It could be a sign of things to come.
Long the stuff of imagination and futuristic thinking, the floating city may become a reality, if French architect Jacques Rougerie has his way.
His concept – a dramatically different research platform – would house up to 7,000 scientists and students from all over the world to work on long-term projects. It would provide an array of laboratories, classrooms, lecture halls, living quarters and even dedicated areas for leisure activities and sports.
Rougerie envisions his floating City of Mériens as a place where scientists could live while they conduct research on the surrounding ocean. The facility would stretch 900 meters by 500 meters (about 3000 by 1650 feet), and would house up to 7,000 scientists and students from all over the world, offering them an array of laboratories, classrooms, lecture halls, living quarters, and dedicated areas for leisure activities and sports.
The manta ray configuration was preferred because of its ability to resist turbulence from storms and other harsh weather conditions. While the visible structure is just 60 meters tall, it plunges up to 120 meters below the surface of the ocean, which helps to keep the structure steady.
The shape also allows for a large lagoon to be hosted in the center of the facility, into which roving research vessels such as SeaOrbiters – also designed by Rougerie – can be parked. On either side of its access channels, there will be space for aquaculture breeding farms where scientists can cultivate and study various marine species. The tips of the vessel’s ‘wings’ would house hydroponic greenhouses for growing all the fruits and vegetables the residents will need on board.
“People would come [from] all over the world – it’s an international city governed by United Nations standards. It’s destined for researchers, academics and students who wish to explore and study the ocean,” Rougerie says of his vision for the floating city. “[It] would revolutionize the world of underwater studies due to the fact that people would have a permanent contact with the ocean, as well as a direct access to the underwater world, as part of the City is completely underwater.”
The entire floating city is designed to be 100 percent sustainable and autonomous, running on renewable marine energy and producing zero waste.
So far, the City of Mériens is purely conceptual, but Rougerie wants it to be constructed and ready for researchers to move in by 2050. This might seem a little too ambitious to some, but the sea-loving architect has already started construction on his revolutionary SeaOrbiter floating lab.
When complete, the SeaOrbiter will have 12 floors – six of which will be below sea level – and will cost $50 million to make. The first one is expected to be operational by 2016.