The Next Giant Chinese City Will Float In The Ocean

China is running out of room for its growing urban population. This amazing design–an entire prefab city that floats on water–could magically create more space.

As China prepares to squeeze in 350 million new urban residents over the new decade, the government will pave 5 billion square meters of new roads and build hundreds of new cities and towns. And as available land space gets smaller and smaller–especially near the bigger metropolitan regions where people really want to live–China may also start building cities on water.


First up: A new floating city designed by AT Design Office and the Chinese construction firm CCCC, slated to begin development on a pilot scale next year.

“When the client came to us and talked about this project, I couldn’t believe it was true until I saw their technology,” says Anthony Phan, an architect at AT Design Office. CCCC, which commissioned the design, is currently building a 31-mile long bridge between Hong Kong and Macau using the same type of floating modules that will make up the new city.

Large prefab blocks join together to form the base of the 10-square kilometer island, which will be filled with everything you’d expect on land. In theory, residents could spend all of their time in the new city.

“People won’t need to commute for jobs on land,” says Phan. “Work, apartments, entertainment and parks are all provided in the floating island.”

Green spaces circle the island design both above and below the water, and vertical gardens connects the two layers. The vertical gardens will also be a place to board submarines to get from block to block in the city. Tunnels will provide more connections between buildings, including pedestrian paths and roads for electric cars.

The whole city is designed to be fairly self-sufficient. Tidal energy will power the island, and farms and hatcheries around the edge will provide food. Trash will be converted into more energy on site. The island will even have its own factory producing some hyper-local goods.


As sea levels rise because of climate change, the island will rise as well. “We are inspired by the optimism to find a possible living shelter for human beings when the environmental condition worsens,” says Phan.

As futuristic as it seems, the island may be coming soon–a large Chinese property investment firm is reviewing the design now and expected to begin testing some of its components in 2015.


About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.