High tides/low tides
High tides / Low tides

text: Agnieszka Omastka,
student of History of Art at Jagiellonian University,
graduate of Architecture at Cracow University of Technology
graphics: Ela Zdebel,
graduate of Architecture at Cracow University of Technology,
urbanism student at Technische Universiteit Delft

Original English texts were delivered by the authors.

reading time: about 10 mins

‘The Sea is everything! (…) Its breath is pure and life-giving. It is an immense desert place where man is never lonely, for he senses the weaving of creation on every hand. It is the physical embodiment of a supernatural existence… For the sea is itself nothing but love and emotion. It is the Living Infinite.’ 1

J. Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Se

1. J. Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, https:// www.goodreads.com/ quotes/296707-the-seais-everything-it-coversseven-tenths-of-theterrestrial , [date of access 19.09.2019]

2. E. Mumford, The CIAM discourse on Urbanism, 1928 to 1960, Cambridge, 2000, p. 262

3. Arctic cities, Architectural design, 41, 1971,p. 329–333

4. C. Rowe, F. Koetter, Collage City, Cambridge, 1978, p. 40

5. R. Pernice, Considerations on the Theme of Marine Architecturesin the Early Projects of Masato Otaka, Kiyonori Kikutake and Noriaki Kisho Kurokawa, Taiwan, 2009, p. 97-107

Facing the increasing threat of climate changes connected with the global warming and ceaseless growing number of the human population, which results in decreasing area of the land, it is possible that in near future it can lead to necessity of creating a new, alternative way of living on Earth. Jules Verne already emphasized in the XIX century that it seems most probable to use oceans, that constitute over 70% of the globe surface.

Proposals to build colonies in harsh conditions were not unusual in the 60s and 70s of the XX century. Making use of the emerging technologies developed for defense, excavating and exploring minerals, numerous architects proposed ambitious projects of cities and colonies on the sea, in the deserts, on the poles, in the Alpes and even in the space. During CIAM congress in Otterloo in 1959 Ralph Erskine presented a plan of a city on Antarctica. 2 Ten years later, in cooperation with Kenzo Tange, Frei Otto published a series of plans of arctic cities. 3 Critics of that time, such as Manfredo Tafuri and Colin Rowe, rejected the projects, as well as the more conceptual outlines, such as Superstudio and Constant. Rowe diagnosed them as an impulse that emerged from science fiction and deemed that the outlines give merely “picturesque visions of the future”. 4 Simultaneously Japanese metabolists presented amazing projects, such as the Plan of the Tokyo Bay from 1960 by Kenzo Tange and proposals of marine cities by Kikutake Kurokawa. 5 Around that time the foundation Triton in Cambridge, Massachusetts, proposed a development of floating deep cities of enclosed waters of already existing metropolitan ports. Their scheme resembled patent illustrations from 1959 for an underwater island made by Buckminster Fuller, published in 1964 in one issue of the Archigram magazine “Metropolis”. The drifting city Triton connected the supertechnologies of oil tankers and drilling rigs.

6. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/ [date of access 01.09.2019]

7. https://www.oecd.org/environment/action-on-climate-change/dataindicators/ [date of access 01.09.2019]

8. Ekistics, Perspectives On Habitat: the United Nations Conference On Human Settlements, T (42), 252, 1976, p. 262-266

9. https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/dsgsm1269.doc.htm [date of access 01.09.2019]

10. https://oceanix.org [date of access: 01.09.2019]

11. http://vincent.callebaut.org/ [date of access 01.09.2019]

All above mentioned proposals were created to solve the coming crisis of urban overpopulation and pressure connected with burnt out land resources. On top of anthropogenic activity the climate is warming up and the level of oceans is rising. According to Archimedes’ Principle and against the accepted assumptions, melting the arctic ice floe does not cause the level of water to rise exactly as a melting ice cube in a glass of water does not increase its volume. However, there are two huge ice reservoirs, which do not exist on water and their melting transport their volume into the oceans leading to their rise. They are above all ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland and continental glaciers. Moreover, rising level of the oceans, which has nothing to do with ice melting, is connected with enlarging the water in higher temperature. According to less disturbing forecasts of ICPP 6 (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) the level of oceans will rise from 20 to 90 cm in the XXI century, compared to 10 cm in the XX century. It is also thought that the rise of temperature of 1°C will lead to the rise of water of 1 metre. If the ocean level rises even of 1 metre, it will hit hard over 50 million people in developing countries. However, the situation will be worse with another metre. Countries such as Vietnam, Egypt, Bangladesh, Guiana or Bahama will be flooded in their most populated regions, and their most fertile fields will be devastated by brine destroying the local ecosystems. New York, Bombay, Calcutta, Shanghai, Miami, Lagos, Abidjan or Djakarta and Alexandria – these are the cities that embody over 250 million of potential climate refugees. It is a demonstration of unwilling ghosts conducted by a climatology research OECD 7 (the organization of Economic Co-operation and Development).

Within the recent decades critics rejected the projects of the sea as insignificant utopias and technological fantasies. Despite the exceptionally difficult sea environment, there are a lot of technically solved projects that are considered as an alternative for land cities. The topic of a global architectural discussion were captured during the first Habitat conference of the United Nations (“Habitata I”) in Vancouver in 1976. 8 Using the current proposals of new cities on the sea, it can be observed that the approach to society and technology has changed. In the context of environmental and climate crisis a change should be made – from the strategy of reacting to crisis to the strategy of adaptation and long-term planning. In April 2019, after over 40 years, during the first Round Table on sustainable floating cities in the UN headquarters in New York 9 the newest proposal of Oceanix City 10 was presented, made by the studio BIG – a conception of a drifting city that is resistant to extreme weather phenomena (i.e. category 5 hurricanes) and to rising level of water in seas and oceans. Six 12-hectare islands would create a village, in which 1650 people could live. The model could be multiplied, creating an archipelago for 10000 citizens. The project was presented together with the ex-minister for tourism of the French Polynesia, Marco Collins Chen, who is involved in Seasteading Institute that tries to develop autonomic city-states floating on shallow waters of the “hosts-nations”. The UN lent support for subsequent research on drifting cities, as an answer to the rising level of water and searching for shelter for climate refugees.

However, it is worth noticing that within the recent decades the idea of creating a city on water has appeared many times. One of the most interesting is Lilypad 11 - a drifting ecopolis presented in 2008 by Vincent Callebaut that makes for two goals – serves not only to sustainable expansion on the coastal areas of the most developed countries, such as Monaco, but above all to provide shelter on the sea territory for future climate refugees. A new prototype dedicated to nomadism and urban marine ecology travels on a water line of the oceans, from the equator to the poles, following the warm bay currents or the cold Labrador Current. Lilypad is a half-land and half-water city that can accommodate 50 000 habitants together with a variety of fauna and flora. A multifunctional applicative program is based on three main marines and three mountains dedicated accordingly to work, trade and entertainment. Everything is surrounded by flats located in suspended gardens and transected by streets and lanes with an organic outline. The aim is to create a harmonious co-existence of the human being with the nature and discovering new ways of life on the sea by building smooth collective spaces for meeting all habitants. The structure of ecopolis is created from a double shell made of polyester fibres covered by a layer of titanium dioxide (TiO2), similarly to anatase, which through the reaction to ultraviolet beams enables atmospheric absorption of the pollution using the photocatalytic effect. Thanks to the integration of all renewable sources of energy (solar, thermal and photovoltaic, wind energy, tide power plant, osmotic energy and biomass) it also produces constantly more energy than it uses up, achieving positive energy balance with zero emission of carbon dioxide.

In recent decades, there have been more similar examples to the above mentioned, and with years they will be improved and implemented step by step. A similar topics are more and more often shown in pieces of culture, for example in the film Waterworld that presents a postapocalyptic vision of the world as a big ocean, which have been created as a result of melting the glaciers; or in the series of games BioShock that take place in a fictional underwater city-utopia Rapture. It is worth then to ask yourself a question if the floating cities are really only a utopian vision or maybe the near future.