top of page

The climate crisis and the rise of floating infrastructure

Marthijn Pool

Over two thirds of the largest and most populated cities globally are either coastal delta cities, or are positioned on estuaries subject to storm surges, flooding, and other climaterelated challenges. This leaves populations in these areas, as well as homes, businesses and critical infrastructures, highly vulnerable. Building on water is a potential solution to these challenges. Floating city prototypes have emerged as both real world solutions and utopian projects. The UN (2019) calls for floating cities to become “part of our new arsenal of tools […] to address the challenges we will face in the coming decades”. Following the Dutch example, cities around the world, from Copenhagen to Rotterdam to Dubai, have reclaimed land from the sea for urbanization. However, the construction of new land is slow, expensive, energy-intensive and above all, short-term; as sea levels continue to rise, this land too will eventually be underwater. Instead of fighting against the changing climate with heavy infrastructure, we propose to respond in a more sensitive way, working with the metabolism of nature rather than against it. Given the only constant is change, we make buildings which can change over time too. Floating infrastructure is lighter, quicker to erect and much less energy-intensive. It is more resilient because buildings can rise with the sea level, and be moved in unforeseen conditions. Through small-scale experimental projects, we develop adaptive prototypes to tackle the challenges of coastal urban areas in a future of uncertainty. Contrary to many emerging examples, we believe we should build floating developments not as isolated communities out in the ocean but as additions to existing coastal cities. We seek protected inlets of water in vulnerable locations to increase the resilience of at-risk populations, and activate waterside areas which have crucial social and environmental value.

KEYWORD: Future-proof Architecture, Floating solutions, Resilience, Adaptability, Sustainability

bottom of page