Could Floating Cities In International Waters Solve Overcrowding On Land?

Aquacities could float in the ocean and connect to land by a very long bridge. And, they’re perfect for climate change.

The world’s population lives on only 29% of the world’s available space. The rest is water. So, figured Neil Worrall, why not use some of the water for living on? After all, many cities are overcrowded and could do with some offshore annexes.


Worrall’s “Aquacities” vision, which recently won a U.K. design competition, sees complete cities rise in the middle of the ocean, ideally in international waters. “That combination of vast unused aquatic spaces and the natural draw of a coastal location seemed a good fit between practicality and humanity,” he says in an email.

Green LondonLaurie Chetwood

The cities would be arranged on a series of hexagonal plates. Each could be raised or lowered depending on the ocean level (and climate change). They’d be connected to land by bridge (like the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge, in China, the world’s longest) and served by Maglev-style trains.

“Building 100 Aquacities with an area of 500 square miles each, and with a population density of 15,000 people per square mile, would provide a home for 750 million people,” he says. “We could increase available habitable space with minimal impact on [existing] habitable space.”

Organized by Estates Gazette magazine and Cluttons, a real estate consulting firm, the Next Big Thing competition features several other interesting ideas.

The StreetsNBBJ

Highly commended was “Green London” from designer Laurie Chetwood. It envisions the River Thames embedded with 1,000 acres of paddy fields and green terraces, better to serve the city’s food needs. Chetwood worries London is too dependent on “just in time” deliveries from outside. “The river will be used for both the supply and transportation of food, with existing infrastructure put to use, connecting road and rail on land with delivery via water and air,” he says.

Meanwhile, “The Streets” from architecture firm NBBJ is a response London’s affordable housing shortage. It would infill roads with compact housing (about 13 feet wide) and make the space safe for cyclists and pedestrians (no cars). NBBJ estimates that redesigning 6,000 miles of London streets could provide 1.8 million new homes (and annoy plenty of drivers, presumably). See all the designs here.


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.