> The Seasteading Concept - part 2

In The Seasteading Concept - part 1, I introduced and showed some of the conceptual work of Seasteading Institute, particularly the exploration of the neutral sea to construct micro-nations, and consequently to try out new models of governance. However this Institute is not the only one presenting projects to develop oceanic permanent dwellings. Some of well-known futurist architects like Vincent Callebaut are very interested in seasteading, and organizations as Living Universe Foundation strongly believe in the colonization of the ocean. Incredibly, Kevin Costner's Waterworld was more motivated by the effects of global warming than almost all these projects.


"The Freedom Ship is a mile-long, energy self-sufficient floating city with absolutely everything included from parks and playgrounds to apartments, businesses, schools, casinos and shopping malls. Rather than docking, aircraft will land to resupply the ship and deposit and pick up residents. At 25 stories high the ship would accommodate 40,000 full-time residents and 60,000 total occupants. More than a floating paradise this is designed to be a fully functioning and essentially autonomous city of relatively uniform architecture"

Callebaut's Lilypad "is a true amphibian half aquatic and half terrestrial city, able to accommodate 50,000 inhabitants and inviting the biodiversity to develop its fauna and flora around a central lagoon of soft water collecting and purifying the rain waters. This artificial lagoon is entirely immersed ballasting thus the city. It enables to live in the heart of the subaquatic depths. The multifunctional programming is based on three marinas and three mountains dedicated respectively to the work, the shops and the entertainments. The whole set is covered by a stratum of planted housing in suspended gardens and crossed by a network of streets and alleyways with organic outline. The goal is to create a harmonious coexistence of the couple Human / Nature and to explore new modes of living the sea by building with fluidity collective spaces in proximity, overwhelming spaces of social inclusion suitable to the meeting of all the inhabitants – denizen or foreign-born, recent or old, young or aged people."

"Another notable ocean ecopolis concept comes from Wolf Hilbertz, a German architect who plants to use the process of electrodisposition to create a city that would essentially build itself. Autopia Ampere would begin as a series of wire mesh armatures connected to a supply of low-voltage direct current produced by solar panels. The electrochemical reactions would draw up sea minerals over time, creating walls of calcium carbonate on the armatures."

"This titanic project for a high-tech, artificial island capable of movement was thought up by architect Jean-Philippe Zopponi. AZ Island will measure 400 metres long by 300 metres wide and be able to welcome up to 10,000 passengers. The ovoid island’s shape and size – 29 floors high and a surface area equivalent to 4 football fields – will necessarily limit its speed (4 times slower than a cruise ship)."

"Jelly-fish 45, designed by Giancarlo Zema is a floating dwelling unit for up to six persons. It's spacious dimensions are 10 metres high with a diameter of over 15 metres. It would be ideally situated in sea parks, atolls, bays and seas rich in flora and fauna. The Jelly-fish 45 allows the sea dwelling owners to live either above or below sea level in perfect harmony with the ocean environment.  It consists of five levels connected by a spiral staircase."

"Celestopea sea communities will colonize unique areas of the tropical oceans where underwater mountains come very close to the surface with a series of self-sufficient, semi-autonomous, floating villages located in international waters and incorporating innovative new technologies, industries and social organization. The Celestopea sea communities will involve the creation of a worldwide series of very prosperous, autonomous, self-sustaining, floating ocean villages with populations between 2,000 to 5,000 people. Each community will be actualized with innovative technologies that create buildings and even islands from the minerals held in solution in seawater."

(Lilypad in Callebaut's website)
(Freedom Ship website)
(Celestopea website)
(video with examples of seasteds)
(projects originally taken from WebUrbanist's article, Freshhome's article, WebEcoist's article and Sub-Find's article)
(Waterworld trailer)

> Utopias vs Individualism

This post transcribes an article written by Michael Johnson for Knoji website (links at the end of the post as usual). Johnson is an expert in architectural history, and introduced the concept of Utopia by using two practical cases of important architects that tried to create an ideal society. As I wrote here - Utopians in the History of Urban Planning -, the attempts to create the ideal city, from scratch, rarely had success. My text as well Johnson text, explain these failures with the obstacle of individualism. In fact, the utopias often idealize cities essentially socialists. Why this happens could be a good premise for an article, however what interested me more in this context is how the utopias ironically represent the social/architectural conformity as a remote anti-natura dream.

"Introduction: This article examines the concept of Utopia, the ideal society. Utopianism was a central motivation for the Modern Movement in architecture and design: it was the source of Modernism’s tremendous ambition, but also it colossal failures.  The article explores some of the Utopian cities built during the 20th century, including Modernist ‘ideal’ cities.

The concept of Utopia was devised by the philosopher Sir Thomas More in a book published in 1516. In the book, Utopia is the name of a fictional island in the Atlantic which supports an ideal community with a seemingly perfect social, political and legal system.  It is significant that Utopia was conceived as an island; the perfect society had to be isolated from the rest of the world to avoid being corrupted by it. Crucially, More did not believe that such an ideal society was possible -  it was a purely philosophical concept. In fact, the word Utopia comes from the Greek term  ‘no place’, indicating that for More Utopia was an impossible dream.

However, many architects and town planners have been preoccupied with the idea of the perfect society and devised hugely ambitious schemes, believing that a rationally planned environment could create a more rational, more efficient society. In particular, Modernism was fueled by utopian optimism for the future. However, history has proved that it is misguided, even dangerous, to build such grandiose schemes.

Modernist architects of the 20th century devised ‘ideal’ cities – completely new environments based on new social theories. They tried to create the environment of the future.  An example is Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse – the Radiant City (1927). This was Le Corbusier’s Utopian dream. It consists of identical monolithic blocks located in vast greenbelts. The blocks are linked up by high speed expressways. This is a supremely rational environment, but the anonymous blocks are repetitive; they deny individuality.

The Ville Radieuse was never fully implemented, but Le Corbusier did manage to construct the Unité d’habitation in Marseilles, which embodies his concept of communal living. This is a monolithic block raised off the ground on stilts and elevated above the decay and disorder of the city. The block houses an indoor market, a school and communal recreation areas all in one building. Again, this seems ultra-efficient, but it is overly rational. It is dangerous for an architect to think he can anticipate the needs of all users. Even the name habitation unit is dehumanising.

Utopian schemes were an attempt to improve on the conventional city. Modernists disliked like real cities – they thought they were chaotic and uncoordinated. Modernists were obsessed with order and rationality, so they devised schemes to simplify the city. In particular, they separated it out according to function. For example, they believed that people should live in residential areas that were separate from the business areas. The blocks were to be linked up by a road network. It was believed that this would make society more rational.

The problem is that a space designed for only one purpose can become sterile. Cities need variety, diversity and interaction. In the 1960s and 70s there was a critical backlash against Modernism. The American writer Jane Jacobs published a book called The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), which was a brilliant critique of Modernist architecture. Jacobs examined Modernist planning schemes and argued that they were dehumanising because they denied individuality. People can’t relate to the environment, and that leads to alienation. In contrast, she cited her own neighbourhood of Greenwich Village in New York as a better model. Greenwich Village is a space of varied use. It has social and ethnic diversity and it’s characterised by vigorous life. It was part of a real, organic city, not an artificial Modernist one.

Few of the utopian cities were fully realised, but Brasilia in South America is a rare example of Modernist ‘utopia’ that actually was built. The original capital of Brazil was Rio de Janeiro, but in 1956 the government decided to build a new capital in the centre of the country. The site was a wasteland; so they built an artificial city in the middle of nowhere. It was completed in only 41 months. This is the closest thing we have to a Modernist Utopia, although the art critic Robert Hughes calls it a ‘utopian horror’.

Much of it was designed by Oscar Neimeyer, a Modernist architect who was born in South America but studied under Le Corbusier. Like the Ville Radieuse it consists of monolithic housing buildings located in the suburbs and separated from the city by huge distances. The road network links up the separate areas, but as you can see it also acts as a barrier unless you have a car.


Like Paris, Brasilia was designed to prevent revolution. It has been described as a city without crowds because the planners abolished all the spaces where people could gather. The streets were replaced by high speed expressways, so there is no real public space in the entire city. Public space is important; it is the arena in which we represent ourselves as a public. Public space can be used as a platform for political action. In fact, revolutions are often referred to as a ‘taking to the streets’. Public space is crucial for democracy. The Brazilian government tried to abolish public space. Without it, people had nowhere to congregate, nowhere to express their views. The design has been interpreted as a ‘counter-revolutionary strategy’.

The central problem is that an ideal society is a logical impossibility: societies are made up of millions of individuals and individuals will never agree on what constitutes an ideal society. To try to create an ‘ideal’ society would mean suppressing individuality. For that reason, one person’s utopia inevitably becomes a dystopia. The utopian cities of the 20th century are megalomanical nightmares for everyone but their creators.

Conclusion: There have been many attempts to create the ideal environment for the ideal society. Modernist architects devised ideal cities and some of these were partially realised. However, the concept of a planned city is dangerous because no single plan can anticipate the needs of millions. Real cities have grown organically; they reflect the variety and complexity of society."

(original article and images here)
(Michael Johnson profile in Knoji)

> Introduction to John Berkey

John Berkey born in 1932 (Minnesota, United States). He is an artist more known by their paintings for Star Wars merchandising. Despite his solid career in advertising agencies, he became a freelance artist and could then develop his passion for space and science-fiction themes. Consequently, some movie directors as well as NASA used his amazing work. Many magazines as Life, Time or National Geographic has also Berkey's illustrations. He died in 2008 with important honors assigned by Society of Illustrators, Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists or Minicon convention. Their futurist urban visions deserve a place here.

"Berkey has shown the world a unique vision of a future in time and space way beyond our wildest dreams. He is most well known as a science fiction artist, specifically for his paintings of huge graceful spaceships of multi-faceted shapes adorned with many intricate details, soaring through outer space."

(John Berkey official website)

> Unknown Labyrinth

(taken from a Skoda advertising)

> Urban Visions in Appleseed Ex-Machina

Applesseed Ex-Machina is a Japanese animated CG movie, released in 2007. Directed by Shinji Aramaki, this movie is full of utopian considerations. In fact he envisions the world in 2133, where there is a network of perfect cities managed by perfect humans. Despite the fact that this harmony is mainly due to bio-engineered citizens without dangerous feelings, every city is also well-designed to perform perfectly its specific function in the network. To represent Olympus, the capital city where action takes place, the Digital Frontier Studios produced amazing urban landscapes...

(movie trailer)

> The Seasteading Concept - part 1

Seasteading is an unexplored concept despite the creation of a thematic institute in 2008. Turn utopias (physical or not) into reality requires money, advanced technology and especially a radical openness to new ideologies, what means flexibility to governmental and legal constraints. So, what is the most freest place in the world to put in practice new ideas, new systems, new worlds? Yes, the ocean, outside the Exclusive Economic Zones. There are some great examples of how to take advantage of this territory not claimed by any nation. The organization Women on Waves performs medical abortions by bringing women from countries with very restrictive laws to its ship. Pirate radios like Radio Veronica broadcast from ships or maritime platforms. And some micro-nations has been created in abandoned structures, like Sealand (photo above) near United Kingdom, or in small islands, as the Caribbean Redonda. 

However the Seasteding Institute wants to go further, by studying the possibilities of experimenting and developing new political systems in oceanic cities. Peter Thiel (Paypal co-founder), like almost everyone, is discontented with current forms of governance and invested half a million dollars on the institute, initially planned by Patri Friedman (yes, Nobel winner's grandson). As a result, it has been produced curious projects by contest, of permanent dwellings mainly installed in abandoned oil platforms, but also in cruise ships or modular islands. The following 'seasteds' were awarded by the institute.

"The Swimming City (images above and below) is a vibrant seastead design from András Gyõrfi that looks like a section of a traditional city that was cut from its surroundings and relocated to the sea. The traditional architecture and familiar city structure give it the type of familiarity that would make it easy to live in for former land-dwellers. (...) The “city” is actually the size of a single neighborhood, so imagine a network of these communities, each supported on its own four pillars just above the water, forming a true city of the sea."

"The Rendering Freedom (image below) by Anthony Ling is not only about building a city for today, but about leaving open the possibilities for growth and change in the future. Modular construction on a stationary platform would mean that changing and adding to the existing buildings would be simple. The buildings themselves are even further elevated to help protect them from large waves."

"Emerson Stepp wanted to convey a sense of luxury to help ease the adjustment from living on land to life at sea. The Oasis of the Sea (image below) was meant to harmonize with the surroundings without simply fading into the background. The seastead’s architecture is designed to withstand the incredibly harsh environment that would plague an ocean colony, but the lush vegetation and organic design would help to make residents feel less like they live on a platform in the middle of a strange environment."

"Designed with sea-worthiness in mind, this enclosed city (SESU Seasted) (image below) from designer Marko Järvela uses thermal and functional zoning in its layered interior to keep utility consumption down. Passive solar design principles are also in use to take advantage of the ocean sunshine. Inside the enclosure, extensive vegetation cleans the air, improves the aesthetics of the seastead and provides food for the residents."


"From the five-man Team 3DA, Refusion (image below) challenges the public to think differently about seasteads in general. They don’t have to be industrial and boring or outlandishly futuristic; they can be functional and beautiful, and they come with a unique set of advantages. Being out in the sea means near-complete freedom and independence. For ocean researchers, a permanent seastead research environment affords an unprecedented amount of data collection opportunities."

"At The Seasteading Institute, we work to enable seasteading communities — floating cities — which will allow the next generation of pioneers to peacefully test new ideas for government. The most successful can then inspire change in governments around the world."

(projects description taken from WebUrbanist)
(The Seasteading Institute website)
(promotional video about The Seasteading Institute)
(Sealand official website)
(Kingdom of Redonda official website)

> Unknown Desert City

(author: ROAD Barcelona)

> 'Not Tall Enough' Series - Eye in the Sky Lookout Tower

Look out, something is watching you... Anyone can project the highest skyscraper, but only few use enough creativity to spread out their ideas. Eugene Tsui is an American architect defined as a polymath. The interdisciplinary approach he puts on their projects, produces a nature-based architecture, often made by organic structures. Among many surrealistic proposals, Eye in the Sky is probably his best known one. Despite the unrealistic drawings of this very inclined tower, Tsui elaborated detailed specifications about the materials, the elevators, the construction methods, the function of each section and even the ticket prices to visit it! If the eye on top represents the surveillance obsession or just an admiration for Sauron from Lord of the Rings, Tsui says nothing.
"We want to create an architectural landmark that is fantastic, meaningful, educational and ecological."

"The 600 meters Eye-In-The-Sky Look Out Tower, Cultural Center, Exhibition and Public Plaza will be a spectacular symbol of the City of Oakland and the entire San Francisco Bay area. It is the tallest inclined tower in the world. It will be a global landmark present in every travel book and etched in every travel-minded individual of the world. The tower is a significant tourist attraction capable of attracting at least 10 million of the 40 million visiting tourists each year who come to the San Francisco Bay area. From the top five viewing levels visitors can view the entire Bay area for the first time in history."

Structure ID
Name: Eye in the Sky Lookout Tower
Place: Oakland, California, USA
Height: 600 metres
Function: Recreation and education
Author: Eugene Tsui

(more info and images here)

> A New Prison for New People

Nowadays there are a lot of architectural competitions that often bring us impressive proposals. Some years ago, to impress meant to construct higher; but with the recent technological progress, the concept became more and more important. Therefore 499.SUMMIT is a great example of how we may rethink the function of a building. Greg Knobloch and Andreas Tjeldflaat, students at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design, proposed a possible solution to the high recidivism rates in New Jersey. The main idea is to turn the usual low-rise prisons into skyscrapers, in order to improve their sociological impact. It is easy to accept it if we think that we can better integrate a prison in a city center, or that a high-rise prison rejects oppressive walls. However the concept of 499.SUMMIT is more complex...

"The massing consists of three towers in the shape of an arch. The inherent linear and formal qualities of the ‘arch’ allowed us to establish our key circulatory concept: UP, OVER, DOWN. Each arch has three primary phases, Incarceration (up), Transformation (over), and Integration (down). The arches begin isolated during the incarceration phase and merge together both physically and programmatically during the integration phase. As the inmates graduate through the facility, they are being exposed to an increasing degree of social interaction, in order to make the transition back into society as soft as possible. To catalyst this process, public program and residential housing units are introduced in the integration phase downwards."

(more info and images here)
(video about 499.SUMMIT)

> 1970s Paintings of Space Colonies

In the 1970s, NASA produced some not-so-serious studies about independent space colonies. These studies were a basis of a summer academic internship, in which students could demonstrate an amazing imagination by drawing them. Under some interesting concepts about the advantages of a space settlement, it was projected three types of colonies: toroidal, cylindrical and spherical (originally proposed in 1929 by John Desmond Bernal).

"Why should we live in orbit rather than on a planet or moon? Because orbit is far superior to the Moon and Mars for colonization, and other planets and moons are too hot, too far away, and/or have no solid surface."

"Settlements must be air tight to hold a breathable atmosphere, and must rotate to provide pseudo-gravity. Thus, people stand on the inside of the hull. Enormous amounts of matter, probably lunar soil at first, must cover the settlements to protect inhabitants from radiation."

"Solar energy is abundant, reliable and is commonly used to power satellites today. (...) People need air, water, food and reasonable temperatures to survive. On Earth a large complex biosphere provides these. In space settlements, a relatively small, closed system must recycle all the nutrients without 'crashing'." 

"Near-Earth orbital colonies can service Earth's tourist, energy, and materials markets more easily than the Moon. Mars is too far away to easily trade with Earth. Space colonies, wherever they are built, will be very expensive. Supplying Earth with valuable goods and services will be critical to paying for colonization."


"Space settlement needs inexpensive, safe launch systems to deliver thousands, perhaps millions, of people into orbit. If this seems unrealistic, note that a hundred and fifty years ago nobody had ever flown in an airplane, but today nearly 500 million people fly each year."

(video about Bernal Sphere)
(more info and images here)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...