The year is 2050, and an entire civilization lives underwater off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Their dwellings look like jellyfish, and every bio-inspired part is sustainably constructed.
Put your lifejackets on, because French architect Vincent Callebaut is back.
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The designer behind an ocean-cleaning boat shaped like a whale and smog-scrubbing Parisian towers recently devised floating 3-D printed villages made from a plastic and algae composite. His Aequorea project calls for multi-use buildings created from the waste currently gathering in ocean gyres worldwide.
Aequorea would include housing, offices, laboratories, and co-working spaces as well as areas for organic agriculture and food production. Callebaut presents all the fantastic details in an imaginary letter to land-dwellers from a teen named Océane living on the underwater farm in 2050.
"The farm draws its name from a bioluminescent, light-emitting jellyfish characterized by its articulated, webbed tentacles," the letter says. "These tentacles enable it to swim and ensure its stability, while producing its own energy."
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In the near future, Callebaut anticipates that climate change will cause a new civilization to emerge called the People of the Seas. These climate refugees begin inventing: gill masks for breathing, suits resembling dolphin skin, and twisting buildings with seashell-like exteriors.
Callebaut's building design allows each one to withstand increasing hydrostatic pressure, resist marine whirlpools, and minimize motion sickness, according to the letter. A seawater-filled ballast provides stability during a storm, and a double shell made through natural calcification gets thicker the deeper underwater it goes.
Turbines on the ocean floor capture energy, bioreactors recycle organic waste, and biofuel production neutralizes ocean acidifcation. Coral reefs grow on balconies. Inhabitants eat local algae, plankton, and mollusks. Reusable containers replace packaging. Everything is self-sustaining.
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As you can imagine, turning this utopian concept into reality would be no small feat. Callebaut's estimate for the project, currently in the research and development stage, is €2.68 billion - or about $2.94 billion.
Callebaut's architecture firm regularly produces gorgeous renderings that make me yearn to step inside them. Aequorea is no exception. Fictitious worlds could unite there. I'd expect to find hobbits sharing beers with a Star Trek landing party while the building bobs gently in the water column. Welcome to the blue economy.