OFFSHORE | Option Studio

Option Studio: Episode 5

Mariana Ibanez

Fall 2019

OFFSHORE is a project where we test a new means of living with our data in a new context. Because of its potential for natural cooling and energy generation, the ocean may offer a unique opportunity to house both our expanding data and human populations and deal with the byproducts of an increasingly technological world.

The architecture takes inspiration from existing models of marine community living. We start with a semi-submersible rig as a symbolic and physical scaffold, a structure that can exist just offshore or deep in the ocean without being anchored to the bedrock.

The areas above and below the water are linked formally and organizationally, although their material characteristics differ to reflect their distinct environments. Living space for people is primarily above the water. Personal capsules cluster together to form a dynamic organization of spaces that can change in shape and quantity depending on the needs of the time. These capsules are connected to flexible ‘branches’ that can supply water, remove waste, and rotate to realign themselves based on pod needs. The capsule space is surrounded by a lightweight algae skin that can absorb carbon dioxide, filter pollution, and expand or contract depending on the number of capsules.

Central community spaces underwater encourage exploration of the marine environment. Transparent polymer panels allow for uninhibited views. Community spaces such as the cafeteria are coupled with scientific exploration, such as a DNA-sequencing lab. Below the water, the spaces and infrastructure are primarily dedicated to the storage and management of data. A series of pods drop below the surface. Where we need no oxygen or light we have server farms, serviced by a robotic system. The envelope thickens to allow for increasing atmospheric pressure and provides cavities for cold ocean water to act as a coolant.

Just as we envision new interactions between us and our data, we envision OFFSHORE as an interface between the synthetic and the natural. Some pods are intentionally left as frameworks to provide sanctuary for marine life, but as data needs change they could become enclosed. Likewise, enclosed pods could be unclad and become habitat.

Tensile filaments are 3D printed around the pods; in their flexible state, these fibers harvest energy from the ocean’s currents. But in contrast to the traditional model, which mainly takes from the environment it occupies, OFFSHORE also aims to give back to the ecosystem. As the filaments densify they solidify into branched structures around these pods, an artificial scaffold for coral to grow on and a sanctuary for marine life.

This artificial reef encourages new kinds of marine ecosystems, existing in a state of perpetual growth and balance. Using state-of-the-art sensors, the synthetic system samples and archives the DNA of its human and aquatic inhabitants, using the data to create a uniquely balanced ecosystem for each growing community. As the pods begin to change scale and density, they form connections between communities and the mainland, a new kind of coastline, an “infloat,” rather than infill. OFFSHORE is part of a network of other data-driven communities, although each one is constantly evolving based on the unique needs of its residents.