'Polimeropolis': a devised floating city urbanising the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Estudio Focaccia Prieto proposes Polimeropolis, as an experimental autonomous floating city in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

by Sunena V MajuPublished on : Jan 13, 2023

It seems fair to assume that every architect, at least once in their life, has imagined a utopian concept. Among them, a few have even ambiguously tried to translate these imaginations into concepts and reality. Of all possible interpretations of utopian architecture and cities, floating cities seem to be the most popular. In fact, the 1960s and 70s witnessed an intriguing response on inhabiting inhospitable locations of the world, especially marine ecosystems, from the architectural community. Though these seemed unnecessary, illogical and implausible, at the time, owing to technological advancements and the climate crisis, these utopias and technological fantasies deem themselves as necessary interventions to tackle the rising sea levels, in modern times.

The 2019 UN High-Level Roundtable on Sustainable Floating Cities, in New York, discussed sustainable floating cities as a solution to climate change threats, facing urban areas. In the round table, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said, "Floating cities are a means of ensuring climate resilience, as buildings can rise along with the sea. And when entire floating communities are designed from scratch, they can be designed as climate neutral from the onset." While we exist closer to the reality of floating cities, Estudio Focaccia Prieto’s conceptual proposal Polimeropolis is presented as an urbanisation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

  • Located on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, far from any city and existing production models, Polimeropolis is a model of a city that seeks to clean up the ocean rather than polluting it | Polimeropolis | Estudio Focaccia Prieto | STIRworld
    Located on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, far from any city and existing production models, Polimeropolis is a model of a city that seeks to clean up the ocean rather than polluting it Image: Courtesy of Estudio Focaccia Prieto
  • It is presented as a scalable, staged model of a city, consisting of a sequence of mixed-use urban sets in the form of rings | Polimeropolis | Estudio Focaccia Prieto | STIRworld
    It is presented as a scalable, staged model of a city, consisting of a sequence of mixed-use urban sets in the form of rings Image: Courtesy of Estudio Focaccia Prieto

"As the Earth's temperature continues to rise, melting the ice caps and rising sea levels, cities such as New York, Amsterdam, and Bangkok are planning massive dams to prevent themselves from becoming submerged, like contemporary Atlantis. Other cities are opting for a different approach; the urbanisation of the seas. But this shift to floating cities is happening in oceans that are already heavily polluted, with floating garbage islands of continental proportions," share Juan Manuel Prieto and Clara Focaccia from Estudio Focaccia Prieto. Drawing from this realisation, on how advanced developments are polluting already threaded natural systems, Polimeropolis was devised as an alternative space for experimentation of human life, as part of an autonomous floating urbanity. 

The project is a call to action to rethink the way we produce, consume, and dispose of things, promoting a circular economy | Polimeropolis | Estudio Focaccia Prieto | STIRworld
The project is a call to action to rethink the way we produce, consume, and dispose of things, promoting a circular economy Image: Courtesy of Estudio Focaccia Prieto

On the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, far from any city and existing models of production, Polimeropolis aims to be a model city that seeks to clean the ocean rather than pollute it. The scalable, staged model of the city consists of a sequence of mixed-use urban sets in the form of rings. Each of these sets encloses a huge oceanic lagoon, leaving the surface garbage outside. Through nets and vegetation associated with phytoremediation, passage of microplastics are restricted, purifying the water and achieving a sanitised environment, suitable for the development of both marine and human life. With housing for over 4000 people, each ring city is also a mixed-use urban area. “To be carried out, the predominant raw material at the site will be used: the plastic waste residue; which will be crushed and compacted in situ in floating factories dedicated to producing the components of an entirely recycled construction system. Gradually, the garbage island will reduce its size, converted into built volume,” add the architects.

The predominant raw material for the proposal is procured from the site which is the plastic residue | Polimeropolis | Estudio Focaccia Prieto | STIRworld
The predominant raw material for the proposal is procured from the site which is the plastic residue Image: Courtesy of Estudio Focaccia Prieto

They further added, “This project is a call to action, to rethink the way we produce, consume, and dispose of things, promoting a circular economy that seeks to close the loops of material flows and prioritise the reuse and recycling of resources. It is a proposal for a new paradigm of urbanisation that seeks to reconcile the needs of the human species with conservation and respect for the environment. It not only addresses the problems caused by the overproduction of garbage but also creates a new ecosystem and way of life.”

  • Each of these ring cities are mixed-use urban areas, containing housing for around 4000 residents | Polimeropolis | Estudio Focaccia Prieto | STIRworld
    Each of these ring cities are mixed-use urban areas, containing housing for around 4000 residents Image: Courtesy of Estudio Focaccia Prieto
  • As the city develops, there will be islands dedicated to specific use, such as parks and recreation, airport and hotel resorts for ecotourism | Polimeropolis | Estudio Focaccia Prieto | STIRworld
    As the city develops, there will be islands dedicated to specific use, such as parks and recreation, airport and and hotel resorts for ecotourism Image: Courtesy of Estudio Focaccia Prieto

In their attempt to present a new model of development for floating cities, Estudio Focaccia Prieto employed artificial intelligence tools such as Midjourney, Dall-e-2 and chatGPT with the help of AI artist Maxi Araya to translate their vision into visuals. Though currently it is just a concept, Focaccia and Prieto share that they wish to develop the concept further.

Though currently it is just a concept, Focaccia and Prieto share that they wish to develop the concept further | Polimeropolis | Estudio Focaccia Prieto | STIRworld
Though currently it is just a concept, Focaccia and Prieto share that they wish to develop the concept further Image: Courtesy of Estudio Focaccia Prieto

We have come a long way from Kenzo Tange’s 1960 Tokyo Bay Plan and Buckminster Fuller’s Triton City to BIG’s Oceanix City in Busan, South Korea and Waterstudio’s floating city in Maldives. However, even once utopian concepts are slowly becoming reality, the scepticism about the results of these developments remains. Though it took a while for the architectural industry to find realistic possibilities for a floating city, for many local communities— like the people of Kampong Ayer in Brunei, Makoko in Nigeria and the Uros people of Bolivia—floating cities are merely sophisticated high-end approaches to their floating homes. Looking into such notions, floating cities aren’t that new of a concept for mankind. In turn, for human civilisation started from banks of water bodies, the reality of floating cities may feel like a recall. 

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