Waterfront urbanism is home to a large portion of the global population. From the beginning, the cities developed along the coast to meet their different needs. Coastal land pressure due to urbanization forces us to come up with new innovations to deal with this problem. Floating is one such solution that has been formulated to respond to this need for urban expansion. This paper focuses on the reflection about the topic through a series of interviews with experts and city planners from the floating industry. The report criticizes few emerging conversations about this new urban form in current and future scenarios. The need, challenges and impacts are investigated.

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Although floating cities might seem obsolete, depicting an apparent lack of reason for such high investments and efforts as it is only associated with rising sea levels, it poses a solution to much more widespread and complex problems, such as crowded cities, lack of space for urban expansions and unaffordable housing on the land. 

However, the emergence of floating is still not on the horizon, as there are essential challenges left to overcome. Firstly, regulatory frameworks need to be adjusted, in order to meet the demands of these new cities instead of imposing restrictions on them. This challenge might take decades, as it involves all levels of governance, but the political and ownership issues are the main answer to why a floating city has not been built yet. And it is imperative that the new legislation also ensures that all socioeconomic classes are included in such projects, as the private companies might not be willing to do so. 

On the other hand, while technology advances to respond to all conditions and needs, the sharing of it should also increase and be incentivized. In the pursuit of floating cities, different sectors have to collaborate to speed up the process and make it feasible. It might take time and combined effort in order to make this technology advanced and affordable enough to support an inclusive community.

Technology is also essential in order to measure and mitigate the impacts of new forms of living on the water but also on land. New developments need to be made in real-time monitoring of the quality of water and marine life, as well as in how to utilize the urban areas and constructions that will be left behind on land, integrating them in the process of shaping these new cities, in a circular manner. Moreover, the effects on social, cultural and psychological sides should also be tracked, shaping a new form of living that doesn’t completely override the existing one. 

It is evident that floating cities represent an outstanding solution. However, it might be an outstanding solution for the future, as the current conditions do not allow it to. Due to the ongoing barriers of governance, technology limitations, extreme weather conditions and lack of integration between stakeholders, floating is still not feasible. In fact, it might not be needed for the next 50 or 100 years, when the answers to these challenges could be found. Maybe the question now should be: what could we do to mitigate the existing problems in this intermediate period, before floating is able to provide a definite solution?


The Emergence of Floating is a project of IAAC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia developed at Master in City & Technology in 2020/21 by students: Diana Roussi, Laura Guimarães and Sridhar Subramani faculty: Mathilde Marengo