WORLD

Floating cities in the pipeline for climate refugees

Climatologists around the world agree that sea levels will continue to rise throughout the 21st century. Countries with low-lying coastal areas like Vietnam and Bangladesh could see more floods and the loss of land, and some Pacific Islands could one day end up completely submerged. But not to worry - a Belgian architect has come up with a solution. He's designed "amphibian towns" to house the future refugees. Read more...

Advertising

Climatologists around the world agree that sea levels will continue to rise throughout the 21st century. Countries with low-lying coastal areas like Vietnam and Bangladesh could see more floods and the loss of land, and some Pacific Islands could one day end up completely submerged. But not to worry - a Belgian architect has come up with a solution. He's designed "amphibian towns" to house the future refugees.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) predicts a sea level increase of between 20 and 90 centimetres by 2050. On the scale of the planet, each metre gained will see the forced exodus of around 50 million people. To offer a solution to those left homeless, Franco-Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut has come up with the "Lilypad" project. The young architect, known for his futuristic designs, describes his latest project as durable, ecological, and most importantly, unsinkable.

These marine cities, inspired by water lilies, would run entirely on renewable energies and therefore create no pollution. The environment would also be biometric - which means that the town's planning would make technological systems integral with ecosystems. It's emblematic of a new generation of architecture that emphasises the importance of ecology when it comes to aesthetic innovation.

Slides of the "Lilypad city" project

Photos from Vincent Callebaut's website.

"The devastation could be considerable"

Hervé le Treut is a climatologist and member of the French Academy of Science.

The rising sea level is clearly one of the greatest challenges of the century.

There are two options here. We either find a way to preserve the kind of environments we live in currently or we prevent the ice caps from thawing further, which otherwise will leave us facing huge adaptation because of changes to the environment.

Deltas like the Ganges and the Mekong are highly populated areas and will the first to feel the effects. The devastation could be considerable. Not only because of the submersion, but also because of storms and the build-up of salt in soil and fresh water.

I don't know if such a leap forward in architecture will be necessary. But if it does come to it, there are many factors to take into consideration. Changes in wind direction, variations in sun availability, access to fresh water, etc. will all feature.

It seems like a complex subject to tackle now, but people have already started thinking about it. It's good because the project brings attention to questions that will be unavoidable in the near future. We will be forced to think differently.

If you think back 150 years, our current towns would look like something from a science fiction dream. We could just as easily have taken another direction, and be living in a very different landscape, like that of the Lilypad."

"The island will move around the earth by following ocean currents"

Vincent Callebaut is the architect behind the Ecopolic Lilypad project.

This idea is essential as a long-lasting emergency strategy in the face of a fast-approaching environmental crisis. It's surprising, while some islanders prepare to see their entire home disappear, that world's governments don't seem to be overly worried. And even more so that people from developed countries carry on rushing over to these places to build districts over there; houses and buildings that will most certainly face floods and eventual destruction.

The Lilypad is a true amphibian - half aquatic and half terrestrial - and able to accommodate 50,000 inhabitants. The central rainwater lake offers a place for biodiversity to develop and the island itself will actually move around the earth by following ocean currents. It's accessible by three marinas and there are three separate mountains dedicated to work, shopping and entertainment, respectively.

Entirely auto sufficient, Lilypad takes up the four main challenges launched by the OECD in March 2008: climate, biodiversity, water and health. It's energetically balanced and emits no carbon emissions. Using renewable energy means that it produces more energy that it consumes! Its metabolism matches the cycles of nature."