Menu Menu

South Korea has 15-acre floating city backed by the UN

Atop large, buoyant concrete platforms anchored to the seabed, a South Korean city will house 12,000 by the mid-century. Able to rise and fall with the water, this trailblazing project has now been backed by the UN.

By the mid-century, some 800 million people will be residing in conurbations where surrounding sea levels could rise by more than half a meter.

When this happens, many of the 500+ threatened cities and towns will be hit with economic strife, increased chance of disease, and even death. We’re all aware of the growing pressure to limit global warming as the root cause, but what’s actually happening practicality wise in terms of planning for the worst?

On that front, a bold real-world experiment is officially slated to take place and (potentially) open a whole new model of real estate development. Intrigued much?

Within South Korea’s city of Busan – which itself is threatened by climate change – a sustainable design start-up called Oceanix is planning to build a floating metropolis able to physically adjust to rising or falling sea levels.

The New York based company has been approved to create three buoyant floats sprawling across a Busan lake: one residential, one for commercial buildings, and a third to conduct on-hand research on floating cities.

Initially, 12,000 people will live and work within the area, but lead architect Bjarke Ingels hopes that the neighbourhood can be gradually expanded. ‘We imagine that it could be the seed of a kind of floating new neighbourhood that over time could grow,’ he said.

In lieu of promoting sustainable living, all buildings will be constructed mostly of lightweight sustainable materials like timber or bamboo, and both residents and visitors will have to travel on foot or bicycle.

Credit: Oceanix

The area’s concrete is designed to allow the growth of marine flora and fauna on the surface. The start-up is also using a material called Biorock, which pulls minerals from the water to naturally build limestone – which can be planted with seaweed to help clean coastal waters.

This serene stretch of Busan will run on the local power grid but should be self-sufficient, generating solar and wind power on site to be stored in batteries. There are plans to collect and purify rainwater too, and harvest scallops and kelp through cages below the platforms.

If you’re thinking that all of this sounds like a stretch, you may be surprised to hear that the wheels are already in motion. Oceanix solicited private investment for the $627m project, receiving full backing from the region and the UN Human Settlements Program.

An aerial rendering of the proposed floating city hosted by South Korea.
Credit: Oceanix

The 15.5-acre build will be assembled on land and transported to its watery destination at some point within the next five years or so.

If the concept gathers momentum and shows positive results, similar builds could quickly be commissioned in places like the Maldives, Dubai, Monaco, Lagos, and Miami.

‘We have figured out a way where we can live in harmony with nature – and not just actually live but regenerate it,’ says Itai Madamombe, co-chief at Oceanix.


Thred Newsletter!

Sign up to our planet-positive newsletter