly, and items from furniture to children’s clothing will be available for rent. There are also no roads in the urban plan, so cycling and walking will become the main modes of transport.
“Perhaps as we move away from the land to the seas in terms of urbanism and architecture, we are definitely learning to be more sustainable, more resilient,” says Ingels.
A model for the whole world?
Oceanix CEO Philipp Hofmann says the prototype could be replicated in other coastal areas. “We started in Busan, but we want to help bring this highly resilient infrastructure solution to other coastal cities around the world,” he said, showing slides of three platform configurations in the Maldives, Miami Wellington, Lagos, Rio and New York. “It is applicable to any coastal environment, to any climate, and can be easily calibrated to suit their needs.”
But the “copy-paste” proposal is probably more of a Photoshop fantasy, as several delegates pointed out during the three-hour briefing.
Maimouna Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN Habitat, warned that such ambitious global solutions must take into account the diversity of topography, local norms and cultural expressions. “It is very important for us to think holistically so as not to leave anyone behind,” she said. “Will this improve the quality of life for everyone, including marine life?”
Architect Daniel Sundlin, a BIG partner who has been working with Ingels on the project from the very beginning, is well aware of the monumental task of creating a single design template for the whole world.
“There is no global [project]. It’s all about going to different places, meeting people and finding out what’s important,” he tells Quartz. “At the heart of the idea is a platform – a city on the water. Everything else that is on top should be informed about what else is happening in this community.”
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