UN Brings Back Controversial Floating City Concept > ENGINEERING.com

Oceanix City is the newest generation of “seasteads”: cities built for life on water. But can the city shed seasteading’s difficult past? (Image courtesy of Oceanix.)

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) has embraced the concept of floating cities as a solution for housing and climate change. At its High-Level Round Table on Sustainable Floating Cities on April 3, scientists and politicians discussed a city designed to ride out floods and storms atop the waves.

The design under discussion was Oceanix City, a hypothetical city moored in shallow waters and capable of housing about 10,000 people. Designed by architect Bjarke Ingels and floating city company Oceanix, the city has dazzled and impressed, and made major news since it was released.

But despite its ultramodern look, Oceanix City is only the latest iteration of an old idea. It takes its designs from seasteading, the libertarian concept of an island paradise free from laws and government. With the resurrection of seasteading, it’s worth reexamining the past and the promise—as well as the problems of this concept.

Seasteading is the idea of “floating cities,” or permanent liveable areas in international waters. Modern seasteading is largely the brainchild of two people: libertarian political economy theorist Patri Friedman and engineer Wayne Gramlich.

In 2008, the two men joined forces to establish The Seasteading Institute (TSI), a not-for-profit that facilitates and…

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