Floating City concept by AT Design Office
features underwater roads and submarines


Cities that float on water could offer an alternative to destroying the earth's valuable countryside according to architecture studio AT Design Office, who has developed a concept for an ocean metropolis (+ slideshow).

Floating City concept by AT Design Office

AT Design Office, who has offices in England and China, was commissioned by Chinese construction firm CCCC-FHDI to design a floating island with an area of four square miles – utilising the same technologies that CCCC-FHDI is using to build a 31-mile bridge between the cities of Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai.

Floating City concept by AT Design Office

"Part of that bridge is an underwater tunnel, which is joined by a 150-metre-long precast concrete box," explained architect Slavomir Siska.

"The mega box is cast on a nearby island and floated to site before being connected. We were appointed to work with the engineer to come up with a masterplan for a 10-square-kilometre floating island that can be built with the same technology," he said.

Floating City concept by AT Design Office

Entitled Floating City, the team's proposal involves a series of prefabricated hexagonal modules that tesselate to create all the infrastructure needed for a city on water – from a transport network of yachts and submarines, to a floating hotel and entertainment complex.

Recreational green spaces would be located both above and below the water's surface, while farms, hatcheries and rubbish collection facilities would allow the community to produce its own food and sustainably dispose of waste.

Floating City concept by AT Design Office

"The project offered an opportunity to develop a new urban nucleus of world-class residential, commercial and cultural facilities, as well as to promote a zero-carbon, energy-efficient and self-sufficient city," said Siska.

Floating City concept by AT Design Office

The modules used to construct the island would be prefabricated in a factory then floated out to a site. A cruise dock would be an integral feature of the city, allowing these new deliveries to be easily received.

A system of underground tunnels would also be included, creating a network of roads and walkways between buildings and islands.

Floating City concept by AT Design Office

The proposal is now being reviewed by one of China's largest property investors. "China Transport Investment Co is reviewing the proposal and is likely to start to test this ambitious project from a smaller scale next year," said Siska.

Floating City concept by AT Design Office

Here's a more detailed description of the proposal from AT Design Office:

AT Design Office release design for the Floating City

Our existing landmass on earth has been built up so extensively that the remaining free land is under extreme pressure and needs to be preserved as much as possible. New settlements should be planned in such a manner that important social and environmental conditions are improved and can provide for better 21st century living. Environmental impact and the improvements of health and social conditions for human habitat should be the main concerns of new urban design and development. Environmentally adaptive measures, higher densities, mixed uses and efficient, smart design and infrastructure strategies need to be considered.

Floating City concept by AT Design Office

The basic construction unit is a prefabricated block – 150 metres length and and 30 metres in section. On plan, the grid can be an equilateral triangle and a pentagon. The prefabricated parts can be overlapped vertically. During construction, the modular parts are floated to the site after pre-fabrication in the factory.

The floating city has a perfect internal and external traffic system, linking it within but also with the outside world. A cruise dock serves giant ships, a yacht dock serves private vessels and civilian submarine traffic. Submarines and electric vehicles are the main means of transport on the island – keeping the island free from air pollution and congestion caused by automobiles. The main traffic flows are facilitated via the water canals above and below the water surface. The peri-urban area house farm, hatchery and garbage recycling centre.

There are two public green belts ‐ one on the water surface and one under water. The upper one can provide public space usable for sports and recreation in a fresh air environment. The underwater green can be used for recreational tours.

Floating City concept by AT Design Office

Vertical gardens are interconnected with the public greenery system above and below the water. A chimney in the centre of the vertical garden provides natural ventilation and lighting to the underwater city. Meanwhile the vertical garden is also a public traffic hub, which provides a traffic platform for submarines and inter-block passages.

The harbour centre is used for parking submarines and also has a vibrant floating entertainment area at its centre. The amusement city has a hotel at its bottom and an open stage on its top. The large commercial and entertainment centre is located under the stage. The entertainment city can be connected underwater with adjacent buildings through an Archimedes buoyancy bridge, enabling people to reach the entertainment city conveniently. Tourists can experience the fabulous underwater world whilst passing through the underwater hotel and coming up to the harbour city.

Floating City concept by AT Design Office

All living spaces in the floating city have ocean scenery in all directions, and with convenient traffic connections within its 150-metre radius, enjoying proximity to local facilities, services, public transport and gardens. A club located at the top of each block and an equipment room and gravity regulation system located at the bottom.

Underwater tunnels with walkways and roads permit horizontal communication and access between the islands and buildings that comprise the floating city.

Floating City by Atdesign
Diagrams showing masterplan concept

The peripheral area houses farms and hatcheries as well as a modern garbage collection and waste conversion centre. A production base and manufacturing factory is located in the upper part of the triangle plot, whilst a tidal power generation device is located in the lower part. These facilities are the basis of a sustainable food and energy supply chain.

The Floating City will provide world class facilities, as well as additional supplies of new areas to satisfy the long-term demand for human habitable land. Noise, waste and other environmental impacts will be managed via innovative strategies. Our proposed development and the associated infrastructure will bring positive change to the community and its economy. The design will meet long‐term infrastructure and sustainable development needs but also bringing new opportunities to education, recreation, employment and business activities. Such opportunities will create a vibrant, diverse and sustainable social and economic platform.

Floating City concept by AT Design Office
Module sizes diagram

Architect: CCCC-FHDI & AT Design Office
Design Team: Zhu lixiang, Anthony Phan, Wang Rukai, Feng Yinhui, Liu Kun, Siska Slavomir, Anna Kowal
Co Designer: CCCC‐ EHDI engineering Co. Ltd

  • Nick

    Bearing in mind Waterworld was the most expensive film ever made, I can’t see this getting enough funding!

  • Aquaman

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  • apocalipstick

    I get severe trypophobia by looking at this scheme.

  • mb4design

    Finally, a utopia that could actually work! It will be so much easier in a marine environment where we won’t have to worry about the usual issues of construction cost, site access, water penetration, maintenance, etc.

  • Jay

    What a waste of time and money this hunk of excess is… and why? Egomaniacs flaunting cash.

  • Freddy Garcia

    Beautiful project, I hope to live for long enough to see it working.

    • nick

      No chance.

  • Don John

    Another company based on pure marketing with no intention to build or to propose any new theoretical concept. I thought the trend just faded away, but it seems architectural magazines and blogs live in symbiosis with these bubble designers.

  • Amazing and ambitious! It looks fantastic, very innovative and forward-thinking really. Its a large leap from our waterfront properties and facilities, like the waterfront homes that I have seen all my life.

    I just have to wonder though, this floating city is designed with the thought of giving humans a better and greener habitation facility, but how safe would nature be, specifically the marine ecosystem if a project like this pushes through? From construction alone, it would be making drastic disruption with the marine environment. To add long term habitation, that is sure to make a huge impact as well.

  • Leiurus

    Welcome to Rapture.

  • EM-K | Rethink Design Studio

    A little ironic that the purpose of this project is to end disruption of the Earth’s countryside while suggesting we start imposing on a whole other ecosystem.

    It would be an exciting project to see come into fruition, but would’ve loved to have seen a conservation initiative to ensure that construction didn’t hinder ocean life (even if the buildings come in pre-fab).

    • thepixinator

      Right? My first thought when seeing this was “Oh, instead of doing something about population growth and sprawl, let’s junk up the ocean, why don’t we?”
      Jesus. Population control has long been the third rail of political causes, but in our grandchildrens’ lifetimes everyone living on earth is going to have to address it or face water wars and climate disruption.

  • alex

    Anybody else spotted the giant sharks and dolphins?

  • Dub

    This is identical to the floating city in Black Ops.

  • Chaz Phill Newton

    Meesa Jar Jar Binks.

  • Callum Siciliano

    OK, no one’s concerned about storms throwing up HUGE waves. Flooding and actually breaking the city are some pretty serious issues needed to be addressed, I think the inflatable space stations Nasa are developing have much more potential.

  • Lucia

    Sure keep sprawling into the ocean too, why not? We are already destroying everything else.

  • Jimmy

    How are they going to keep all that glass clean with all the sea spray? Will this be large enough that storms and typhoons won’t affect it?

  • SallyAnne Stueber Marx

    See the satirical novel about just such an underwater city, in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Jane Austin and Ben Winters. Surely this project cannot ventilate from only one central chimney, but would need intake and exit vents, yes? I think the description and design, actually, must be woefully incomplete and untested.

  • SallyAnne Stueber Marx

    But actually, the way we are treating Earth by failing to divest and convert immediately from all the toxic fossil fuels, we will ALL need something like an Ark. What will power the “electric cars?” Solar panels? Wind turbines? How will electricity be conducted to the ship/floating colony? Having been on board boats since pre-natally, I wonder about Tsunamis and even big waves and storms; how seasick the residents will become — and what if some whales beached themselves on its surface and tipped it over? How long would seals on the glass last? What would salt water do to the materials? Desalinisation is so costly, and where would crops be grown to transplant, when inevitable viruses target an isolated biotic community? Have any ECOLOGISTS consulted on this “plan?”

  • It’s only a rant, but talk about being even more dependent on unreliable strangers, using humans as cattle. Bad move.

  • NEMO

    Is it just me or is no one else surprised of a prefabricated block of 150 metres length?!?!

    PREFABRICATE (definition): manufacture sections of (a building), especially in a factory, so that they can be easily transported to and rapidly assembled on a building site.

    Where are they going to prefabricate something that huge? How are they going to carry it? Is this serious?

  • Nemo

    Really? Do you want to convince anyone?
    The entire project is RIDICULOUS! Just a bunch of nice renders.

  • sarahfamp

    Very ambitious and unique concept. I hope this idea will soon materialise and will not put to waste. However, this project will take time and will need huge funding.