As architects, engineers and city planners explore new frontiers; experiments are underway to explore the viability of floating architecture. Floating platforms are being designed and built that can act as the foundations to support buildings. The early prototypes experiment with standalone villas, or homes that float on water bodies close to land, mostly modular in nature. The success of these initial structures will determine if we will have cities on water.

As populations moving to urban areas keep rising year on year, concerns about cities being able to accommodate such large numbers are being continuously voiced. Further, with most large metropolises located along waterfronts, the rising sea levels pose yet another challenge to the expansion of these communities.

In an attempt to find answers to these problems, some engineers, researchers and technologists have been suggesting we need to build our cities differently: we need to make them float on oceans and rivers. While initial efforts in this direction have been made in the past decades with 20% of Tokyo being built on artificial islands built out into the sea, while authorities in Dubai have built entire built entire luxury complexes on artificial islands.

These attempts have been to push the oceans back to reclaim land, or to create land masses where they did not exist before. The new line of thinking is to stop pushing the sea back and instead see it as a friend. These innovative thinkers, engineers and architects are designing and building floating platforms that can act as the foundations to support buildings.

The early prototypes experiment with standalone individual villas, or homes that float on water bodies close to land. To allow for future growth of the project and ease of transportation and assembly, most of the concepts being developed in the area of floating architecture are modular in nature, allowing for development of communities and may be even cities over time.

Benefits of floating settlements
These will relieve our already crowded land based cities, and reduce the pressure on the authorities to keep growing the cities vertically. Setting up new communities from a scratch allows city planners to think afresh, consider the needs of populations of today and the future and build forward from there. There are no restrictions due to existing old structures, nor is there a need to demolish the older buildings to make for the new ones.

Floating architecture gives cities an opportunity to redefine the lifestyle of their citizens, creating new spaces, new dynamics and venturing out to a whole new frontier.

What are the challenges facing floating architecture?
The obvious ones: floods, storms that can last for days especially in case of structures that are built out at sea, the impact of choppy waters on the residents and the related sea sickness… these are some of concerns that are being raised by the industry watchers.

Whether these floating cities will actually ‘float’ and become a way of life in the future remains to be seen. In this issue of InterEdge, we have showcased a few early experiments in this space. Welcome aboard!

By 2030, 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities. This is going to put huge strain on the world’s existing metropolises. And they will have climate change to deal with too ­– about 90% of the world’s largest cities are situated on the waterfront and are vulnerable to rising sea levels.