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Oceanix – Human settlements on floating islands as sea levels rises

An in-depth interview with Itai Madamombe, co-founder of Oceanix, confessing, «moving onto water is not only inevitable, it is imminent»

Oceanix city: a proposal for the world’s first resilient and self-sustained floating community

A floating city that adopts a real-world approach. Oceanix city: a proposal for the world’s first resilient and self-sustained floating community hosting 10,000 people living on water. The concept poses as a novel urban infrastructure that will aid human populations with the environmental crisis that is currently being faced such as sea level rising, flooding and storms. Co-founder of Oceanix, Itai Madamombe, walks us through the new frontier created for human settlements and on the prospects of living sustainably and in harmony with life below water. «The idea of building a new city on water provides a clean slate to bring together all these exponential technologies to solve problems that vary from housing, energy, water, food and mobility to how humanity can live in harmony with nature. All these problems play out at city scale; bringing all this together without the challenges of retrofitting an existing city». Prior to founding the company in the year 2018, Itai Madamombe and Marc Collins Chen had conducted in-depth research of previous attempts and similar ideologies in order to comprehend where such projects have fallen short, spending around six months of extensive research and dissecting topics of floating cities. With two ideologies that motivate Oceanix: first one being execution: building something that contributes to the well-fare of mankind, secondly, ‘placing a premium on an interdisciplinary approach’ as Madamombe puts it. «We designed Oceanix City to create new land for coastal cities that are looking to expand on the ocean sustainably, while adapting to sea level rise and flooding. Coastal cities are facing a housing crunch and are vulnerable to the rising seas and flooding. The charm of floating cities is that they are buoyant and therefore flood-proof; they rise with the water level». Previous attempts on creating floating cities and communities have viewed such notions from a singular perspective: focusing on either architectural, engineering or ideological. Madamombe clarifies that they have put together a diverse team ranging from experts from different industries such as design, engineering and construction in order to reach a comprehensive approach.

Lampoon reporting: Oceanix design scheme and building materials

The design scheme is comprised of 6-module of villages and the same form of the village is repeated and expanded outwards that can be multiplied on a plan based on 4.5-acre hexagonal floating islands that are towed to sea and anchored in place to assure its safety and security and is designed to withstand a category-five hurricane. The floating city is intended to furnish a habitable, off-shore environment in the event of rising sea levels, which as scientists estimate will be expected to affect ninety-percent of the world’s coastal cities by the year 2050. The building materials to be utilized for construction are considered locally sourced, vernacular materials such as wood and bamboo, devising a natural softness to the overall floating urbanscapes. In addition to incorporating several methods of renewable energy resources like wind, water turbines and solar panels as well as adopting food production and farming approaches that adhere to a stringent zero-waste policy. «Sustainability is central to everything we do; we cannot continue with unfettered urbanization and consumption in the way that the vast majority of cities operate. We have partnered with UN-Habitat, which keeps us on track in this regard. Our whole team, from the Bjarke Ingels Group to the other experts on key systems, are all big proponents of sustainable living». Every island is designed to anchor 3,000 square meters of outdoor agricultural lands that can be enjoyed from both the farming and recreational facets. Alongside having floating landscapes, Oceanix City will encompass living community spaces, water baths, markets, spiritual and cultural hubs. Buildings will encapsulate a larger roof surface area having a more tapered design for more solar panel space, the structure in itself will not exceed around four to five stories in order to keep the center of gravity intending for the design to be adaptable to any culture and any architecture. «Floating cities mark a departure from land reclamation models as a way of creating new land. There are two main ways to build large floating platforms: pontoon-style floating caissons and semi-submersible platforms. Floating caissons are more suited for calm and shallow waters such as those where Oceanix will deploy at the beginning. Concrete is the most common construction material for floating caissons. These concrete caissons float on the surface of the ocean as the upward buoyant force exerted on a body immersed in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces. Use of the Archimedes’ Principle enables city-scale infrastructure, such as buildings, parks, roads and utilities, to be held afloat with a modest drought. Building starts with floating platforms, on which buildings and infrastructure are constructed; the platforms serve as both the land and the foundation. Finally, this is towed to the desired location and anchored to the seabed».The challenges that were needed to be taken into consideration when designing such floating communities as Madamombe puts it had to have undergone an in-depth location studies concerning both the water and the surrounding landscape in order to ensure that creating a site-specific project respecting not only the water as an element but the surrounding communities. «Engineering wise, the technology has already been proven and it is a matter of tweaking it for city scale purposes and livability. Concrete caissons are a construction technology that has been in use since the year of 1905. Modern examples of floating caissons include Pier 57 in New York City that was built in 1954 and is still in good condition. Concrete caissons were also used in 2016 as the foundation of the world’s longest floating bridge Evergreen Point, commonly called SR-520 Bridge, in Seattle being the first floating bridge in Washington State was completed in 1940».

The floating piers, Christo, lago d’Iseo, 2016

Sustainable floating city for a better understanding of nature and hydrological realm 

Oceanix City targets all demographics and aims at affordable and sustainable developments, offering a resolution to displaced communities to coastal areas in need; creating more attractive living environments that are not a privilege for only the rich and wealthy to favor desirable lifestyles that challenge the modern-day environmental dilemmas. «Oceanix City will represent a cross-section of any normal city, with a mix of young, middle age, to retirees, and low, middle and high income, speaking to all demographics because we are not building something uniform. We are agnostic and will build whatever meets the needs of each coastal city, from affordable to high-end housing. The unifying ethos is that this is an opt-in community of people who want to live sustainably across the nexus of food, energy, and water, with zero-waste systems. A community of people who believe in living in harmony with nature/life below water having a strong sense of innovation and exploration to contribute to our understanding of the ocean». The project reimagines how the design of a sustainable floating city can enhance global interdisciplinary education and deepen a public understanding of nature and the hydrological realm; one that caters a suitable environment for the population, addressing sustainability, resiliency and contemporary architecture with minimal impact on the environment by opting for off-shore occupancy. Madamombe explains, «When we build, we are not building houses, roads and infrastructure, we are building a community that is socially sustainable. Our floating cities are designed for people; we put the wellbeing of humanity and nature at the core. The most valuable index in our community is social capital. Forming viable relationships and networks to develop a sense of community and having people feel connected to other people, rather than attached to their physical space alone. For that reason, we tap into the wisdom of a wide range of people: philosophers, architects, artists, scientists, designers and ordinary citizens who are committed to the vision of sustainable floating cities. We pay attention to the quality of public spaces and greenery as they affect our impression of belonging. Our community gardens help residents come together, work together, and create a sense of cohesiveness». The future of architecture and urbanism is not worth considering without also considering the anthropogenic detriments that have led us to think of off-shore inhabitation. Mankind’s fate is inseparable and forever intertwined with that of the ocean; an underwater world that covers seventy percent of the planet’s surface, produces more than half of the world’s oxygen, stores fifty times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere and transports heat from the equator to the north and south poles that in turn regulates our climate and weather conditions. The co-founder, Itai Madamombe, concludes, «humanity can live in harmony with life below water. It should never be a question of one versus the other, the technology exists for us to live on water, while nature continues to thrive under. The ocean has everything we need to meet our shelter, energy, water and food needs and the technology exists today to live on the ocean sustainably without killing precious marine ecosystems. By living with water, adapting to it, rather than fighting it, people will develop a healthier relationship with the ocean. Moving onto water is not only inevitable, it is imminent».

Oceanix

A company founded by Itai Madamombe and Marc Collins Chen on the grounds of revolutionizing the current urban sprawl and creating resilient and sustainable communities; they are currently focusing on the development of Oceanix City in collaboration with high-profile partners that include BIG, MIC, Sherwood Design Engineers, Transsolar KlimaEngineering and Global Reef Alliance. 

Farah Hassan

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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