Chinese Artists Display 1,500 Goldfish in Skyscraper Replicas

Fishpond City

Fishpond City — Image source:

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 —

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:

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:

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.

Fort Worth Water Gardens- Shelter From the Sun

Water Gardens

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It’s hot in Texas.

Yes, I should have told you to sit down before dropping that news, but it is true.   In Fort Worth, you have three months of average highs in the mid-90s, and five months of at least the mid-80s.   And that’s just average- it obviously can get a lot warmer, and “cooler than 97” is still very hot.  So, in order to make unbearable heat, while, bearable, cities have used water-based architecture and monuments to cool their citizens down.  The Fort Worth Water Gardens are one of the prime examples of this.

Completed in 1974, the water gardens are a “cooling oasis in the concrete jungle” of Forth Worth.  If you have never been to the Dallas-Forth Worth area, you know that concrete jungle is a good description.  Forged from the cruel and steaming wastelands of northern Texas, the cities are a monument to expansion and man’s ability to build life out of anywhere.  But these oil cities, initially built as reaction to a boom, lacked a vital sense of community, which, historically, was built around water.

Water Garden

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This is a way to get in the water, to be splashed and to splash and to cool yourself, getting away from the beating Texas sun and its relentless building-driven reflection. It connects, obviously, with a very physical need.  It provides an oasis, some relief from the heat, and that is important, but it might not be too much to say that it addresses a more primal need.  After all, if it was just about getting cool, they could have just built a huge air-conditioned room and opened that to the public.

In modern cities, it is easy to feel disconnected with nature.  Cities are unnatural, in a very literal sense. (though, as William Cronon points out in his amazing Nature’s Metropolis, farmland is just as unnatural and man-made- fields of tended barely are no less inherent to the earth than a skyscraper. But never mind.)   There is often a sense of alienation, not just due to crowds and the chance of getting lost, both on the street and in yourself, but due to the separation from the primal factors.  Water just comes from a tap, and food is all pre-made.

Forth Worth Water Garden

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I think that mindset is what the water garden is trying to combat.   The constant sound of rushing, tumbling, and gurgling water both grounds you and releases you from the honking and the roaring of a modern megalopolis.   There is something eternal about water in a way that even our concrete monoliths can’t match.  In a situation like this, it has a quiet and reassuring power.

Water garden

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It isn’t a coincidence that the steps resemble rocky perches in the middle of a river.  You are meant to feel connected with nature, away from the city, but still part of its throbbing hum.  You are reminded that man needs water, and shown how our architecture can’t get away from it. We’ve shown that time and time again here.  Look around.  Or just listen.  Like you are a human dowser’s wand, Water will draw you to it.

The 5 Weirdest Boats Ever Made

A boat is a boat, right? Well, not exactly. You’d be amazed by how weird they can get! This list takes a look at 5 of the weirdest boat ideas ever imagined.

1. Russia’s Floating Nuclear Power Plant

Russia and nuclear power don’t exactly have a stellar history together. Chernobyl was the single worst nuclear power accident in history, topping out as a level 7 event (the highest level you can possibly get). A cloud of radioactive material was carried by the wind to European skies, where it affected thousands (possibly even millions) of living creatures. The explosion took the lives of 30 Russian workers and the battle to contain the radioactive material involved more than half a million workers and cost upwards of 18 billion ruples (about $500 million).

So yeah… it was pretty freakin’ bad.

Russia's Floating Nuclear Power Plant

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Combine that bad history with the recent Japanese power plant leak, and people around the world are starting to get a little bit nervous about nuclear energy. So, the Russians came up with an inventive solution: why not just build a nuclear power plant on a boat and send it out into the sea? This isn’t just a pipe dream, either — the Russians actually plan to build to have it operational by 2019.

Of course, this just brings up other concerns. Where does Russia plan to anchor the nuclear reactor? How safe will it be during storms? Will it have an escort of battleships to keep it safe?

2. ReefWorld

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most beautiful natural attractions, but the Australian coast is miles away. What’s an avid diver to do? Check into the ReefWorld hotel, apparently.

Reefworld Hotel

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This floating hotel is a barebones resort that caters to diving aficionados. You can literally strap on your scuba gear, step off of your balcony, and start exploring the Great Barrier Reef. The only catch is that there isn’t much to do at the hotel besides drink booze and dive (hopefully not in that order). For die-hard divers only!

3. Turanor PlanetSolar

Environmental activists have been dreaming of the moment when we turn our backs on carbon-emitting fuels in favor of solar energy. While many people would welcome that type of technology, we may not be too thrilled about the aesthetic that comes along with it.

Turanor PlanetSolar

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The Turanor PlanetSolar runs entirely on solar energy, and boy is it ugly. But don’t let its looks fool you — this high-tech ship managed to traverse the entire world. Just think of how much money they saved on gas bills!

4. The Exbury Egg

Artists are weird. They’re always coming up with goofy ideas, like suspending sharks in formaldehyde or living in car-sized, floating eggs. Designed by artist Stephen Turner, the Exbury Egg is a humble home/boat that would allow one person (or maybe two if you don’t mind lots of snuggling) to live on a body of water.

Exbury Egg

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Without any sort of propulsion system or electrical outlets, however, the Exbury Egg would probably start to feel rather confined for a lot of people. What do you think? Does a tiny, isolated home like that look like paradise or hell on Earth?

5. New York’s Floating Island

Last but not least, we have this floating island envisioned by the legendary artist Robert Smithson (the same guy who created the Spiral Jetty). Dragged by a tug boat throughout New York’s waterways, this miniature garden brought a little bit of green to the Big Apple.

Floating Island

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This boat might seem superfluous if you’ve never been to New York City, but I can attest from personal experience that there just aren’t many trees in the City that Never Sleeps. As technology advances, floating gardens like this one might become a fairly common sight in cities across the world as smog, pollution, and the green movement make public beautification a necessity.

So, next time somebody mentions the word “boat,” don’t think this:


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Think this:

Weird Boat

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There are millions of possibilities for your next aquascaping project. Once you free yourself of preconceptions and traditions, you’ll be able to imagine truly unique ideas! If you had the opportunity to create a never-before-seen piece of floating artwork, what would it be? Share it in the comments below!

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

Olthuis is the founder of, 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. 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?

The Top 5 Most Famous Bridges on Earth

I wrote about Taiwan’s Rainbow Bridge yesterday, and while it is certainly a beautiful structure, it isn’t very well known. So today, I figured I’d take a look at the top five most famous bridges on Earth.


This tiny bridge in Venice, Italy has a somewhat dark origin. The pathway connects a prison with Doge’s Palace, so many people believed that the bridge would offer prisoners one last glimpse of freedom before meeting their executioner — hence the name, “Bridge of Sighs.” This rumor was actually incorrect, because the prison housed thieves and other criminals who weren’t slated for the gallows. Nowadays, it’s a great spot for hot dates and marriage proposals. People still making longing sighs under its arch, but for completely different reasons.

Bridge of Sighs

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I live in New England where covered bridges are a quaint relic for early American history. It’s pretty much impossible to drive through the countryside without coming across signs inviting you to come see a covered bridge tucked away in some quiet corner of the woods. Vermont alone possesses more than 100 covered bridges (and keep in mind just how tiny Vermont is).

The cover acted as a way to protect the bridge. By guarding the structural components from the elements, bridge builders could extend the lifespans of their creations from about 10 years to 100. Somewhat ironically, locals had to shovel snow onto the pathway during the winter in order to accommodate sleds and horse-drawn carriages.

Albany Covered Bridge

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These bridges aren’t as massive or spectacular as other bridges on the list, but they offer rustic charm that you can’t find anywhere else. The picture above is the Albany Covered Bridge from New Hampshire.


If I were judging based on beauty rather than fame, Brooklyn Bridge probably wouldn’t make the list. It’s certainly well-known, but it isn’t the most stunning piece of architecture ever built. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the US and temporarily held the record as the world’s longest suspension bridge. Most importantly, the bridge became a symbol of American ingenuity and technology. According to urban legend, the old scam “I’ve got a bridge to sell you” originated in New York after conmen would sell the bridge to gullible tourists.

Brooklyn Bridge

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If you watched the 2012 Olympic Games then you probably saw flyover shots of this bridge about 40 berjillion times. You also probably thought that this is London Bridge. If you did, then you were wrong. London Bridge is the next bridge upstream and is actually fairly unremarkable. This bridge, the Tower Bridge, is one of London’s most iconic landmarks.

It’s a good thing I told you. Now, the next time you have the Queen over for tea you won’t make a fool of yourself by mixing up the two bridges.

Tower Bridge

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I can safely say that the Golden Gate Bridge is the most famous bridge ever built. The bridge stands as a symbol of San Francisco and the United States, so much so that it is instantly recognizable to many people who don’t even know a lick of English. It has often been called the most photographed bridge in the world, and for good reason – the striking red with the gently sloping suspension cables create a truly unforgettable scene, especially when the fog rolls in.

5 of the Most Beautiful Lighthouses to Inspire Your Aquascaping


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The thing I love most about aquascapes is how they combine land and sea into a beautiful, cohesive whole. It’s rare to see a piece of architecture that adds the sky into the mixture, but there is one commonly adored building that represents the gorgeous trinity of sea, land, and sky: lighthouses.

Between their ship-saving lights, their instantly recognizable shapes, and the fact that they’re almost always at a beautiful location, lighthouses have captured the hearts of mariners and architecture fans everywhere. So, to give you a bit of inspiration with your next aquascape, here are some of the most beautiful lighthouses from around the world.

Porer Island, Croatia

This humble lighthouse sits atop an equally unassuming island. This is the perfect getaway for people who love to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life — and here’s the best part: it’s up for rent! You can stay at the lighthouse for the absurdly low price of $650 per week!

Porer Island

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Fanad Lighthouse, Ireland

This 90 foot tall lighthouse was built back in 1818 after a ship sank in the waters off the coast. The beautiful white building and the rocky cliffside make this one of the world’s most iconic lighthouses.

Fanad Lighthouse

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Lindau Lighthouse, Germany

This clocktower-lighthouse hybrid is the Southern-most lighthouse is Germany.

Lindau Lighthouse

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But isn’t the German coastline on the north? Yep! The Lindau Lighthousekeeps sailors safe as they cruise across Lake Lindau, which stretches across the Germany-Switzerland border.

Enoshima Lighthouse, Japan

Leave it to the Japanese to put a modern spin on an old classic. The Enoshima lighthouse has a bare steel frame that leaves the spiral staircase plainly visible. That would probably be the lighthouse’s most eye-catching feature if not for the fact that the lighthouse gradually shifts between different colors.

Enoshima Lighthouse

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Yokohama Lighthouse, Japan

It’s not surprising that Japan made a second appearance in this list. They are an island nation, after all. Anywho, the Yokohama Lighthouse is similar to the Enoshima Lighthouse in that it is bristling with colorful lights, which fits in perfectly with the glittering Japanese skyline. They really seem to get a kick out of LEDs over in the land of the rising sun. Can you imagine how amazing it would be to see this lighthouse next to the famous firefly festival?

Yokohama Lighthouse

5 Beautiful Alternatives to a Backyard Swimming Pool

I have a love-hate relationship with swimming pools. On the one hand, swimming pools are just plain fun. On the other hand, I kind of feel like people don’t really put a lot of thought into swimming pools. I mean, swimming pools are so popular that for a lot people they are the default solution for backyard entertainment. “What should we put in our backyard? Let’s just throw in a pool!”

I think that idea tends to close people off to other possibilities. As great as swimming pools are, there are a ton of other options available for your backyard aquascape. Set yourself apart with something a little bit unique.

1. Hot Tub

Alright, I realize that hot tubs aren’t that unique. They rank in as the number two must well-known aquatic fixture right behind swimming pools. Still, a hot tub is a great alternative to a pool, especially if you live somewhere up north where it’s too cold for a swimming pool. There’s nothing quite like soaking in a hot tub while the cool night air tickles your wet skin.

Hot Tub

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2. Shishi-Odoshi

Translating roughly into “scare the deer” in Japanese, these rhythmic devicesslam into the ground to release a thunk noise at regular intervals. As the name implies, the idea is to scare deer and keep them from eating your beautiful flower gardens. These devices have since become a popular representation of Japanese culture and they are loved for their soothing sounds. The sound of flowing water is relaxing enough as it is — the sudden rush of spilled water followed by that iconic thunk can add interesting background noise to your property.


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3. Shower

Having a backyard shower is especially convenient if you live out near the beach. You can wash the beach or lake gunk off of you so that you don’t drag it through your house. Plus, if your property is sufficiently closed away from prying eyes then you might be able to engage your significant other in an adventurous outdoor shower. The outside showers that you see at public beaches usually aren’t very pretty, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t spruce up your shower with some unique architecture. You could cover the shower head with hanging plants so that the shower is essentially invisible, or integrate the shower into a waterfall or fountain.

Backyard Shower

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4. Infinity Pool

Skyscrapers, hotels, and million-dollar mansions aren’t the only buildings that can keep an infinity pool. You can easily install one in your backyard by incorporating it into your deck.

Backyard Infinity Pool

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5. Pond

Last but not least, don’t forget about installing a man-made pond. A koi pondwould pair with your shishi-odoshi beautifully. Alternatively, if you’re still stuck on that swimming pool idea, you can create a natural pool-pond.

Backyard Koi Pond

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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.