Five Designers’ Visions for Cities at Sea

The Seasteading Institute, a self-described "society of ocean pioneers" has announced the winners of its first-ever 3-D design competition–five visions for floating a housing development the size of a small town on an ocean platform.

The Seasteading Institute, a self-described “society of ocean pioneers” has announced the winners of its first-ever 3-D design competition–five visions for floating a housing development the size of a small town on an ocean platform.


The Institute, founded by Patri Friedman, a 32-year-old former software engineer at Google, wants to make offshore living workable. With funding from a top-tier VC, the Institute eventually hopes to produce open-source blueprints usable by anyone intent on creating their own country. They’ve already produced a design for a $50 million platform.

But the current concepts aren’t intended to be built–rather, it’s an exercise to promote the concept–to visualize what a life offshore might be like. Here’s the five winners, culled from 41 entries:

“Swimming City” designed by 27-year-old Hungarian graphic designer Andras Gyorf, took the grand prize of $1,000. It’s the most traditional of the schemes. Step away the floating platform, and the design could easily be a mixed-use redevelopment of factory lofts in Dallas: 


Minneapolis-based architecture grad student Emerson Stepp didn’t exactly present a new concept for society and government–which is, after all, the Seasteading Institute’s stated goal–but his design was good enough to win the Best Picture Award. Stepp’s “Oasis of the Sea” is a floating resort that would be the end point for a luxurious cruise:



But it’s worth noting that a similar town already exists, and it even has the same name: The Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s newest, and largest cruise ship, houses 5,400 people and has seven themed neighborhoods–watch a video of it here.

Brazilian architecture student Anthony Ling was cited for creating “the best sense of human influence or presence.” It has constantly reconfigurable housing units, and stilts, which allow green space underneath:


Judges called Marko Jarvela’s entry the “most visually appealing or enticing” of the lot. It would utilize passive building principles, but the weirdest part is its solar shields on both ends, which make the entire rig look like a sea-creature from a 1950’s sci-fi flick that just stumbled out of a murky lagoon:


The people’s choice award–which garnered the most votes from the public–went to Team 3DA, a group of 3-D designers based in Las Vegas. Their proposal is, naturally, the only one that could have been transplanted from the Las Vegas Strip. Sure it has greenhouses and energy systems to allow “total independence” but it also has a garishly lit central plaza, which makes it perfectly suited to drunken conventioneers: 


Check out all the entries and runners up here. You can read more about the Seasteading Institute here

Related: Four Architecural Visions of the Green House of the Future
Related: Visions of South Korea’s Urban Future

[Via National Geographic


About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.