When the year 2030 rolls around, will we all look back and fondly recall that living on dry land was sooo 2014?

If a mixed-use housing idea recently unveiled by Japanese construction firm Shimizu Corporation is ever fully realized, we could find ourselves waxing nostalgic about the good old days, when we weren’t living and working within a ginormous buoyant sphere plopped down in the middle of the ocean.

Dubbed Ocean Spiral and heralded as the “world’s first underwater city,” the scheme is a sci-fi-tinged bit of pipe dreaminess to be sure, a concept that’s been garnering plenty of reactions along the lines of super-cool but no way will that ever actually happen.

Shimizu Corp, however, would beg to differ, arguing that Ocean Spiral can and will happen following a 15-year period in which the necessary technology to support a subterranean city is developed. Plus, tack on an additional five years (and $26 billion) to build an undersea utopia with enough housing for 5,000 full-time residents.

Shimizu spokesperson Hideo Inamura explains his company’s purportedly plausible plan of attack to The Guardian: “This is a real goal, not a pipe dream. The Astro Boy cartoon character had a mobile phone long before they were actually invented — in the same way, the technology and know-how we need for this project will become available.”

Dome of undersea city

Side view of proposed undersea city

The concept itself consists of three main components: a floating watertight dome located at the ocean’s surface (the structure would be completely submerged during wicked weather) that would measure 500 meters (1,640 feet) in diameter and house residential units, businesses, hotels, and the like; from the base of the transparent sphere would extend a 9-mile-long corkscrew-shaped pathway; and, at the opposite end of the plunging helix path, a research station and power plant located directly on the seabed — an “earth factory,” as the folk at Shimizu refer to it.


Explains the Guardian:

The factory will use micro-organisms to turn carbon dioxide into methane, while power generators located along the ocean spiral will use differences in seawater temperatures to create additional energy — a process known as ocean thermal energy conversion. Desalinated water produced using hydraulic pressure will be pumped into the residential pod.
Conceived not only in reaction to overcrowding and high property costs in Japanese cities, Ocean Spiral was also designed with a rapidly changing climate, depleted energy sources and destructive earthquakes in mind. Researchers from Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and Tokyo University collaborated with Shimizu on the initial concept development.

view of spiral of undersea city

what living would be like in the proposed undersea city

And if you’re starting to think that the folks at Shimizu (one of the top global contracting companies, by the way) are James Cameron-level nutty, Ocean Spiral is pretty mild compared to some of the firm’s other super-futuristic megaproject “dream” proposals including a solar-powered lunar ring, a space hotel and pyramidic megatruss structure large enough to house 1 million people.

Via [The Guardian], [CNN]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.