Space & Innovation

MagLev Houses Could Rise Above Floods

Filipino architect Lira Luis is designing houses that could levitate to avoid flood waters. Continue reading →

Magnetic forces defy gravity. | Endolith, Flickr Creative Commons
Magnetic forces defy gravity. | Endolith, Flickr Creative Commons

What if houses in flood-prone areas could magnetically levitate to save themselves? That's the wild idea that Filipino architect Lira Luis is pursuing in her quest to find a building solution for low-lying cities.

Sure, we've seen houses perched on stilts and even floating homes, but deploying magnets this way would be novel.

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Lira Luis, whose architecture firm is based in Chicago, was working on an installation involving magnetics when she noticed that they repelled each other, even through water, she explained to Co.Exist's Adele Peters.

Fully aware that it could end up being impractical, Luis started experimenting with magnetic levitation for architecture. She thinks buildings that could levitate above the water would provide more stability than ones that float on the surface.

As for access, in the future residents could fly to upper levels using jetpacks, she told Fast Companyt.

Currently Luis has a tiny 13-ounce prototype built that levitates 1.5 inches. She plans to display a slightly larger prototype next month at the Coverings international trade fair and expo for tile and stone in Chicago, according to Co.Exist.

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Ultimately she wants to construct a model building on an island in the Philippines where frequent flooding is a constant problem.

Her approach recalls Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion House, a futuristic hexagonal structure designed to resist earthquakes and storms.

Cables suspended from a central pole meant the outer walls would be non-bearing, ArchDaily noted. We can't know if it would have worked as planned, though, because it never went into production.

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As much as I think Luis' idea is incredibly cool, the huge holes can't be ignored. A physics researcher from UCLA told CoExist that magnetic levitation above one inch would be inefficient given the expense. He was also ready to cite "a million" other problems with the plan.

However, I hope Luis and architects like her continue to dream big. If we stop floating wild new ideas for future survival, we really will get stuck in the mud.