Is it possible to build artificial islands?

Living on and under the water

If sea levels rise with global warming, coastal regions will disappear and islands will sink. Cities at sea and under water could become places of refuge - projects for a life with the tide are being worked on around the world.

The visionaries from the Seasteading Institute had chosen Tahiti for their pioneering project: They wanted to build a floating city - an artificial island in front of the island. The authorities in Tahiti were initially enthusiastic about the future-oriented project, the negotiations were successful and in the end there was a "Memorandum of Understanding".

The Seasteading Institute takes its name from so-called Seasteads, permanent dwellings on the sea. The founder and activist Patri Friedman came up with the idea of ​​founding floating cities on the sea in 2008. The grandson of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman saw it as his political agenda, he wanted to establish completely autonomous free states on the high seas.

Seasteading Institute

Visualization of an artificial city by the sea

The young Friedman is thus completely in the tradition of the great liberal economist who always opposed state regulation. His father David Friedman also fights against the state, he is considered a pioneer of anarcho-capitalism. So it's no wonder that the family idea should now be implemented in concrete terms.

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The ORF co-production “Earth under water. Wohnen im Klima-Chaos “will be broadcast on 3sat in the main evening program on December 4th at 8:15 pm and can then be seen in the 3sat media library for a week.

There was no lack of financially strong contacts, Peter Thiel, one of the founders of Pay Pal, financed the planning of the floating city off Tahiti. The city should initially float on the high seas, but then the stormy seas seemed too dangerous and the city was considered close to the coast. Seasteading planned multi-storey buildings on networked platforms - actually it looks like a floating suburb with little-inspired skyscrapers. You probably won't win a design award with it.

Residents against it

It is interesting that Tahiti was chosen. Tahiti itself will not go under anytime soon, the island consists of two extinct volcanoes and is mountainous. The steepest peak on the double island is 2,241 meters high. The villages, however, are laid out on the narrow coasts. And they sink - by 0.25 millimeters every year. Shallower islands like the Maldives have the water up to their necks much faster.

The project was fully announced to the press, then postponed to 2020 and put on hold the previous year. Because hundreds of residents protested against the plans of the super-rich. They fought against tech colonialism from Silicon Valley. Tahiti should not fall victim to colonialism again. How it goes on is therefore open.

Life under water

Americans aren't the only ones planning floating cities. The French Jacques Rougerie also wants to urbanize the sea. He also has an urban vision for Tahiti. However, more sophisticated in terms of design and without a political idea behind it. His aim is to show possibilities. Jacques Rougerie has been planning for a life on and in the sea for decades.

Rougerie Architectes Associes

Model of living unit on and under the water, based on the seahorse

The Parisian was one of the first to plan underwater houses and entire underwater settlements. For this he worked with the great pioneer of marine research Jacques Piccard. “There are two great adventures of mankind: the adventure in space and the adventure under the sea. This is the future of mankind, ”he says. As early as the 1960s, he foresaw that there would one day be underwater hotels. In fact, the first underwater hotels and restaurants such as “Under” are being built by the Norwegian architecture firm Snohetta right now.


Dining room under water

Rougerie is not a prophet of doom, he sees change positively. He loves the sea and all its secrets. His life project is therefore also the "Sea Orbiter" - a research station floating in the sea with which the unknown deep sea is to be explored. However, he is concerned about climate change. “There will be 200 to 300 million climate refugees, what are we going to do? We can do it if we think in terms of several generations. ”The French recall the cathedrals, they too were built over generations. We need this long time horizon again if we conquer the sea as a new habitat, he says.

Time is of the essence

There is not much time left. Sea levels are rising rapidly, faster than predicted, and it is not clear how things will go from here. “We are currently carrying out a gigantic experiment on our planet,” says climate researcher Mojib Latif from GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel. It will hit not only the islands but all coastal regions. The United Nations estimates that nine out of ten of the world's largest metropolises will be affected by sea level rise as early as 2050. The majority of the coastal regions are being destroyed by the floods, leaving millions of people homeless.

BIG Bjarke Ingels Group

Oceanix City visualization from above

Floating cities are no longer dismissed as futuristic spinning, but as a possible solution for the future. Even the United Nations are already thinking about a future on the water. UNO-Habitat presented its own concept. “Oceanix City” is to become the world's first sustainable floating city for 10,000 inhabitants. It is not intended to be an ark only for the rich, but rather to be available as a place of refuge for all threatened coastal residents in the distant future. At least that's the noble goal. The technology already exists for a life on water, now the utopia just has to be implemented.

Matthias Widter, Ulrike Schmitzer, 3-sat, Ö1-Wissenschaft

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