The world’s first floating city is coming soon to the Maldives

Construction is underway in the Maldives for a floating city to house 20,000 people – a trailblazing solution to rising sea levels and an overcrowded capital city

A foating city is being built in the Maldives’ turquoise lagoon. It includes shops, houses, restaurants, and shops. The futuristic feat in architecture was inaugurated this summer. It will house 20,000 people by 2027.

Modelled on the distinctive geometry of the ‘brain coral’ that is common to the Indian Ocean, the sustainable city is being constructed to ease housing pressures in the small island nation, and to provide a liveable future for locals as sea levels rise.

The project was ten years in planning and is a joint venture of the Maldives government with the Netherlands-based architecture firm. Waterstudio.

“It’s the first example of a nation trying to find new solutions to cope with sea level rises,” Koen Olthius, founder of Waterstudio, told Positive News. “The government’s goal is to turn them from future climate refugees into climate innovators.”

The Maldives is an archipelago that contains 1,190 low-lying, tropical islands. It is one the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Eighty percent of its total land area is less that a meter above sea level. Scientists predict that this could rise to as much as a metre by 2100.

Half a million people live in the floating city, which offers them new hope. The development is 10 minutes by boat from Malé, the capital of the Maldives, which is one of the most densely populated cities in the world with more than 200,000 people living in an area of just eight square kilometres. Each house will have its own balcony and seafront view. The new floating city will offer large, airy, affordable homes for local residents.


Although it looks idyllic, the Maldives is far less ideal as sea levels rise. Image: David Mark

“The trickiest thing to figure out was the logistics,” explained Olthius. “The Maldives is just seven kilometres long, and it’s 500 kilometres from India. Where do you source your labour and materials if you want to build 5,000 homes? Where do you construct them, and how do you do this in a way that there are no emissions in the pristine waters?” 

The modular units were made in a nearby Shipyard. They were then towed into a lagoon covering 200 hectares. There they were tethered on the seabed and linked in a series floating hexagonal-shaped structures.

We cannot stop the tides, but we can rise alongside them

Air conditioning accounts for 46% of energy consumption in the Maldives. The city will therefore save energy by using cold water at 700m to cool buildings. Each neighborhood will have its own sewage treatment facility, where waste can be used to create manure for plants.

“This floating city does not require any land reclamation and therefore has a minimal impact on the coral reefs,” claimed Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives from 2008-2012. “What’s more, giant new reefs will be grown to act as water breakers. Our adaption to climate change mustn’t destroy nature, but work with it. In the Maldives we cannot stop the waves, but we can rise with them.” 

Main image: Waterstudio/Dutch Docklands

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