Oil Rigs: Future Site of Suburbs or Aquatic Prison?

Oil Rig Community

Just recently, we looked at Seaventures Resort, an old oil rig that had been refitted to accommodate scuba enthusiasts. Seaventures is a smart example of efficient recycling. Why spend more to build a floating hotel from scratch when you can just reuse something that’s already there?

Designers Ku Yee Kee and Hor Sue-Wern are also exploring the potential of off sea oil rigs. They’re envisioning ways to completely refit old, abandoned oil rigs to transform them into bustling living centers that can permanently host inhabitants.

Oil Rig Suburbs

Their design features staggered layers of outward jutting living units, all surrounding a central recreational and community center. This layout is an extremely efficient use of space, which is crucial for such a small community.

With sustainability features, such as wind turbines and tidal energy generators, oil rig communities such as these could remain fairly sustainable and successfully support potentially hundreds of people. Don’t think that these oil rigs are the next suburb, however, because oil rig communities will only really be suited for a specific type of person.

Compared to several other floating community designs, urbanized oil rigs have several disadvantages. First off, a smaller space would mean that there is less area devoted to labor and work, meaning that only a select group of individuals would be able to make a living there. Unless you’re a reclusive author, marine biologist, or eccentric inventor who does his best work in solitude, you’re probably better off avoiding oil rig habitats.

Transformed Oil Rig

Additionally, people who live in these oil rigs would need to be comfortable with (and, indeed, actually enjoy) being separated from the bulk of mainland. Larger floating cities, such as Noah’s Arc, contain such an enormous number of people that inhabitants see new faces all the time. If you’re stuck on a manmade island with 100 or so people, then you’d better be sure that you really like those people, or you’re bound to go stir crazy.

Transforming old oil rigs into communities is an interesting idea, but it will realistically lack a few features that will be necessary for normal living. If the oil rigs were close to bustling cities, then communities like these might actually be possible. After all, riding to work on a boat is a great way to beat rush hour, and you’d constantly have a great view of the ocean.

If the oil rig is more than 30 miles from a major city, though, that’s when things start to get tricky. In cases like that, you’re not creating an aquatic community so much as a prison. At that point, it starts to look like the setting for some weird, seaborne murder mystery.

Floating Skyscrapers Turn Trash into Treasure

We recently discussed architectural recycling options for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and we have also looked into a few underwater skyscraperdesigns. This next design is a fusion of these two ideas. Designed by Milorad Vidojevic, Jelena Pucarevic, and Milica Pihler, the Lady Landfill Scraper is intended to float around the ocean, collecting garbage to incorporate into its design.

Trash Island Bottoms

The basic design of the structure was inspired by the Eiffel Tower, which is clearly evident in the plan layout. Essentially, it looks like the Eiffel Tower was flipped on its head and then suspended in the ocean. As the tower drifts through the Pacific Ocean, the lower portions of the tower create a sort of net that captures drifting plastic.

Once enough garbage has been collected, the mass of plastic is transported to the center of the structure, where it is processed and recycled to create fuel. According to the designers, this process would provide enough energy to power the entirety of the structure, resulting in a self-sustaining garbage cleaning device.

Trash Islands

The upper levels of the tower support grow zones, where plant life can suck up carbon and provide nests for birds. Additionally, the highest levels would contain the control center and the housing for the human laborers aboard the vessel. This section includes an automatic ballast system that sucks in or expels water to ensure that the vessel remains balanced.

The Lady Landfill Skyscraper is really quite clever. Not only does it do all of its work without requiring external power and resources, but it would start to clean up the Pacific Ocean, a task that would otherwise cost billions of dollars. The LLS would eventually pay itself off by providing a constant source of tradable energy. It cleans, it recycles, it’s self-sufficient, and it provides more living space. It’s really a shame that this design merely received an honorable mention at the 2011 Skyscraper Competition.

Chinese Artists Display 1,500 Goldfish in Skyscraper Replicas

Fishpond City

Fishpond City — Image source: Cargocollective.com

Civilization used to spread outward. Thanks to the marvels of modern engineering, civilization now likes to climb upward. Massive skyscrapers that give you the most bang for your real estate buck have become a common sight in cities across the world. It makes us wonder: if humans like vertical buildings, what would it look like if animals lived in vertical homes, as well?

Artists Lu Yang, Christian Lindle and Raoul Bukor answered that question with their thought-provoking installation, Fishpond City. The tanks form a perfect 1:60 scale replica of high-rise buildings that are currently under development in Xi’an, China (the city that’s famous for the Terracotta Warriors, which is just a short drive away).

Fishpond City Artists

Fishpond City artists — Cargocollective.com

Once completed, the high-rise buildings will host 1,500 people. Care to guess how many goldfish inhabit these tanks? You guessed it: 1,500. Installed in a small building near the construction site, these fish tanks will offer locals a fairly accurate depiction of what life will be like for residents in the soon-to-be-finished buildings. The artists stated, “These residents [the goldfish] act as a bridge to perception and empathy of urban space.”

It’s also worth noting that these goldfish carry special connotation in the land of China. From an American’s perspective, these tanks might seem to send out a dehumanizing message by comparing apartment dwellers to cramped sardines. Chinese people are more likely to put a positive spin on the art piece, because they see goldfish as a symbol of good fortune and prosperity. In fact, I have that on good authority! My significant other (who is Chinese) interprets the art piece as a shining example of Chinese ingenuity and accomplishment. The artists seem to agree: “Fishpond City is a measuring tool for cultural identification of urban space and reflects on the high speed development of a society,” they said.

To fully complete the image of bustling life in the city, the artists illuminate the tanks with color-changing LEDs to reflect the passage of time. The lights give off a warm orange glow in the morning, shift to a clean white in the middle of the day, and then fade to a sultry red-purple at dusk. They also play audio of traffic, conversation, and daily life in the display room.

Fishpond City

Fishpond City illuminated by color-changing LEDs — Image source: Cargocollective.com

Even the filtration system was incorporated into the city-like sprawl. Water siphons out of the tanks into tree-shaped filters in the ground to represent public parks.

Fishpond City Filtration System

The water filtration system represents public parks and green spaces — Image source: Dezeen.com

I absolutely love these artists’ idea. It would be easy to adapt their idea into other businesses. For example, are you in the process of building your dream home? You could commission a custom aquarium in the shape of your future home to tide you over until the build is complete. Do you run an architectural firm? Nothing will impress potential clients quite like a to-scale aquarium replica of your proposed design. Are you a business owner? Place a to-scale replica aquarium of your office building in your lobby for a truly eye-catching centerpiece.

Swim Underground in Utah’s Homestead Crater

A while ago, I featured an underwater swimming pool in Utah as being the world’s coolest swimming pool. Yes, that’s actually putting all subjectivity aside. In 1998, Harvard scientists visited the pool with their newly-invented cooloscopy device and tested the pool. They received a reading of 34 gigacools, more than twice as many gigacool as any other swimming area. However, scientists speculate that the discovery of a swimming pool on another planet would read approximately 38 gigacools, so the Utah swimming pool might eventually be usurped.

In the meantime, though, this underground pool is easily the most amazing swimming area I’ve ever encountered – and I do nothing but write about aquatic architecture, so that’s saying a lot.

Sunlight in the Cavern Pool

Image: OKHate

To visit the pool, head to Utah’s Midway, a small town with a unique geographical feature known as the Homestead Crater. This 55-foot-tall limestone rock looks like a miniature version of Uluru, but it must be true what they say: good things come in small (relatively speaking) packages.

The American continent attempted to one-up Australia, which already had a bunch of neat things like the Great Barrier Reef and kangaroos. So, it hollowed out the crater and filled it with warm spring water, transforming it into an underground pool. The naturally warm spring water makes this an excellent swimming area even if it’s freezing outside. You might be comfortably warm in the cave even as snow drifts down through the opening in the ceiling.

Not only is the lake great for swimming, but is actually deep enough to accommodate scuba diving. With a maximum depth of 65 feet, scuba divers can explore the dark recesses of the pool to examine the mineral deposits that are hidden away from the sun.

The location of the pool made it so unreachable, in fact, that for a while the only way to enter the pool was to be lowered down by a rope. Back in 1996, a tunnel was dug just above water level so that people could experience this beautiful natural marvel.

Koen Olthuis: Will His Vision for Architecture Sink or Float?

I cover a lot of wacky aquatic contraptions on this blog, including floating megacitiesrecycled oil rigs, and underwater restaurants. Two names keep popping up: Koen Olthuis and Waterstudio.nl.

Olthuis is the founder of Waterstudio.nl, an architectural group that has invented some of the most bizarre, futuristic, and practical aquatic buildings out there. Wait, hold on – practical? Practical doesn’t fit very well with “bizarre and futuristic.”

Well, it’s true. Despite the fact that the bulk of his building designs somehow incorporate buoyancy and tidal fluctuation, Olthuis’s designs are shockingly simple and functional.

Koen Olthuis

You see, Olthuis approaches aquatic architecture very differently from other architects. Usually, when somebody wants to build some sort of floating city, manmade island, or flashy submerged structure, it’s because they want to attract tourists. That kind of thinking leads to utterly absurd designs, like a hotel made of ice in the middle of the desert.

Olthuis approaches aquatic architecture from a much more practical perspective. Olthuis is from the Netherlands, and the Dutch take the ocean very seriously. Why? Because it’s slowly swallowing the entire country.

Olthuis and his crew have been developing a number of floating structures to counteract the encroaching sea. First and foremost, Olthuis wants to make buildings that stay afloat.

Waterstudio.nl Floating Building

Sure, he does have a few more ambitious projects, but the crucial difference between Olthuis and the inventor of the ice hotel is that Olthuis creates floating structures because he must, not because he’s got a check for 5 trillion dollars and needs to make something that will impress the investors.

Olthuis’s work can provide interesting insight into the future of aquatic architecture, because his practical and realistic approach is not common in a field of architecture full of lavish excess and big money.

The only question is whether or not his ideas will catch on. Once rising water levels put a stranglehold on other countries, will the logical and simple designs of Olthuis provide a possible solution, or will the world discover that Olthuis is in the same boat as all of those other dreamy architects – that large scale aquatic living just isn’t feasible?

Top 5 Sexiest Pool Scenes

Pools are popular for a number of reasons – they’re classy, they look pretty, and they’re just plain fun.

Putting aside their pure use value, pools have a sort of allure to them, a kind of subliminal essence that sparks the more primal portions of your brain. They make you want to tear off all your clothes, grab a particularly lovely friend, and dive on in. There’s just something about swimming pools that encourages people to think naughty thoughts.

Hollywood has picked up on that quality and has used it to produce some incredibly sexy pool scenes ever seen on TV. Here are a few of my favorites.

5. Something’s Got to Give

Let’s start things off with a splash with Marilyn Monroe’s skinny dipping scene in Something’s Got to Give. It’s hard to resist this giggling blonde bombshell as she splashes about the pool. When she playfully calls her costar into the pool with her, it’s easy to understand how mythological sirens could have lured sailors to their deaths.

4. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

I’m not exactly sure how walking through a pool while your slinky dress clings to your body is really supposed to make you lose friends, but that’s exactly what Megan Fox tried to do. It doesn’t really work, of course. It only makes her more desirable than ever.

3. Wild Things

The lesbian pool scene was the most memorable part of the movie, and realistically the only reason to see an otherwise mediocre flick. I’ve seen the movie, and I can’t remember a thing about it except for that scene, which was burned into my then-teenage memory. Denise Richards shows off her incredible body while Neve Campbell rock that dark, smokey look.

Perhaps one of the most memorable things about the scene is that the girls can’t seem to figure out if they want to be aggressive or tender, an anxiety that is enhanced by the fact that Kevin Bacon is spying on them from the bushes. That scene is dangerously sexy, almost a complete foil to Marilyn Monroe’s girlish playfulness in Something’s Got to Give.

2. The Arrangement

I’m not much of a fisherman. My dad took me once, and I decided right then and there that it’d be my last time. I just don’t see the appeal to stabbing worms and sitting in a boat for several hours while I wait for nothing to happen. In the classic movie The Arrangement, they manage to make luring swimmers with bait look rather enticing.

1. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Not only is it the most famous pool scene ever, it is probably one of the top one-hundred or so most recognizable scenes of all time. The scene seems to fully capture the full absurdity, no-nonsense sexual energy, and the undeniable allure of male daydreaming.

Land, Sea, and Sky! Paludariums with Chirping Birds

Land, sea, and sky — here at Okeanos Group, we tend to focus a lot on sea. But just because the sea is our favorite, that doesn’t mean that we completely ignore land and sky. These two biomes may not be as beautiful as tropical reefs and peaceful lakes, but they can truly take a gorgeous aquascape to the next level.

This paludarium, for example, combines a stunning aquascape with land-based plants. The cherry on top is the nest for the oh-so-lucky birds that get to call this amazing aquascape its home. And to complete the land, sea, and sky trifecta, this tiny mouse snuck into the miniature paradise.

Unfortunately for the little rodent, it didn’t last long. The paludarium owner evicted the unexpected guest under the fear that the mouse would get into the birds’ nest and destroy their eggs.

Of course, you could always be creative with the types of animals that you incorporate into a paludarium like this. If you wanted, you could cut birds out of the equation and design the land portion specifically for mice, lizards, turtles, tarantulas, or whatever else strikes your fancy. Alternatively, you could remove the tiny shore by adding twisted branches that jut out of the water. Birds could happily flit from branch to branch in a stunning sky and sea art piece.

Obviously, a setup like this poses some unique challenges. You’d have to be careful and make sure that the bird droppings and food residuals don’t adversely affect the aquatic ecosystem. Any chemicals that the birds ingest might eventually find their way to the bottom of your aquascape. Your birds’ diet would almost necessarily be your fish’ diet, too. On the bright side, this natural layout might help to complete the circle of life. Some aquatic creatures might even thrive on the birds’ offal, thereby reducing the amount of fish food that you would need.

I absolutely adore these kinds of landscape-aquascape hybrids because there’s practically no limit to what you could display. Flowers, moss, aquatic plants, birds, fish, rodents, reptiles — they can all happily coexist in your miniature Garden of Eden. Just make sure that all of the neighbors get along — you wouldn’t want birds that feed on fish or land-based creatures that feed on birds.

Personally, I’ve never been big on birds. Don’t get me wrong — this aquascaper did an absolutely amazing job — it’s just that I would prefer to focus on amphibians rather than birds. I would love to watch frogs or salamanders as they swim through the pool, rummage through the plant life, and bask in the warm sunlight from atop a high branch. Land, sea, and sky all in one convenient (albeit slightly slimy) critter.

1.618 — The Most Important Number for Your Aquascape?

Science loves to dissect things and figure out what makes them tick. We expect scientists to get out their calculators when they work with things like space rockets and chemistry, but what about beauty? Can you quantify prettiness? Can you take a tape measure to a custom aquarium and objectively determine whether or not an aquascape is beautiful?

Well, yeah. I’d like to introduce you to 1.618, known as phi (not to be confused with 3.14, which is pi). Phi is used in the ratio 1:1.618 to create the Golden Ratio. You may have heard of that phrase before — it’s a measure of proportion that, for some reason, humans find absolutely beautiful. The legendary Parthenon, for example, was constructed following the principles of the Golden Ratio. Shells, pinecones, flowers, and other things in nature also share the 1:1.618 ratio.

You’d be amazed by how frequently the Golden Ratio appears in aquariums and other forms of artwork. Some people try to do it intentionally, incorporating specific mathematical measurements to create an aesthetically pleasing final effect. Others do it by accident. If someone charged you with the task of drawing a pretty picture, then you might accidentally arrange the shapes in relation to the Golden Ratio without even realizing it, just because it looks nice. The aquascaper from the picture below obviously took painstaking measures to ensure that his aquarium followed the proportions of the Golden Ratio.

These are the shapes that we can extract from the Golden Ratio. I know it looks a little bit complex, but once you see these shapes imposed over an aquascape it’s easy to see how it all fits together.

In the aquascape shown below, for example, notice how perfectly the plants fit within the Golden Ratio. The large, moss-covered branch is the focal point of the whole aquascape, and the thickest part of the branch falls squarely within the center of the golden spiral. Also, notice how much denser the plant life is the left of the vertical line compared to the right side of the vertical line. The dark plants in the lower-right-hand corner of the aquarium frame the whole aquascape within the sloping spiral of the Golden Ratio.

It’s the same story with the aquascape below. This particular aquarium is rather long, so all you have to do is stretch out the spiral to fit the dimensions and everything comes together. The aquascape’s focal point fits exactly within the Golden Spiral. The vertical and horizontal lines divide the aquascape quite nicely, and the right side of the aquarium follows the gentle slope of the spiral’s arm.

Should you incorporate the Golden Ratio into your next custom aquarium? You don’t have to feel like you’re required to use the Golden Ratio if you don’t want to. After all, the Golden Ratio is just one particular method of achieving beauty — there are many different roads to a stunning aquascape. But what makes the Golden Ratio so popular is that it’s practically fool-proof. Create your aquarium with 1:1.618 dimensions, and you’re virtually guaranteed to have a beautiful aquascape.

5 Psychological Reasons Why Humans Love Water

You know those Corona commercials where you see a scantily clad couple chilling by the water’s edge, relaxing and taking in the sun? Those commercials are designed to make us buy beer, and they do that by associating the product with a feeling of calming relaxation.

But why is an image of the ocean so relaxing? Have you ever stopped and wondered why humans find bodies of water so beautiful and calming?

It’s pretty simple, actually. Our species is designed to benefit from the water, so it becomes genetically advantageous for people to be attracted to water. Here are 5 reasons why humans are irresistibly drawn to water.

5. Clams Make Your Brain Grow

The one thing that differentiates us from the animals is the fact that we have huge brains. Because we eat meat, it’s much easier for us to get the fats and proteins that we need to build our giant brains. Crabs, clams, and fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which dramatically increase brain growth.

Over time, humans who preferred seaside locations got better nutrients and stayed healthy, so they passed on that proclivity to their offspring.

4. Fish Literally Makes You Happy

This aspect is pretty similar to #5 on the list, but different enough to be its own reason. Seafood not only makes your brain bigger, but it also makes your brain happier. Scientists have discovered a direct link between the amount of seafood eaten and depression. Cultures and locales that eat buckets of fish stick will smile a lot more than their cousins farther inland.

3. Humans Aren’t the Only Species to Love Water

A lot of the advantages that come from water apply to other animals, so bodies of water indicate excellent hunting grounds. Humans who have lived near bodies of water have a much easier time hunting game, particularly around rivers and lakes. It’s much easier to maintain a balanced diet when there are an abundance of mammals, birds, fish, and plants growing at water’s edge that can be harvested for food.

2. Waterfalls are Better than Lakes

I’ve been to Niagara Falls. It’s beautiful beyond any mere description, so I wont even try to describe what it was like. Is there a reason why people fly from all over the world to see Niagara Falls, but most people won’t even cross state lines to see Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, the 2 lakes that compose Niagara Falls?

Yes, actually. The only way to have flowing water is from rainwater, and rainwater is just about the freshest, healthiest source of water available to early humans. Famous poet William Blake once wrote, “Expect poison from the standing water,” which helps to capture this concept. We are drawn to waterfalls because we unconsciously associate waterfalls and flowing water with clean, healthy drinking water.

1. It’s Like Returning Home

I thought about making the #1 reason “Because we need water to live,” but that’s just a little bit too obvious. Let’s stir things up a bit by talking about evolutionary theory.

Bears and dogs are both land mammals, while dolphins and seals are aquatic mammals. Notice a difference between the two? Dolphins and seals are completely smooth, an adaptation that makes it easier to swim in water. In fact, virtually every hairless species of mammal (there are a few exceptions, like the naked mole rat) spent time in water.

So, why are humans virtually hairless compared to other apes? The favored theory now is that our ancestors spent most of their times swimming around. Coincidentally, that also explains why babies know how to swim.