SkyriseCities headquarters is closed for the holidays. We'll be back with our regularly scheduled editorial on January 2nd, but we've collected fantastical projects that leave solid earth to give you something to read while we're away.
An attempt to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change, which disproportionately impacts poorer nations, could paint a picture of future human settlements. Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut's plan for underwater "oceanscrapers" reaching 1,000 metres into the sea is an unorthodox response to the threatening issue of climate change-associated mass migration. "Aequorea," a safe haven for climate change refugees off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, would recycle the ocean's floating garbage patches to create 3D-printed structures.
Named after the bioluminescent jellyfish called aequorea victoria, the concept draws attention to the rapid human consumption of the Earth's resources and the resulting heaps of plastic waste carelessly dumped into the ocean. The underwater habitat of homes, office space, sea farms, and gardens — a self-sustaining city — would be accessed via four massive domes measuring 500 metres in diameter. A composite material made from a mix of algae and garbage would comprise the architecture to create enormous shelters for villages of 20,000 aquanauts.
Callebaut has thought of the socioeconomic consequences of his fantastical scheme. An invented "Aequo" currency would form the backbone of the marine economy, while scientists engage in the study of organisms to discover cures to diseases. "We have the multiplication of cancer cells thanks to the starfish. We've developed the first tri-therapy to fight AIDS thanks to the herring. We invented the new generation of pacemakers by decrypting how the humpback whale's heart works," says the plan, which is presented as an "Open Letter to Earthlings" on behalf of a fictional 15-year-old aquanaut named Oceane. "To move around, we sail by boat or submarine thanks to algae or hydrocarbons produced without wishing to emit greenhouse gases. We produce our biofuels by extracting hydrogen and carbon from sea water by osmotic pressures before synthesizing them. This process also allows us to pump carbon dioxide from the oceans and to neutralize the process of acidification that destroyed our ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef."
There's no dependence on fossil fuels in this world; the aquatic lifestyle of residents would be sustained by advanced sources of renewable energy. Humans would even be able to breathe underwater through the use of "gill masks." Farmed algae, plankton, and mollusks provide nutrients, minerals, and vitamins to the populace. On the surface, vegetable gardens, organic farming fields, orchards. and horticultural greenhouses maintain access to the air and sunlight.
While the idea is more of a playful exercise than a seriously attainable feat, it does speak to the very real threat of climate change, and the creative solutions mankind must develop in order to cope with its wide-ranging impacts. The letter ends as a call to action: "Never forget. Oceans produce 50% of the oxygen of our planet. They are the most active lung! It was really worth cleaning them and fighting their acidification to better re-enchant our living together."
What do you think of this project? Is ocean habitation the future of human settlement? Leave a comment below to have your say.