Belatchew Labs, an experimental offshoot of Stockholm-based firm Belatchew Arkitekter, has released the third component in an ongoing series of solution-oriented projects that address self-sufficient city living in a perhaps not-so-distant future where land, food, energy and other vital resources are nearly — or even completely — tapped out. And not to worry — this time around, entomophagy isn't involved.
Belatchew Lab’s work — projects that are “visionary and strive to inspire, question and challenge” — possesses a slightly dystopian flavor that can come across as sobering and serious-minded as, after all, they tackle very much real problems.
However, each project — a hairy-looking urban power plant dubbed the Strawscraper, an arthropod-inspired cricket farm and now, a floating student housing complex made from 3-D-printed recycled concrete — is also fun in a futuristic and totally far-out kind of way. No matter how quixotic, there’s a playful ingenuity to each of the three projects, which, thus far, have addressed alternative energy, protein-rich food scarcity and, now, new modes of affordable urban housing.
The latest, called SwimCity, is also Stockholm-specific and makes uses of underused and unutilized urban waterfront areas such quays, ports and dock areas to provide affordable housing to young people and students who might not otherwise be priced out of land-bound housing options. Low-slung, green-roofed and surrounded on all sides by water, just think of SwimCity as a new and soggy take on traditional urban infill projects.
For SwimCity, Belatchew Labs envisions tapping into rapidly evolving 3-D printing technology to erect entire offshore apartment complexes or, in this case, dorms, using recycled concrete, a building method that we’ve seen before but in a much more modest scope.
Waste from the building industry accounts for a large part of the total carbon footprint, and by recycling concrete SwimCity contributes to reducing the burden on the environment. 3D-printing of buildings is a new technology that makes it easier, cheaper and more efficient to build. By reusing construction waste and create new concrete that is 3D-printable the building process becomes ecologically and economically sustainable. The construction process is shortened, is made safer, more effective and allows for numerous design possibilities.
As Belatchew Labs notes, SwimCity, a project supported by the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, would also exploit the water-bound locale of these floating housing blocks by incorporating emerging forms of alternative energy such as tidal and wave power as well as water-to-water heat pumps.
While SwimCity would have a decent number of single-person mico-studios measuring roughly 387-square-feet, the floating complex would largely consist of communal living arrangements, some accommodating as many as eight “friends” in a shared space. These eight-person arrangements would be as large as 1,740-square-feet.
The dorm-style set-ups are, not-surprisingly, centered around generously sized communal hang-out spaces and would also include the very Swedish concept of a shared sauna/laundry room combo. SwimCity would also include various on-site restaurants, cafés and other amenities. In addition to on-site ammenities, there's also an emphasis, as evidenced in the design renderings, on the myriad recreational activities that come hand-in-hand with living in a snazzy floating dorm: sailing, fishing, canoeing and swimming in the summer and ice-skating in the winter.
I'm curious to see where the folks at Belatchew Labs go with this one, particularly considering the involvement of the Swedish government. While the technology is advancing quickly, 3-D printing's role in the construction industry still has a ways to go until we reach the point where we start seeing, umm, wave-powered floating dorms made from recycled concrete. In the meantime, before Swedish students start moving into futuristic over-water digs, they can always take up residence in a boat moored in their parents' backyard.
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- The blueprints for your floating dream home can be downloaded for free