Living without land

24 July 2017 | Education
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Assoc Prof Lim (2nd from left) with the seven Master’s graduates (from left:) Mr Wang Yigeng, Mr Bek Tai Keng, Mr Chen Qisen, Mr Roy Tay, Mr Davis Wong, Ms Sakina bte Mohamed Halim, and Mr Wijatno

Imagine living in a community floating on the sea, complete with housing, hospitals, schools, farms, theme parks, and even columbariums! It might seem like a stretch to even begin visualising this, but seven Master's students from NUS Architecture have created design proposals for 10 such facilities.

These 10 designs are part of the Masters of Architecture Thesis Projects, where students address a topic of significant global need and use it as a vehicle for design inquiry and research. “The students developed individual propositions which form a collective solution to propose an offshore alternative to landed settlements. The projects rethink the way we use natural resources in sustaining our productive economies,” said NUS Architecture Associate Professor Joseph Lim, who gave research direction to the students.

Collectively awarded this year’s Lim Chong Keat prize for the most rigorous experimental thesis in architecture, the projects all involved repurposing three common oilrigs in the marine industry — jack-up platforms, semi submersibles and super barges.

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One of the projects converted a barge into facilities for training or extended offshore dwelling and travel, that can fit 300 persons

“As our world today is moving towards alternative sources of energy and our reliance on fossil fuels declines, oil platforms and oilrigs are becoming obsolete. These oilrigs are massive superstructures — some comparable to the Eiffel tower — so instead of scraping them, our studio sees them as opportunities to create hybrid building typologies for a self-sustaining offshore settlement,” shared Mr Christopher Wijatno, NUS Architecture Masters’ graduate and leader of the student team.

The team identified key operations in a megacity that are land and resource intensive, Mr Wijatno added. The projects span a range of functions, including food supply, energy generation, and governance, as well as residential and recreational use.

Our floating settlements avoid the problems of urban heat island effect and land scarcity.  By harnessing wave energy and closing the waste to resource loop, they are able to achieve self-sufficiency in energy, food and water without causing harm to the marine ecosystem. Surpluses produced from floating settlements could also help replenish the world's resources and allow it to regenerate.

One of the facilities involves the integration of a fish farm and a vegetable farm, which addresses the issue of a dwindling global supply of fish. The rig is designed to have aquaponics systems on the vertical faces and fish tanks on the platforms, with nets attached to the bottom of the rig to house adult fish. The design also includes worker accommodation in capsules and waste treatment facilities.

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The floating prison is designed to fit 700 inmates

 

Another project looks to solve the problems of post-disaster housing. The proposed design equips a super barge with cranes and container box accommodation, waste water treatment and aquaponics systems, and can sail to disaster locations and set up within a week.

Even the prison system was addressed. The proposed design fits a semi-submersible with cells and warden accommodation, as well as aquaponics systems for food supply. Intended to be run on wave-generated electrical power, the design aims to combat the costs of providing food to inmates and overcrowding. 

“Our floating settlements avoid the problems of urban heat island effect and land scarcity.  By harnessing wave energy and closing the waste to resource loop, they are able to achieve self-sufficiency in energy, food and water without causing harm to the marine ecosystem. Surpluses produced from floating settlements could also help replenish the world's resources and allow it to regenerate,” Mr Wijatno elaborated. Urban heat island effect refers to an urban area that is consistently warmer than its rural neighbours — often a consequence of extensive land modifications.

 

The team has received some enquiries from industry to explore these ideas further. Assoc Prof Lim shared that the department is also approaching global organisations involved in humanitarian aid and emergency relief operations.

Mr Wijatno is hopeful about the reception of their designs, cheerfully declaring, “It can serve as a platform for further discussions among academics and governing bodies to recognise that ‘Hey, this is not such a crazy idea after all'!”

The projects are currently on exhibition in University Town until 31 July.