Floating semi-cities?

The Creativity Exchange ran a post this week about The Freedom Ship – a floating city complete with airport, university, office space, and residences priced from $180,000 to $44 million.   The Freedom Ship is supposed to circumnavigate the globe every 12 months, which seems a little challenging — those Atlantic and Pacific storms might be tough to endure.

However, the idea of a stationary floating urban space is intriguing.

Many prosperous world port cities face obstacles to economic and demographic growth from geographic constraint.  Being able to add space off shore could prove valuable.  Here are some ideas for floating urban spaces:

1. A regular suburb.  You would reach it by boat or air, with frequent regular shuttles connecting it to the main city.  The space could contain a park, playground, restaurants, a grocery store, and other amenities that would make it as workable as any bedroom community suburb.  The advantage of living here would be great views, fresh air, and perhaps a short commute to work downtown.  This wouldn’t need to be as big as the floating freedom city, so could fit offshore in many coastal metropolis.

2.  A floating business park, or single occupancy company campus.  Companies like Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Electronic Arts are well known for their university-like campuses containing hundreds of thousands or even millions of square feet of office and amenity space.   As they expand, it becomes harder to find contiguous space.  Moreover, to attract and retain talented people, many of these types of companies face the issue that their employees want to live downtown or in a cool dense, urban area rather than an outlying suburb (ie San Francisco not Mountain View, Vancouver not Burnaby or Surrey).  Perhaps a solution is a floating company campus near to downtown with regular shuttles from major transit hubs and/or urban population centers.  A floating campus could offer great views, lots of natural light and air, and that special funky edge that might appeal to many workers.

3.  A floating “lifestyle centre-  A high end shopping mall and casual entertainment space such as cafes, restaurants, etc.  along with a limited number of residential units.  Served regularly by small ferries, the merchants would also offer free shipping to a pick up point at a parkade back at the mainland.  So you could shop, then have your parcels sent ashore while you enjoyed a light lunch.

4. A floating university campus.  The new trend is for universities to integrate themselves more into the downtown and broader urban scene.   But, downtowns and urban areas are often by definition full, leaving limited space to add classrooms.  Here’s a solution.

I haven’t looked at costs or feasability.  This is pie in the sky, but intriguing none the less.

Any other ideas?


  1. BC Planning says:

    I just can’t help but think that the “Freedom Ship” would be an environmental disaster floating around the seas.

    I mean it’s bad enough when Cruise Ships remove “waste” from open waters…but a whole floating city? They would have to move around 12 months out of the year to avoid the smell, lol.

  2. Let’s be careful about falling prey to single-use-itis. How about a floating mixed-use development, with some corporate offices, some shopping, and some condos/apartments. Then, people can choose to live, work, AND shop there if they wish. Those who don’t live there can commute on the free ferries to and from the rest of downtown.

  3. Wendy Waters says:

    BC Planning – my first reaction to it was “a floating Dubai” – a city where there really shouldn’t be one, using energy resources at an alarming rate and spewing GHG causing emissions. You’re right, the sewage and other waste would be a huge issue if this thing really travelled the earth. If it’s located in one place, off shore of a city, then perhaps it could be tied into some of the municipal sewage services.

    David – you’re right. I missed that one. It’s somewhat similar to a lifestyle centre, but adding corporate offices to the mix.

  4. BC Planning says:

    I agree with you floating Dubai comment. The ship would pretty much function like a huge Vegas Casino which is planned for you to never ever leave the Hotel complex…because they will cater to all your needs.

    Could a Dream Ship have an urban culture? Or would that be impossible?

  5. ROG says:

    Read The Scar by China Mieville, or Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve. Both are British fantasy/sci-fi writers with a ‘steampunk’ tendency. The former novel features an ersatz floating city made of a huge fleet of ill-matching ships moored together. Each ship has a distinctive style and functions as a city quarter. The latter novel (and series, Mortal Engines) features mobile land-based cities that eat one another (‘municipal darwinism’) and floating raft cities that act as resorts, accessible by airship. One raft city, Brighton, has a highly exclusive floating level tethered to the main city, called Cloud 9.
    What people dream today will be reality tomorrow. Is that a blessing or a curse?
    As for the sewerage problems described by commentors here, could not the increase in marine nutrients attract an aquaculture operation that would feed the city?

  6. KCH says:

    All it seems to be is floating landfill, an overhyped cruise ship that offers nothing original (MTV Real World Semester at Sea, anyone)? Tethering permanent spatial processes (office/classroom space, condo units) to a floating jetty may seem interesting, but offers little that you couldn’t establish by restricting these processes to land. Corporate campuses? Why not just let Google build a larger office on the vast acreage that it already occupies, rather than (dare I say it) “sprawl” out across the ocean?

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