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Underwater City Could Become Reality by 2030


Lost among the recent publicity for floating cities being initiated by the Seasteading Institute is news of an even more ambitious project, also with a potentially huge impact: a conceptual underwater city. Proposed by Japanese architectural and civil engineering firm Shimizu Corporation, Ocean Spiral is an underwater city that promises to harness the resources of the ocean to be entirely self-sufficient, as reported by Dezeen MINI Living magazine.

Composed of two main elements, the first being a 500-meter diameter spherical city, and the second being a spiral structure that will connect the city with a base station located on the ocean floor, Ocean Spiral is an incredibly ambitious project that I believe would go some way toward battling the deleterious effects of climate change, not to mention offer a new way of life for those of a more adventurous nature.

Included as part of the spherical city would be a tower accommodating homes and workspaces for up to 5,000 people, while the spiral structure connecting the city to the base would generate renewable energy using ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). The process of OTEC works by taking advantage of the temperature between the cooler deep seawater and warmer shallow seawater to power a generator that produces electricity.

In order to be self-sufficient, drinking water would be produced by reverse osmosis membrane desalination, in which high pressures found at the bottom of the ocean would be utilized to purify seawater. Further, food would be produced by creating large underwater farms, where fish and aquatic plants could be cultivated. In addition to providing its own food and water, Ocean Spiral would use its base station to excavate and cultivate untapped natural resources from the seabed. Finally, Shimizu Corporation believes that in the future it might be possible to convert carbon dioxide into methane using micro-organisms that live on the seabed, thus providing an additional energy source for the city.

An idea developed during the last three years through a partnership by Shimizu Corporation, Tokyo University, and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, Ocean Spiral is predicted to take five years to build and cost around $28 billion. Although Shimizu Corporation claims Ocean Spiral could be built by 2030, there remain numerous hurdles for the company to climb, not the least of which include environmental, political, financial, and logistical challenges. Nonetheless, I am genuinely fascinated by this idea and always welcome new ways of tackling both climate change and offering a new way of life for people on Earth. Indeed, the challenges we face in the coming years require us to think outside the box and come up with newer, more creative, more innovative solutions.

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