Architecture Program


Date of this Version

Spring 5-6-2011


Over 70% of the world’s surface is covered with water, making it seem uninhabit-able. Or is it? From very early accounts in history man has been able to survive living on water for extended periods of time. Historically this time was a result of traveling, not necessarily a desire to live on the water. Even today, structures built for the aquatic environment fit more into the realm of tourism and leisure or a type of science / maritime study space, than a permanent dwelling. Living under or on water is certainly not a new idea. There are many science fiction precedents for this, as well as built historical projects, and several recent designs for large underwater resorts currently in the planning and construction stages. One can conclude that man has some desire, or at minimum a mild curiosity, with what an aquatic dwelling could offer. The intent of this thesis seeks to investigate mans future habitable relationship with the aquatic environment and study the architecture that facilitates this.

Science fiction has given us many options for an aquatic dwelling in an idealized form, where practical issues such as sunlight, tides, and most importantly lack of oxygen are simply not dealt with. These are important prototypes to consider to maintain a childlike curiosity and fascination with this project. An in-depth analysis will provide an understanding of what is purposefully unconsidered, which is what makes the prototype hypothetical, but once dealt with can turn the project into a practical and viable solution.

As technology increases so does the ability to turn some of these science fiction fantasy concepts into reality. Currently there are a number of high-end underwater resorts in planning or construction phases. The Hydropolis of Dubai is a luxury re-sort being built on the Persian Gulf floor, around 66 feet below the water surface. The Poseidon Undersea Resort is planned for location 40 feet underwater off the coast of Fiji.

Feedback and public opinion for these works has been largely positive however little information can be found on the actual progress of construction. Both were scheduled for an opening date, or at minimum a time to begin making reservations in 2009, however, there appears have been little or no physical development for either of the projects. Certainly the technology exists to make these designs into a reality however, the qualities of staying in a luxury resort might be too futuristic for current society. A point to be considered in this thesis.One must also be conscious of the very practical benefits towards dwelling in an aquatic environment. Estimates made by the International Panel on Climate Change in 2007 state that the average global sea level will rise somewhere be-tween .6 to 2 feet in the next century. Putting this is real estate terms: "a two foot rise in sea level would eliminate approximately 10,000 square miles of land." The land that would be eliminated contains some of the world’s densest urban commu-nities. Currently 75% percent of Americans live on or within 50 miles of the coast. Globally 634 million people live in coastal areas within 30 feet of sea level.5 From this information a conclusion can be drawn that there is either an affinity or necessity or perhaps both that people have for living close to water. The fact that many current homes will soon be underwater and the desire and / or need people have to live near it serves as an interesting starting point for the investigation into the socioeconomic issues associated with aquatic environments.

Another investigation into the practicalities of aquatic environments includes natural disasters. Water is often one of the main contributors to the devastating effects of these. The project will be developed on both a macro and micro scale. The mac-ro being the permanent dwelling. The micro being a simplified version that could quickly be distributed among natural disaster victims and then easily assembled. For instance victims of flooding could utilize a temporary micro scale version, while they wait for water levels to decline.

This thesis could be developed in one of two ways, become completely conceptual or become a scientific and engineering study into aquatic structure and materiality. What I propose is a hybrid. By proposing to include both practical and conceptual qualities this allows for certain liberties to be taken in regards to the engineering side. This also allows for the thesis to have the ability to focus around design, something that can allow for the qualities found in science fiction accounts to shine through, yet also allow the practical reasoning behind choosing an aquatic dwelling to guide development.

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