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This Floating Neighborhoods Will Be Made From 3-D Printed, Recycled Concrete

The SwimCity project could be the key to solving Stockholm’s housing crisis.

Like many cities, Stockholm is running out of space. Most of its area is already developed, and it’s been through a process of “infilling” to make use of what’s left. Creating affordable housing is therefore a challenge because building anywhere is expensive.

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This is why the Belatchew Arkitekte group wants to build out at sea where’s there still plenty of room. It’s developing the concept of the “SwimCity”–moored, low-story structures pointing out from the shore.


“We have a lot of infill projects on land, but they’re quite often controversial because neighbors don’t want them,” says Rahel Belatchew Lerdell, the firm’s founder. “The Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning wanted new ideas [for affordable housing], and this was our proposal.”

Aside from being in the water, the concept is novel for the way it’s constructed. The student dormitories are made from recycled concrete that’s 3-D printed in layers. Belatchew Lerdell says that should lower its carbon footprint, since creating new concrete requires a lot of energy.


“The sustainable aspect is finding a way of re-using concrete because we have a lot of concrete being produced and a lot of it is going to waste. If we could reuse it, it would be a great benefit for the climate,” she says.

3-D printing housing has been demonstrated in China and elsewhere (as we’ve written several times, including here and here). Potentially, it could allow for very fast, flexible construction.


Belatchew Lerdell is excited that the floating dormitories would be adaptable and moveable. “If you have a temporary need, you can add units. And then, 10 years later, when you don’t need it, you can move them somewhere else, even outside the city,” she says.

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“Normally when we think of architecture, we think of something that should last for centuries. With this, you print your unit, then if you don’t want it, you tear it down and print something else. You’re not building something eternal,” she says.

Belatchew is in discussions with 3-D printing companies and the local planning authorities to see if it can get SwimCity built. It certainly sounds like an idea that could work, though, being a new technique, there are lot of details to work through first.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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