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.

The Rustic Beauty of Aztecian Floating Gardens

Floating gardens

Image from practicalaction.org

Aquatic architecture is incredibly advanced these days, producing wonders like floating schoolhouses and self-sufficient eco-homes. Despite the recent advances in technology, aquatic architecture isn’t a new invention — not by a longshot. Ancient civilizations masterfully utilized water to make their lives a little bit easier. My favorite example is the use of floating gardens by the ancient Aztecs.

Known as Chinampa, the Aztecs used rectangular sections of floating, arable land to grow crops in the shallow lakes along the Valley of Mexico. The construction of these gardens was pretty clever: they began by building floating rafts and anchoring them to the lake bed. They would sometimes plant trees in the lakebed to serve as support pillars that kept the floating gardens in place. From there, they covered the rafts with things like sediment and decaying plant matter.

Floating garden

Image source: VegetableGardener.com

These sections of land were incredibly fertile. The nearby water provided more than enough sustenance for growing crops, and the decaying plant matter acted as fertilizer. Pretty impressive for people back in 12th century, eh?

The cool thing about this is that we use similar strategies today. Those floating gardens were one of the earliest examples of hydroponics, the practice of growing plants in nutrient-rich water. The construction of the floating gardens is also fairly similar to the construction of modern floating gardens like New York’s Waterpod.

The main thing that I want to take away from the Aztecs’ ingenuity, though, is how versatile water can be. By using water as a medium, the Aztecs were able to grow enough food to sustain their people. Those gardens were originally built out of necessity, but they have since become well-known as symbols of ingenuity.

Floating gardens

Image source: Aeccafe.com

It is not unreasonable at all to think of a nearby body of water such as a river, lake, or pond as a blank canvas. You could do virtually anything imaginable to it — float objects on the water, use the water to create natural fountains and pools, have art objects jutting out of the water, dig channels to create manmade waterfalls, and so forth.

You might even want to create an Aztec-inspired garden at your home. It really wouldn’t be very difficult to create a floating flower garden that drifts across the surface of a small pond or lake. People love the beauty of lily pads — why not take a page out of the Aztecs’ book and bring floating plants to the next level?