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CITY OF LEARNING IN THE OCEAN

Revolutionary manta ray-shaped floating city envisioned to be university of the future

Words by Isabelle Pinto

Photography by Foundation Jacques Rougerie

PrintA whole city floating on water is something one could only see in their wildest dream or imagination. But with French architect, Jacques Rougerie of the I nstitut de France – Academy of Fine Arts, big and revolutionary visions like this may just come true. Known for his successful track record as well as radical design of the SeaOrbiter, a skyscraper-tall, floating research laboratory which is currently under construction, Rougerie’s vision of a floating city called the City of Meriens may just become a reality in the not too distant future.

The city of Meriens, which roughly translates as “the city of oceanites”, is a gigantic oceanic vessel which can take up to 7,000 residents. It is meant to be an International Oceanic University dedicated to long-term studies on marine biodiversity. The vessel would be home to researchers, teachers, students, observers and essentially anyone who is passionate about the ocean. “People would come [from] all over the world – it’s an international city governed by United Nations standards,” explains Rougerie. “The City of Meriens is open for all the countries of the world, so each nation could have access to the ocean’s scientific resources,” he adds.

Self-sustaining design inspired by nature itself

Spanning 900 metres long and 500 metres wide, the oceanic university city is a bionic and biomimetic concept creatively shaped like a huge manta ray with its wide wings and long tail. It extends 60 metres in height above sea level with another 120 metres beneath the ocean, allowing residents to be truly in touch with the underwater world. Designed to be self-sustaining and fully autonomous, the structure will be powered by renewable marine energy. Besides that, it also employs the principles of sustainable development with its zero waste programme. As for food supply for its residents, integrated aquaculture breeding farms and hydroponic greenhouses will provide them with the necessary sustenance.

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Inside the craft, facilities typical of a university campus can be found on several levels which include lecture halls, classrooms, laboratories, living areas, as well as cultural relaxation and sports zones. Another special feature of the vessel is its interior lagoon situated at its rear which is designed to accommodate smaller research vessels of up 90 metres long for deployment and this includes Rougerie’s up-and -coming SeaOrbiter vessels. In fact, the City of Meriens is meant to follow and expand upon the multidisciplinary programmes developed by the SeaOrbiter’s network of sentinels probably within the next 50 years, as this is when Rougerie expects the floating city to become a reality.

The creator

The city’s creator, Rougerie is a visionary architect whose deep passion for the ocean goes way back to when he was a mere child. Highly-regarded for his radical designs for land, sea and space, he has, for more than 30 years, based his research and realizations on bionic and biomimetic architecture that integrates principles of sustainable development. Combining both his passions for the ocean as well as architecture, Rougerie builds underwater habitats and laboratories, marine research centers, vessels with see-through hulls and sub-aquatic museums. He also has an extensive imagination which he uses to design major projects always linked to the ocean.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 11.05.40 AMRougerie is also known to be a rather adventurous underwater explorer who tests his own creations and has even lived several times in underwater habitats. He even holds a world record achievement for spending 71 days underwater in the United States accompanied by two other explorers. Both the City of Meriens and the SeaOrbiter are his flagship projects and products of more than 30 years of research in marine and subsea architecture.

His architectural works are heavily inspired by the writings of Jules Verne, a 19th century novelist who is widely known for his science fiction novels. Therefore, he has adopted the motto, “Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real”. Making futuristic, sci-fi based designs a reality is what he strives for and so, there are indeed high hopes for the floating university city of Meriens becoming a reality in the future.

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