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15 January, 2009

For Climate Refugees, a Floating Island dubbed The Lily Pad

OK, all Liliputians on board! What will the rent be? Will all be welcome in the Liliparadise? Or is it just for the elite?


From the Maldives to the Gulf of Bengal, the rise in sea level risks depriving 250 million people on the planet of lodging and land over the course of the twenty-first century. The least-alarming forecasts predict a one-meter sea level rise will lead to the loss of six percent of dry land in the Netherlands, 17.5 percent in Bangladesh and as much as 80 percent in the Majuro Atoll, in Oceania.

To this climatic nightmare, Vincent Callebaut opposes a dream-like response. The young Franco-Belgian architect has forged himself a reputation through his ecological projects, anchored in realist technologies, but navigating the frontiers of science fiction.

Imagine amphibious city-atolls of 50,000 inhabitants, ecological and self-sufficient, afloat on the oceans wherever the winds and the currents take them. Called "Lilypad," this concept of a floating ecopolis is meant to be a futurist Noah's Ark for the climate refugees to come.

Lilypad is a concentrate of sustainable development. At the center of a circular island, a submerged lagoon of freshwater recycles rain water and acts as ballast for the city. Deployed around it are three marinas and three mountains that accommodate offices, businesses and leisure activities, as well as lodgings covered in suspended gardens and served "by a network of streets and passageways laid out organically," according to the architect.

The city produces more energy than it consumes - and without emitting CO2 - by combining all possible imaginable renewable energies: thermal and photovoltaic solar, wind mills, hydraulic, ocean thermal, ocean movement energies, etc.

However, even in this ideal world, one could not live on love and freshwater only: food needs are satisfied thanks to "aquaculture fields and biotic corridors on and under the hull."

Symbiosis with Mother Nature compels; the vessel's structure is inspired by the vascular configuration of the leaf of the giant Amazonian water lily, Victoria Regina. "The double hull is formed from polyester fibers and a layer of titanium dioxide in its anatase form which allows the absorption of atmospheric pollution by photocatalytic effect," details Mr. Callebaut.

Who will finance such a construction to gather in tomorrow's refugees? A mystery. No candidates have made themselves known so far. But other, more solvent clients could take the bait: Lilypad may serve to "extend the territories of more developed countries, such as Monaco, offshore," notes the architect - who has taken care to moor his virtual Lilypads opposite the Principality.

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