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By Theresa Pinto M.S., Contributing Reporter

MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – After years of opposing the idea, the United Nations is proposing to build a floating city and in April, UN-Habitat along with Oceanix unveiled designs to build a city at sea that could withstand Category 5 hurricanes. The floating city would house 10,000 people and be fully autonomous.

Oceanix city at sea, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
UN’s Oceanix would house 10,000 people and can withstand Category 5 hurricanes, photo credit Oceanix.

Oceanix is bringing together the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and international architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group, to design the floating platforms and above-water structures, respectively. The plan calls for no vehicles, no buildings over seven stories, and all waste will be shuttled off-site through tubes.

Geoffrey Thün, professor of architecture at the University of Michigan, said Oceanix “offers an ideal model for how we should be thinking about the metabolism of our cities [but] they seem to exclude much of the gritty realities of complex urban life.”

However, floating cities aren’t just academic endeavors. Kompong Luong, a Cambodian floating community of 7,000 people, boasts of ‘petrol stations, schools, shops, [mar]kets, hospitals, garages, restaurants’ and is a popular tourist destination.

The settlement started as a fishing village and not in response to climate change. It currently hosts boat tours through its colorful collection of houseboats and fishing vessels. According to About Asia Travel, two hours is plenty for a full tour.

While floating solar panels in Miami have recently made news, the interest in floating cities in the area is a century old. Locals are familiar with Stiltsville, the remaining collection of elevated homes sitting above Biscayne Bay seagrass that gained notoriety as prohibition-era hubs for illegal activity.

However Miami is also ground zero for a ‘floating city’ proposed by Dutch Docklands. The proposal involves thirty individual floating islands in North Miami Beach each with a 4-bedroom home, private beach and two boat docks.

The City of North Miami Beach designated the area as a conservation zone in 2015, the owner of Lake Maule, Raymond Williams, sued shortly thereafter and it is currently in litigation. Dutch Docklands’ intentions still are to build the island homes.

More multimillionaire island retreats than a solution to urban city density, Amillarah Private Islands is currently developing the project in Maule Lake, an old limestone rock quarry located in the northern part of the Biscayne Bay. Their only other project is in Dubai.

Kompong Luong, a Cambodian floating community of 7,000, Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, News
Kompong Luong, a Cambodian floating community of 7,000 people, has petrol stations, schools, shops, [mar]kets, hospitals, garages, restaurants, photo image recreation.

With the impacts of sea level rise and climate change becoming more and more of a reality, floating ‘everything’ are being considered. In addition, housing is in such demand around the nation that floating cities are considered one solution to the long-term housing crisis.

Oceanix’s CEO Mark Collins Chen describes floating living as, “It’s just affordable housing, maybe schools, maybe hospitals — whatever it is that the city really needs, but on floating infrastructure as opposed to on land.”

More recently, Arkup‘s 75-foot-long, 4300-hundred-square-foot ‘living yacht’ has been making a splash in Miami Beach. Spotted at several places anchored around the Biscayne Bay, Arkup is hoping to make houseboat living a stylish endeavor, as well an arm of local resiliency.

Arkup is marketed as ‘future-proof’ because it is ‘completely off the grid’ and hydraulically rises during floods, making it resilient to sea level rise and storm surges. But at $5.5 million, how this gives urban areas the resilient affordable housing they need to withstand climate change and sea level rise is unclear.

Correction: This article was updated on July 2nd to clarify the legal status of the Dutch Docklands proposal with the City of North Miami Beach.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The North Miami Beach project has been dead for close to 5 years now as the then City Council changed the land use for the area to Environmental Protected Land.

    • Hi TC,

      Thank you for pointing that out. While this is true that the City designated the area as a conservation zone in 2015, the owner of Lake Maule, Raymond Williams, sued shortly thereafter and it is currently in litigation. Dutch Docklands’ intentions still are to build the island homes.

      Best,
      Theresa

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