Floating cities not so far-fetched after all

With the backing of the UN, the world may see plans for massive but viable seasteads come into fruition soon

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Floating cities may be imminent now that the concept has received the endorsement of the United Nations no less.

In April, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) mounted the organisation’s first ever round table discussion dedicated to sustainable floating cities.

The forum, held at the UN headquarters in New York City, saw a cadre of innovators, explorers, marine engineers, and scientists share cutting-edge ideas on seasteading amid new climate realities.

“Floating cities are a means of ensuring climate resilience, as buildings can rise along with the sea.  And when entire floating communities are designed from scratch, they can be designed as climate‑neutral from the onset,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said in prepared remarks.

Among the concepts floated at the round table was Oceanix City, an ambitious proposal by former tourism minister of French Polynesia, Marc Collins Chen, and architecture studio BIG. The project entails the creation of a settlement anchored by a special material called Biorock.

Poised to be home to 10,000, Oceanix City can withstand Category 5 hurricanes and other destructive forces.

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“Technology is not a barrier to floating cities in international waters. Advances in technology enable us to create structures for habitation in deep sea waters,” stated Queensland University of Technology research assistant Brydon T. Wang in a piece for The Conversation.

“These schemes have never really taken off because of political and commercial barriers.”

Oceanix is seeking to circumvent such hurdles by developing autonomous city-states in the shallow waters of “host nations”.

For now, the future of floating cities lies better in technology campuses and tourism, Wang said. Large technology firms can set up floating data centres and campuses in international waters, away from onerous privacy regimes, while corporations like Disney could explore seaborne leisure colonies of yore: essentially expanding on existing cruises and building floating theme parks.

“Given our fascination with living on water, even if Oceanix City does not succeed, it won’t be long before we see another floating city proposal. And if we get the mix of social, political and commercial drivers right, we might just find ourselves living on one,” Wang wrote.