Thinking more on the design of Aquarius recently, I decided to put down some more specifics on my vision of the marine colony and the transformations it would have to undergo as it evolved to its full mid-ocean-capable colony scale.
As I described in the Aquarius section of my personal version of TMP, I proposed that the Aquarius Rising stage of the original TMP be replaced by the direct founding of Aquarius as one or more small floating communities in sheltered water coastal locations which would be intended to grow incrementally until they reached the necessary scale to support independent living in mid-ocean conditions. I suggested that these would be founded primarily as residential real estate development ventures but also with an option to pursue industrial activities, though I've tended to see that as less potentially profitable in these locations than residential and commercial development.
This scenario of development presents Aquarius with a great architectural challenge. Like an animal developing from pupae to adult forms, the colony must not merely expand in size but also transform in structural technology from the small static float systems of its early construction to the large scale pneumatically stabilized float system it needs to handle open sea conditions. And it must accommodate this transformation incrementally. Not only is there a transition of structural systems here, but also a transition to different climates as the initial founding locations may have very different climate conditions from its ultimate equatorial locations. Thus we can anticipate Aquarius evolving through the following structural phases or stages of development;
Initial Moored Phase: the initial founding structure most likely fixed moored to a shore point like a house boat or using fixed anchorage very close to shore, allowing access by suspended or floating walkways.
Free-Floating Phase: when fixed mooring is replaced by active station-keeping allowing for use in deeper bay conditions and with simple ferry service linking it to the shore.
Platform Transition Phase: when the colony begins to switch from static float to Pneumatically Stabilized Platform (PSP) systems and assumes the final infrastructure architecture it will subsequently use.
Migration Phase: when it begins to move out to the open sea in increments defined by the scale of transportation systems it supports. This has the potential to go in the direction of one of either two alternate final phases as marine colony or arcoliner depending on the choices of its residents. In this phase other originally separate colonies have the option to join up to produce a single larger colony. Also in this phase the question of political autonomy comes into play as distance from the shore affords progressively greater degrees of economic and regulatory independence from regional and national governments.
Full Equatorial Colony Phase: the final stationary colony phase with an open sea location.
Let's examine these phases in turn and the likely architectural strategies each will likely explore.
Initial Moored Phase Edit
In the Initial Moored Phase Aquarius has the most architectural freedom than in any other phase even though it must cope with the constraints of limited size and budget. Later phases will compel a narrower range of design in order to accommodate scale and the conditions of the open sea but in this initial phase the community can employ almost any kind of relatively lightweight structural system. It's good that it has this freedom because it must accommodate a lot of experimentation in this phase, must deal with a wide variety of climates, and a number of different founding economic scenarios. In this phase the structure will be based on simple static float platform technology and there are a variety of choices here, each imposing some limits on and preferences for the kind of architecture employed. Regardless of platform and architecture type, all these facilities face a challenge in maximizing the efficiency of space use with a small initial structure when coping with competition for space between its different functions. With all marine structural systems building up, it will tend to be cheaper than building out because, with the exception of Adapted Container Platforms, base platform expansion will tend to be more expensive than surface structures. This tends to favor organization which isolates functional areas vertically, stacking them one atop the other. However, some types of architecture will not allow this strategy and may be preferred initially because of economy or aesthetics. Also, at this stage the float systems will probably only allow a maximum of a few stories height for the community structures.
In my study of various possible seed structure configurations I've come to favor what I like to call the Chinese Mansion configuration. The Chinese Mansion -which gets its name from the famous radial village compounds of rural Chinese 'Hakka' clans in the region of Guangdong Province- is based on a radial organization of space around a central courtyard or atrium serving as a communal space -an organization common to arcology theory as well. With this seed structure the same approach is used but with variation in atrium size according to residents' desire and the environmental conditions. A small fully enclosed atrium serving as a community lounge with a relatively small central skylight would maximize the roof-top area for purposes of gardening and solar power collection. A large atrium would allow for the atrium space itself to be used for a community garden ringed by residential space or could enclose a lagoon, which in larger structures could provide sheltered mooring for small utility and recreational boats. This large atrium configuration is initially less efficient for applications like farming but offers a more pleasant environment for residents and provides shelter for a garden in locations that are windy or climates that are colder and call for some kind of domed enclosure to provide a climate controlled environment. In both these cases the seed structure has an option to use perimeter terracing, creating stepped perimeter levels which provide additional outdoor surface area and a way to provide a kind of open 'waterfront' access for industry and residence. However, this space is at a premium with the initial settlement due to its relatively small size. Given a choice, I would favor starting without perimeter terracing to maximize the number of residential units the initial structure can host and the amount of contiguous space which can be used for gardens.
This initial settlement will likely rely on fixed mooring with walkway access to the shore via a floating marina structure or a suspended walkway bridge to a quayside as used for access to large ships at port. This will favor concentration of some industrial and commercial activity to the side featuring this access side. There is an option to deploy the settlement fully off-shore using simple utility boats as ferries but only in very well sheltered bay or lagoon locations. Small structure area will limit the potential for the use of solar and wind power and likely require more reliance on shore based mains or a community generator such as a compact gas turbogenerator. In locations of high insulation, such as Hawaii, the use of solar-dynamic systems based on free-standing heliostats may be a more efficient option than photovoltaics, providing much more power for the space they require. Shore-based water supply is also likely, but could be supplemented by marine type water generators. Rainwater catchment would tend to be limited by space for water storage, though a bladder storage system under the float platform is an option to consider. (fresh water is lighter than sea water and so would actually aid flotation. Greywater recycling is a likely option but blackwater processing would be handled primarily with incinerating toilets and similar systems as limited space will preclude more elaborate waste treatment systems. However, there is a possibility that Savage's suggested Super-Critical Water Oxidizer plants could be usable as they approach the scale of International Standards Organization (ISO) container sized systems -though this remains an extremely expensive option.
Population in this phase would probably top-out at about 500 but in practice the settlement may be forced to break-away from shore at half that population due to limitations on growth imposed by restrictions on waterfront development. (the community can expand to most any size from a tiny walkway connection to the shore but local regulations my prohibit obstruction of water access or views unless the shore property being obstructed is also owned)
Lets now consider the different platform systems one can use in this stage and how they will effect the likely community architectural style.
Adapted Container Platforms Edit
The simplest and potentially cheapest of all the likely static float platform technologies for initial marine settlement use is the Adapted Container Platform. This type of platform would be constructed of recycled shipping containers that are turned into float modules by being completely filled with foam or recycled poly drums and their end-doors welded shut. The containers are linked to others using connectors commonly available in the shipping industry and which can be handled with a variety of lifting equipment. Two containers would make a relatively stable minimum module. 20' containers are preferred over the larger 40' type for the base platform in order to maximize the number of container-corner interface points on the surface so as to provide more flexibility for surface structure layouts and allowing for both 20' and 40' containers to be used on top. Their default surface structures would also be based on adapted shipping containers which are linked together with weatherproof seams and their intervening walls removed to make larger room spaces, arranged to form various complexes, and can be additionally modified into other functional systems such as tanks, planters, greenhouses, and more. As makeshift as this idea sounds, this is actually a very high performance structural system. Containers are already routinely used -in specialized forms- for marine construction platforms and -in adapted forms- as habitable space in oil rigs and ships. They can stack as many as 10 high so for a marine platform this means a possible 6-8 story height for an initial community structure. Not bad for something made out of cast-offs. And the countless examples of architect-designed container-mod homes well demonstrates that this can produce quite luxurious housing. They also lend themselves to easy adaptation and reconfiguration and would accommodate a lot of post-industrial-style DIY modification and experimentation. Many industrial systems are already containerized and so can be easily added to the community.
The only downsides to this approach are a somewhat shorter life span for the float modules, their need for toxic marine paints to prevent corrosion, and their very industrial appearance. Many people comfortable with Modernist design find container homes very attractive. Others find them bizarre or ugly. Only certain markets would tolerate this kind of architecture (read: most places in the world EXCEPT the US...) making its value as leased space real estate limited in some areas and subjecting projects to higher potential incidence of NIMBYism from wealthy coastal residents and busy-body bureaucrats. Container mods by commercial contractors are also rarer and much more expensive in the US than elsewhere in the world but the easy transportability of these may reduce that problem, allowing a project to have work done in other countries when they can't get a reasonable deal in the US. However, the most effective approach is to establish one's own facilities for this work.
The basic process of adapting containers into buildings is based on cutting and welding frames to fit windows and doors and reframing the interior -usually with wood or light gauge steel stud- to accommodate insulation, wall paneling, and utilities routing. 9 foot high 'hi-cube' containers are preferred in order to provide extra space for these utilities. Insulated containers, though much rarer and more costly, are preferable for residence mods because they are pre-insulated, have aluminum plank floors, stainless steel inner wall skins, and alcoves for mounting air conditioning systems externally. These features make them much less difficult to adapt. When adapting containers it is much more expensive to try and fit their sides with doors and windows than their ends because of the corrugated wall material and the need to cut this alloy to shape and weld mounting frames. At the ends one has a readily usable frame for mounting these simply by removing the original container doors or whole end wall plate. However, with the already insulated containers mounting windows and doors in any side is a little easier because the flat foam-core wall material used allows the mounting clamping frame windows and doors as used on boats and RVs.
The chief limitation on how these containers can be arranged, and hence the design of the community, is the order of their connector grid, since they only have connectors at their corners. The length of a 20' container is 2.5 container widths. So an even 'square' of containers would be 2x5 containers and only be able to interface perpendicularly on top of another such square group at the four corner points of each square. This complication of geometry is a serious design issue, favoring groupings that are fully in line with this unusual grid. Using our Chinese Mansion model, this suggests structures where buildings are largely grouped at two ends, unless one devises a roughly standard building unit based on a 'square' of 2x5 20' containers or 1x5 40' containers. (note that bare container frames can be used as interstitial components in these arrangements)
Other types of surface structures might be used with these platforms but only the container corners afford ready attachment points and so non-container surface structures cannot be as strongly attached if they can't conform to this same peculiar geometry. It is possible to create custom containers with a more uniform geometry -for instance, an even 10'x10' or 20'x20' unit. But if such containers are used for surface structure they too would all have to be custom fabricated, eliminating much of the economy of this approach. It's not an entirely bad option but would definitely need a group with more robust fabrication skills and facilities.
Monolithic Platforms Edit
The monolithic foam core ferro-cement platform is what we commonly see today in the more advanced alternative to houseboats made by companies like Floating Homes in Canada, using the platform technology of parent company International Marine Flotation. It's called 'monolithic' because the entire community platform would be pre-built as a single monolithic structure, based on a ferro-cement hull organized into cellular compartments which are filled with plastic foam. Alternatively, it can also be fashioned of recycled materials using discarded poly drums arrayed in a hexagonal packing pattern in several layers and embedded in a ferro-cement matrix. Use of PET bottles might also be possible with a fiber reinforced cement. Many kinds of materials substitutions are possible -such as the use of geopolymers instead of cement, the use of fiber reinforcement rather than alloy reinforcement, and the addition of various protective finish coverings such as paints or polypropylene skins. (the same material used in spray-on pick-up truck bed liners) Also, many kinds of 'inclusions' into the primary platform structure are possible such as storage tanks and utilities conduits and even underwater observation lounges. The end result is a large platform the full area of the planned community most likely manufactured on shore and then shifted whole into the water.
Obviously, it becomes increasingly difficult to use this type of structure the larger the scale of the platform that must be produced, especially if it must be fabricated on land and shifted whole into the water. Thus use of this for large structures demands an in-situ fabrication technique which is not fully worked-out today and which will tend to be complex since it must be done in and under water. Likewise, any direct expansion requires in-situ surgical demolition and construction, without which the settlement can only physically expand by transitioning to progressively larger platforms financed and built whole -which probably isn't that big a problem early on but gets more difficult the larger the population becomes.
Despite its obvious limitations this approach has one very distinct advantage -which, oddly enough, is rarely exploited by those currently using this kind of float technology. It allows for habitable surface structures to be fabricated simultaneously and integral to it using similar construction methods. This affords the option to use free-form organic design and the sculpting of naturalistic landscape features into the full structure, basically producing a free-form floating island looking like natural rock which has been excavated to produce housing. This organic surface structure would be fabricated in much the same way as the platform itself using ferro-cement over a foam core. However, here the foam is serving as insulation rather than flotation and the freely sculpted shell is covering both exterior and interior volumes and serving a lot of extra duty as integrated decorative features, built-in furniture and fixtures, and other more functional design features like storage tanks, pools, ponds, planting beds, etc.
This style of architecture -originally advocated by Marshal Savage for the Aquarius interior by virtue of its ability to incorporate so much furniture and functional elements and because of its very 'organismic' appearance- is a very elegant and compelling style of architecture. If one wants a community that attracts a lot of attention and offers the maximum artistic freedom, this would be the architecture to use. But it's also one which is utterly non-adaptive. Even the most minor changes require a messy and difficult process of surgical demolition and reconstruction. And if your designers and builders do not have high artistic talent when the structure is built or modified the end result can be monstrously ugly. Use of solar power is much more limited as conventional solar thermal and photovoltaic panels clash with the aesthetics of the structure and there would be no large contiguous mounting points. However, companion structure dedicated to power functions is an option. Industrial activities also face complications with this kind of architecture due to the difficulty of machinery and work structures to integrate with organic shaped spaces. Again, separate structures might be a solution. With the current technology, I tend to see this style of architecture as a luxury. Contemporary life demands spontaneous adaptability in one's habitat -and this is especially so in the fledgling marine colony which must perform a lot of experimentation to work out a stable community. This architecture will not accommodate such free adaptability until such time as nanotechnology becomes available. But I expect that many people will want this form of architecture anyway because of its amazing ability to accommodate the wildest design fantasies anyone can imagine. That is, after all, why this construction technique is also so common in theme parks, zoos, and the construction projects of New Age religious groups. And this does make it a commercially valuable product that would be popular for resort applications -hence my previously noted notion of 'microislands' made and sold as a business.
Community design with this platform technology can go two ways depending on the choice of surface architecture. If one is using a simple flat platform -perhaps contractor built- the logical approach to surface structures is to use light structures akin to that of most contemporary floating homes. A likely choice is systems such as TomaTech, Tony's Bali-T houses, and other similar pre-fab or kit buildings. These could be easily arranged in out envisioned Chinese Mansion configuration but they will usually not provide any large roof deck area or support many stories of structure thus the community is likely to 'sprawl' a bit. These platforms are typically made-to-order to suit specific architect's plans for the building to be built atop them and so attachments for the surface structure are custom. Ideally, the structure should instead use a grid of formed-in modular attachment sockets such as those used for climbing form systems that conform to some basic surface structure footing geometry and can be reused for different building arrangements. Buildings would have their posts or footings plug into these sockets for foundation attachment and they can also be used to accommodate various forms of decking and rooftop garden underlayment. The use of such a socket grid system maximizes the adaptability of a structure which normally isn't very adaptable by itself. This would be particularly important as the community expands and must transition to larger platforms, allowing the surface structures to be demounted and moved to the new platform relatively easily and the the old platform easily repurposed for industrial uses or sold off whole for other people's building uses. Take a note of this particular simple idea. We will see it appearing again and again throughout this discussion.
Using the free-form organic style of architecture, the design of the community would largely mimic the forms of natural rock islands and could roughly accommodate our Chinese Mansion organization by mimicking a natural crater or valley, atoll, or enclosed lagoon. All functional internal space in the community would tend to consist either of large domed areas -favored for public, commercial, and industrial space- or clusters of small spherical chambers of highly specialized purpose -the most likely form for individual dwellings. All corridors would tend to be tunnel-like structures and the use of alternative lighting technology such as heliostat driven fiber optic lighting and laminate electroluminescent lamps would be key. Custom designed windows, skylights, and heliostat enclosure domes may be important for aesthetics, taking the form of free-form lucite shapes, water-washed stone like glass tiles, transparent pool and stream basins, or 'fly's eye' bubbles. Even the wind and solar power systems may need a design change, favoring more fluid structural forms and non-angular component shapes. For instance, solar dynamic heliostats may look more appropriate with circular reflector arrays rather than the more typical hexagonal and more tree-like support frames than simpler space frame and posts. Sometimes off-the-shelf products may fit but most are likely to require custom to design to be truly aesthetically compatible. This would be less of a concern for a grass-roots community but critical for one exploiting this form of design for income through the use of resorts or other tourist facilities.
Since any modification or expansion would be a protracted process, the tendency would be to limit the need for it by building as much as possible in area and pre-designing things as carefully as possible. However, while the primary form of the surface structure would tend to be fixed, the interior spaces can be more freely changed and incrementally built within the volume of the outer structural shell. That foam-filed space between inner and outer structural shells offers some isolation between their forms and holes cut to join the two for windows and portals are relatively easily patched. Another strategy for enhancing the adaptability of this form of architecture is the use of larger more generic spaces outfit for habitation by free-standing furnishings rather than built-ins. Furnishings would still need a degree of organic character to their design but they would be movable. As my own studies of non-toxic housing have taught me, this strategy of outfitting generic spaces for functional use with deployable furnishings and secondary structures allows for the comfortable habitation of an extreme diversity of spaces and structures, truly allowing function to freely adapt to most any found form, be it a cave, a grain silo, or an aircraft hangar. This sort of defies one of the apparent virtues of this form of architecture -the use of built-ins to reduce the volume of personal possessions- but that virtue comes at a fairly high price if one hasn't the skills and talent at-hand for such elaborate sculpting and sophisticated design.
The engineering of large non-Euclidean structural forms is a tricky thing and this has tended to limit the scale to which free-form organic architecture has been employed. Most free-form ferro-cement construction has been limited to about two floors. However, with this settlement this may be pushed to four or more, though probably not any farther than that. More sophisticated engineering methods employing laser scanning of structures, ultrasonic densitometer analysis, built-in fiber optic and laminate electronic stress and vibration sensors, and computer aided finite element analysis of these complex shapes will be necessary to go to very large scales, but that will probably not be an issue early on in the community development.
Modular Ferro-Cement Platform Edit
Modular ferro-cement platforms use the same basic structural technology as the monolithic platform but with one difference; it uses large standardized modules of fixed geometry which link together using an embedded steel interconnection that doubles as thermal expansion joints. This is the most cost-effective and easily expandable of the two ferro-cement techniques as the modules can be relatively small and fabricated out of water and yet can allow the structure easy incremental expansion to unlimited area. Consequently, this approach is probably the single-most likely type of platform technology to be used for seed community development, except where some commercial or industrial use specifically demands one of the others. The fabrication of modules in-vitro in a factory setting is a distinct advantage as the end product is more consistent in performance, can be produced as a shippable product, and this facility can be readily moved to the colony itself once it achieves sufficient scale. This is also the most likely -if not the only- practical type of structure to be employed in the full-scale marine colony, even if it will be using this approach with a more sophisticated and larger scale float technology. Thus the transition to this over time may be easier where the community can start out using something similar.
The most likely geometry for these modules is hexagonal or square. Many people seem obsessed with hexagonal geometries -including Savage himself- but I've yet to see any engineering rationale for their superiority. I tend to favor the square geometry because it's simpler and it allows for fractal division. What does that mean? It means that if we start out with a structure based on 10 meter square modules and decide later that its easier to make 50m, or 100m modules then the geometric grid in the old structure still lines up. We can, conversely, divide up modules in self-similar units that all fit together allowing for a 'fractal' elaboration in detail. You can't do that with hexagonal tiling without triangular and trapezoidal interstitial pieces that would be more difficult to fabricate and aren't self-stable in water.
The chief architectural limitation with this modular approach is the limitation imposed on the surface architecture by the rigid geometry of the modules. For light free-standing structures as would be used early on this presents no particular difference from the monolithic type of platform. But for a surface structure of some significant mass and multiple stories in height alignment with the underlying platform structure becomes critical as structural integrity requires structural unity when bearing high loads. This tends to favor simple structures based on relatively large precast modular concrete components; deck panels, wall units, columns, or entire bay modules. This lends itself most easily to a Modernist design approach and what I refer to as 'functionally generic' architecture; structures of no pre-defined purpose other than the fundamentals of shelter which are adapted to suit specific functions by retrofit components. This would be most effective taking that concept I mentioned before -the use of a formed-in-place socket grid for structural footings and decking- to its logical conclusion with the use of a dense socket grid covering all surfaces on the primary structure. This would serve countless purposes;
It allows for the outfitting of spaces for their various uses by the simple plug-in retrofit of light components that can be easily removed and reused elsewhere as the needs of the structure's residents change. These would include wall systems, suspended ceiling systems, raised flooring, mezzanine structures, and even some appliances. The use of aluminum profile T-slot framing is a likely choice of basic structure for this system but many other materials could also be used such as structural steel profiles, wood, extruded clay, ceramics, molded gypsum block, and more.
It overcomes the tendency of modular concrete structures to appear industrial by allowing the application of an endless variety of plug-in decorative treatments such as textile blocks, ceramic tiles, patterned alloy tile, wood panel, faux stone, or even growing matrixes for live plants. Many of these kinds of decorative features can integrating decorative lighting as well or disguise fixtures such as vents, loudspeakers, fire and smoke detectors, and more.
A large diversity of flooring systems can be employed such raised flooring systems allowing utilities routing, resilient decking for walkways or roadways, raised growing bed systems for large area rooftop gardens, and cushioned flooring for recreational uses.
A large diversity of utilities equipment can be attached to the sockets under or behind surface panels for easy access, reconfiguration, and upgrade.
It allows for the direct attachment of many fixtures such as lighting systems, solar and wind power systems, public displays, transportation system tracks, supporting structures for industrial equipment and materials handling.
And it does all this without any permanent effect on the underlying primary structure, allowing it to also be freely demountable, reconfigurable, and replaceable -though freely removing and reconfiguring such large components is not an easy task.
The angular geometry of the underlying platform modules and its surface structure can also be 'softened' by surface mount attachments that smooth out and disguise this geometry to form less geometric and more organic shapes -just as when a computer draws a circle on a screen in square pixels but then alters the shade of intermediate pixels to create the illusion of a true smooth curve rather than a stepped edge. This is a virtue of that fractal nature of division the simpler square component geometry affords, smaller scale unit shapes 'nesting' in the interstitial spaces of the larger module shapes to approximate curved forms and then being 'finished' to produce a true curve using retrofit facade elements. Thus with this structural technology we can approach the design freedom of free-form organic architecture within the limits of the underlying modular component geometry.
If we wish to go fully to the use of organic design we can optionally employ the modular structure as a kind crude interstitial superstructure on which the finished organic surface shell is built up. However, this is only really works for an external surface treatment. Underneath this and inside the structure its modular structural grid holds sway making it difficult to employ the kind of free-form interior spaces of the true organic design. A good analogy to this situation would be the attempt to construct a faux Mount Everest using conventional skyscraper construction. On the surface one is free to make as organic a form as desired but inside the grid geometry of the skyscraper remains. One compromise here, though, would be to put the modular superstructural core very deep, creating a thick outer volume for the organic surface structure. Thus between the outer shell and the inner structure is a thick volume of space where one can employ the use of organic interior design much as one would on the monolithic type of platform, as long as it doesn't try to penetrate too far into the interior of the structure. This may be the only way with current technology we can employ free-form organic design on very large scales since, at present, the thin-shell ferro-cement technique employed for this style of design is incapable of high load bearing structure. However, this would only be a practical approach for very large structures. Initially, there will not be enough margin in space to allow for this trick on the seed settlement structure. This approach seems rather inefficient to me anyway.
This begs the question of how Marshal Savage would have managed to realize his proposed use of organic interior design in his original Aquarius design. Unless the hexagonal cell structure he proposed allowed for truly vast clear-span interior volumes within the cells there would not have been enough interstitial space to allow for free use of organic forms and the maximum scale of space would have been limited by the individual cell. This seems unlikely to me, especially considering that, even if seacrete worked, it's structural performance is much inferior to conventional concrete and THAT has a tough time achieving such large spans.
While this modular platform approach does allow progressively greater design freedom as scale increases, the initial structure is likely to be very small compared to the scale of its platform modules. Perhaps nine to a dozen modules may make up the initial structure. Thus the use of any very elaborate architecture is unlikely. This favors a Modernist design approach and the use of a roughly rectilinear shape, or rounded shapes using fairly large -and ultimately disposable- interstitial modules to accommodate broad curves. The use of simple light prefab structure is a likely early option for sake of economy but the most practical design approach here, as I see it, is the use of a modular concrete surface structure and a loft unit approach where, using that dense socket grid I previously described, a series of large column supported or bay structured levels is divided into unit spaces for free-adaptation by residents using retrofit components and materials. Perhaps up to nine stories would be accommodated with this type of structure, though a three level structure of one or two stories per level is most likely initially. Loft units would feature deep roof overhangs and matching depth exterior terraces and make extensive use of window-wall enclosure with sockets preserved for the emergency installation of corrugated steel shutters to protect against storms. Alternatively, the structure might employ the use of flowing planar glass enclosures 'floating' over inner surface structure using mullion systems interfacing to the socket grid, allowing for enclosed terrace space or the creation of large atrium enclosures. This would mimic the approach of buildings such as Richard Rogers' Parc Bit complex and would be appropriate to high wind or cold climates. Our Chinese Mansion arrangement is easily accommodated by this design approach in either small or large atrium configurations and the high strength of the concrete levels would allow for extensive use of container gardening on the flat roof decks and their use for recreational activity or even helipads -though that probably isn't conducive to residential serenity.
Conventional Houseboats Edit
Though a less desirable option, a seed community could be started using a combination of conventional houseboats and modular marina systems. The difference between this and conventional houseboat communities is organization. Many houseboat communities exist today but the majority are based on a layout that mimics that of conventional boat marinas. A few -based on the more modern concrete float platforms and more conventional-looking housing- are adopting layouts akin to more dense suburban communities. These can be seen on the Northwest American coast in and in the Netherlands. These old fashioned forms offer no cohesiveness to the community, no central space that is a focus of social activity. The seed settlement's organization would, of course, mimic the Chinese Mansion using a very large central marina platform to which all the houseboats attach at their perimeter like a ring of townhouses. This central structure would host gardens and some very light structures -as the marina systems cannot handle heavy top loads.
This approach offers the fastest track to seed settlement development and while it seems a logical approach it has a few serious drawbacks. Most houseboats are designed with the same sensibility of RVs and mobile homes and they tend not to offer a good value for their price. They have no adaptability, have the same problem of depreciation as mobile homes, and typically employ a heavy amount of toxic materials, just as mobile homes do. The more modern concrete platform based houseboats are a much better choice and overcome the depreciation problem but are typically based on conventional stick-built housing. Comfortable and familiar for Americans but inappropriate to the marine environment and inconsistent with what construction would later be used. But the biggest problem with this approach is that there is no possible way to transition this structure to forms suited to moving farther out to sea as the marina structures cannot tolerate those conditions and the houseboats are all independent structures. The entire community would have to be abandoned for another type of structure later on, and that would be difficult for people to do if they've invested a lot into these houseboat homes. But it would make sense if a fairly economical form of houseboat or used houseboats were used to jump-start a settlement that is specifically planning to develop an on-site industry producing the type of structure it will later shift to. In this fashion it would serve sort of as a work camp structure for building the other structure.
Sea Room Structures Edit
One of the fully off-the-shelf products that could be employed for the seed structure is the US Subs Sea Room. This is the only technology currently available where one could literally build the community entirely from pre-fab components.The Sea Room is basically a small barge hull about the size of two 40' ISO containers side-by-side which is pre-fitted as a dwelling akin to a large trailer home and topped with an outdoor deck which can be partially or fully enclosed. The hull is designed to be mostly submerged creating an underwater main floor for the dwelling with large bay windows equipped with water jet cleaners affording views of the underwater exterior. The units can be combined to form large complexes and US Subs has already developed a floating resort design that could be suitable to a small seed community. The structures are modular and can be used just like discrete houseboats or can be rigidly linked together in many combinations to form a more unified structure or self-floating housing clusters in a network. And they are adaptable to many uses in addition to residence, though not as readily as other structures.
Sea Rooms would not be as well suited to the Chinese Mansion configuration as other types of structures due to the fact that they tend to invert the order of spaces, putting primary residence space underwater and other functions on top. However, it does allow one to maximize the roof surface space for solar power as residents are more concerned with their underwater view than their surface view. It could be used to make lagoon-centered communities where the community garden is literally underwater in the form of an artificial reef all the homes share a view of. However, this sort of open space is not conducive to socialization, though excellent for marine recreation, and would need to be supplemented with surface level lounge facilities. The US Subs resort complex is more hotel-like and designed with a central mooring channel for a tourist submarine. It functions not just as a resort but also as a support vessel for these subs. It has some elements consistent with co-housing communities, though its central structure is really intended for a restaurant and bar rather than a 'common house'.
The chief problem with this approach is high cost. The individual units cost roughly $250,000 each and so make for very expensive space. They can support only up to two stories of built-up structure on top but only with light construction. They require very calm water conditions and very clear clean water to enjoy the benefits of the underwater view from their windows. As with the houseboats, they have no means to transition to other platform technology after the seed community reaches a practical maximum for this kind of structure. However, they can be used in a free-floating structure of large scale with active stationkeeping and can thus get the community to the second phase of development, whereas the houseboat community can never leave the shore. These problems aside, they might allow a high speed of construction and would be well suited to an initial community based on resort and vacation housing as a primary business.
Capsule Float Space Frame Platform Edit
Another technology that might be employed in this stage is the capsule float supported space frame platform, an approach explored extensively by designer Scott Howe with a system called Ukitecture. It's also an approach I had been interested in when I was still very keen on the Min-A-Max building system as this could have directly integrated that. This is also the most likely choice of technology for those wishing to pursue dreams of 'seasteading', but one they would need deep pockets for. This type of platform is based on the use of a cluster of large cylindrical capsule shaped modular static floats with dynamic ballast control which interlock with large beams to form a base float structure. They are designed for in-situ assembly by partial submergence of the floats to get them under other structure supported temporarily by barge and then pumping out the water to get them to lift into position. A minimum four-float structure is necessary for stability in water. From six to nine floats would be used to form an initial structure. This supports a triangulated space frame deck on top of which all the surface structures are built, these being limited to relatively light modular structure scaled to match the geometry of the space frame. This would be well suited to the integration of systems like the UNS subset of Min-A-Max or the T-slot framing based system such as the TomaTech system. Howe has also studied the use of a large modular component post and beam surface structure system which he has developed for land based use and which is suited to robotic assembly. This uses his own very specific but attractive form of modular architecture which has the benefit of offering large roof surfaces for gardening. Most everything in the basic structure would based on alloys.
This structural system is limited in the range of architecture it can employ but does also naturally conform to a Chinese Mansion organization of surface structure by virtue of the need to evenly distribute mass about the structure and locate the portions of structure with the highest loads directly on top of the floats. The architectural style will be dictated by the modular component system used for surface structures and most likely will be Modernist in character.
The chief limitation of this technology is that it has the complication of a high distance between primary deck and water levels which makes transportation to and from the structure much more difficult. It would not work well at shore locations where the shore slopes gently to sea level. It favors large ship quays and cliff/sea wall sites where a suspended walkway can be used. It has no means of providing wave-sheltered moorage itself and so in these deeper water conditions transit from the water level is only possible in ideal calm conditions or with the use of cable transfers, large elaborate motion-compensating boom, helicopter, or other VTOL aircraft. It can accommodate overhead container lifts for transfer of ISO containers during ideal water conditions but there would be limited space to put them and so method of attaching them to the sides of a container lift bay may be the only way to use them. It would be very difficult for it to accommodate the needs of disabled inhabitants, which would impact the commercial viability of many of its applications.
Transportation is the single greatest logistical issue for a marine community. People and goods MUST be able to move with ease, speed, and convenience for a community to grow. So this factor alone could be a show-stopper for this technology. Also, like the container approach it cannot integrate other larger scale platform technologies and so would have to be abandoned once the community reached a certain size. However, it's ability to tolerate open sea conditions means it can achieve a very large scale -but not as large as technology like PSP. It can potentially get a community to the fourth phase -the Migration Phase- but can't grow to the full Aquarius scale. If used at all, this approach would most likely be used for later colony seed projects rather than the first as it would definitely require a more robust community organization to afford its component development and engineering, since it is not an off-the-shelf technology..
This a very high-tech and costly structural approach -especially since this structural system does not exist off-the-shelf- that would most likely be used in locations of deeper water or periodically heavy wave action. It's singular advantage is that it gets you farther out to sea sooner than any other technology. This is capable of tolerating the open sea environment, but doesn't by itself solve the critical logistics of transportation in such locations. THAT is dependent upon community scale, which the initial settlement simply doesn't have.
Sea Foam Structure Edit
I also anticipate another static float platform technology which does not yet exist but which may be available in the near future; in-situ formed fiber reinforced foamed concrete. Let's call it Sea Foam for short. Foamed concretes are common today but they aren't suited to floating platforms due to low strength and there is no current technique for making such foam on or under water. But it seems a likely possible development in the future with the growing diversity of foamed cement products and applications for it. With new forms of fiber reinforcement steel reinforcement becomes unnecessary and would allow for very large strong structures of very simple composition and with free variability. Fabrication cost would be radically reduced and structures would be both unsinkable regardless of damage level and have built-in insulation. This material would overcome many of the limitations of the monolithic platform construction and the use of free-form organic architecture. It would still require surgical demolition for modification or expansion in order that a proper bond interface can be made between old and new material and the waste produced may not be easily recyclable. But construction would be a much simpler process based on bulk application of the foam, molding, sculpting, or carving to shape, and finishing with a cement or polymer coating material without any need for reinforcement except to control foam application. By transitioning to progressively stronger forms of reinforcement fiber -glass, polyester, aluminum, steel, kevlar, carbon, and then nanofiber- progressively higher strength performance can be achieved and perhaps the full scale Aquarius colony could employ this material. At the moment, though, this remains speculation but I anticipate the development of materials like this within a decade.
Reef Colony Edit
Another very speculative form of settlement that might be developed at this stage -but more likely as a child of later Equatorial colonies- is the Reef Colony. This form of habitat combines the use of organic design with the use of cast and fused lexan shell systems as used in large aquariums and underwater walkway tunnels to realize the science fiction dream of an underwater habitat. It would be based on the construction of a breakwater ring using either modular or monolithic ferrocement platform and than constructing a fractal shaped artificial reef structure within its central lagoon. Emerging from and partially enclosed by this reef structure would be dwellings in the form of clusters of lexan bubbles reinforced by an internal alloy frame, possibly disguised by a thin ferro-cement 'encrustation' to preserve the organic style and enhanced with laminate circuitry to create touch switches and novel lighting. These lexan structures would extend into a network of tunnels through and sometimes around and between the artificial reef structure providing a branching network of interior avenues for the community. Being limited to near-surface locations, all the habitat space would be unpressurized, eliminating the complications of living in pressurized habitats and the need for complicated life support systems. Access to the water would have to come from above the reef or through the use of air locks used only by people in diving gear, since there would be no high pressure to create moon pools as used in other pressurized underwater habitats. The perimeter breakwater could be cultivated to mimic the appearance of a natural atoll and, as the community expanded, islands within the atoll enclosure might also be employed to provide above water recreational spaces. The artificial reef would be cultivated like a gigantic public aquarium -the underwater equivalent of a community park. All industrial activity would be confined to the breakwater ring, as would most utility services, all energy production, all farming activities, and all marinas. Even mariculture would be largely relegated to the outer perimeter, not the interior, of the breakwater in order to help maintain its clear water environment. The structure would be fully expandable -albeit with the same complications of other structures using organic architecture- and could have as easy a transition to the use of PSPs as the monolithic ferro-cement platform would -assuming it realizes an effective in-situ ferro-cement construction technique.
This is an extremely speculative habitat concept relying on technology which is in a nascent form today and there are no strictly practical reasons for developing a habitat like this -despite Marshal Savage's suggestion that underwater habitats on Aquarius might be used to aid the training of prospective space colonists. However, it is very likely that many residents of the marine settlement would be inspired by their proximity to the sea to realize a more intimate relationship with it, leading to the compulsion to try and create habitats like this. Even if the deployment of a whole colony like this is less likely, it seems almost inevitable that colony residents will attempt to create such structures for recreational purposes wherever it becomes possible on their colony. And there is no question that it would have an incredible power to attract tourism worldwide. Already there are a variety of underwater hotel projects being developed around the globe using similar technology. But I tend to see this option as highly unlikely for the first seed colony. Its cost would be so great at present that the cost per unit of housing could be many millions of dollars. It is dependent upon warm climate locations with a pristine marine environment to provide it with clear water. Such locations are so few and far between it precludes most locations near any existing coastal urban centers, which eliminates one of the critical virtues to growing a colony from a coastal location and puts us back in the same logistical bind of the original Aquarius Rising, with its need for cheap coastal lagoon real estate that no longer exists in most of the world. This kind of colony is much more likely a product of the fully-realized Aquarius which can seek to deploy this as part of its creation of sister colonies on the warm and relatively pristine waters of the Equator.
Free-Floating Phase Edit
This next phase of seed colony development is based on the simple transition from a shore based fixed moored structure to a free-floating structure which is using active station-keeping and light boats for ferry access to the shore. This transition is predicated on the need for space and the need to be free from shore to freely expand. Some of the initial settlement approaches could be disconnected from the shore but will most likely still be fixed-moored. Here, though, one is moving to deeper bay locations where the use of active station-keeping becomes more cost-effective. Population size for this phase probably tops out at a couple thousand.
While being free-floating may seem to be a more precarious situation than the moored-at-shore location, in storm conditions the settlement would actually be a bit safer. During hurricanes the greatest threat comes not from wind but from storm surges which primarily only effect fixed moored structures at or near shore where the storm drives waves to crash against the shore and raises water levels to dislodge marinas and docks and throw vessels and debris onto the shore. Tsunamis pose a similar threat. Sufficiently far away from shore, the tsunami wave is virtually imperceptible.
With the exception of the few types of structure that cannot transition to this mode at all, the shift to a free-floating structure would incur little change in structure or architectural style from the seed settlement for most of the initial types of structure described for the previous phase. Everything is simply a bit bigger in area and possibly a bit more 'sprawling' as perimeter space accommodates more marina use and growing and diversifying industrial activity. Some bay conditions may require that the structure switch to heavier forms of platform structure at the perimeter with a greater deck height from the water level to accommodate heavier wave conditions and breakwater structures may be needed for community marinas. This phase could see the beginning of a transition in structural organization to the 'tectonic' form (which will be described in detail later) that will later become the hallmark of the full scale colony. But at this stage space is still at a premium and extensive use of perimeter terracing may still not be cost-effective.
The colony will also have an option at this stage to make an early transition to the use of full size Pneumatically Stabilized Platform structures. This would not be predicated on the move to the open sea as the size of the community would still not be sufficient to support the transportation technology that requires. Instead, it would be predicated on the use of a location with high wave action as a source of renewable power. This would be a bit expensive to do in this stage but may be necessary to meet the community's energy needs, and it saves a little cost later when the much larger community must make the same transition to this technology in order to move out to sea. This choice would subsequently compel the use of architecture compatible with the PSP's modular concrete structural design.
The community structure must now also incorporate a 'bridge' manned 24 hours a day and the use of marine signaling devices and radio to conform with marine vessel regulations. A helipad will also need to be set-aside for emergency use -whether the community operates a helicopter itself or not. A community operated ferry service will become necessary, likely based on flat-top utility boats incorporating a removable ISO container passenger cabin allowing it to be alternately used for industrial activities. Or, if the community is making a cultural statement or supporting a steady traffic of non-residents, the ferry might take the form of something more sophisticated like the solar wingsail vessel akin to that currently deployed in Sydney Harbor.
Perhaps the key change in this phase in terms of resident's lifestyles may be the shift to a more independent source of energy if the structure is too far from shore to employ a submarine power cable. Initially, a lack of rooftop space will limit the potential for the community to deploy extensive solar and wind power. Now, however, the community MUST use this to the fullest. It still cannot deploy OTEC and while the use of propane or natural gas powered compact turbogenerators or fuel cell plants is likely for back-up, the local production of renewable energy will be key to the community economics. There is also a need for residents to now commute to shore by ferry, and while the community will still only be within 15 minutes of the shore, this will increase demand for commercial facilities in the community to meet convenience needs, a clinic for emergency first aid needs, and possibly day-care and early education needs.
NIMBYism would become an increasingly important issue as the community moves farther from shore because, in a bay location, it simultaneously becomes much more visible to the shore-based communities around it. If people don't like what they see when they look out their expensive waterfront home windows, the settlement's future could be in jeopardy. The physical appearance of the settlement now becomes critical not only in attracting residents but for the security of the whole community -a defense against the tendency of existing communities -especially in America- to resist and frustrate anything unconventional. If there is any remnant of 'make-shift' design or construction in the settlement architecture it will have to be eliminated.
Much focus has been put on the notion of total independence with eco-villages and marine colonies but this can be a mistake. If the new community is not sufficiently plugged into the social and economic ecology of the surrounding community it is at risk of being treated as an alien organism to be destroyed. The fledgling marine colony MUST be well plug-into the coastal communities around it or be subject to endless abuse by every politically-connected crank who fears the new and different. We've technically had the capability to build marine settlements for a century and the ability to do it on the open sea for at least have that time. Countless such projects have been proposed and attempted and all have failed. Why? I think the common mistake is that most have been focused on the premise of social isolation for reasons of fostering some counter-cultural movement rather than being built for strictly 'practical' reasons. This sort of isolationism is always resented -if not feared- by the dominant society. It's what gets you labeled as a 'cult' or a group of 'dangerous radicals.' The rights of the 'different' are rarely respected in the contemporary society. One must bear in mind that when living under the 'tyranny of democracy' alternatives not fully embraced by the social/cultural majority can only exist with its passive acquiescence. You don't make a world of 'flat-earthers' see reason by confrontation nor do you earn their respect by walling yourself up in their midst. These are both dead-ends -often literally. So the new marine colony must be engaged. Must cultivate an importance to the coastal communities such that its removal becomes a real loss or inconvenience for them. Only then can its rights to exist be respected and the base instincts of bureaucrats, politicians, and cranks be curbed.
Luckily, today the marine settlement has many very practical and rational reasons for its existence. Things which would make obvious sense to even the largely primitive society still living on the shores of western nations. In this age of Global Warming the only safe coastal real estate is that which is floating on structures too robust for Mother Nature to kick around like an empty can in the street. Coastal real estate remains the most expensive real estate of all but it's no longer a safe investment. Increasingly, people are forced to see their waterfront homes as ultimately disposable property and governments are having a progressively harder time rationalizing the escalating costs of coastal restoration they've long been giving upper-class waterfront communities.
Marine settlements offer a high degree of security -more so than the traditional gated communities- without the need for fences and walls. Often the waterfront property the wealthy desire cannot provide the security and privacy they also desire. Here they get the best of both worlds -along with the bonus of waterway transportation that is largely free of the hassles and hazards of highway travel.
Their concentration of shops and other services within walking distance of homes offers convenience, savings, and benefit to health -features that will just keep getting more important as gasoline prices increase and the population ages.
The marine settlement can offer a high degree of luxury. Though space may seem to be at a premium, many of the building systems offer generous amounts of loft-style unit space which can be freely combined to create individual homes of any size and with any style of interior decor desired. Add to this combination of access to the sea by marina, private outdoor terraces, access to a large central community pleasure garden, and casual walking access to restaurants and cafes and one has an exceptional degree of luxury in the habitat -even when using structures like the adapted container type.
With such attractions the marine colony becomes, quite simply, a better place to live. Its potential environmental benefits down the road are just bonuses for those sophisticated enough to grasp them. Certainly, one wants the marine settlement to cultivate a new more rational culture but it's not going to do that overnight and it can't do it through confrontation with the existing culture when it doesn't yet have the logistical capability for true political autonomy. instead, it does it simply by offering simple alternatives whose superiority become obvious when demonstrated. The Aquarius resident doesn't have to debate or argue the virtues of marine living. His quality of life -and maybe his bank account too- will clearly prove the point.
Platform Transition Phase Edit
In this phase the marine settlement must deal with the changes that will begin its evolution to a full scale marine colony and to do this it faces its most intensive reconstruction and adaptation yet in order to accommodate the addition of new and much larger scale Pneumatically Stabilized Platform components that can withstand the conditions of the open sea. This will result not only in a change of float structure technology but also a change in architecture and the basic physical organization of the settlement. The structural and architectural choices made during the previous phases will strongly effect how easy this transition is. If the community has not already incorporated its own on-site platform fabrication capability, it will most definitely need it now.
While the transition to a PSP based structure is ultimately necessary for open-sea conditions, the primary justifications for its use in this phase are support of much larger top-loads to allow for a larger settlement, the servicing of full-scale ships, and the ability to move to locations where wave energy can be most effectively exploited. Topping out at a population of 5000-10,000 people, the community still isn't large enough in population to support conventional commercial air transit or afford the construction of a large airport or large container terminal of its own and so it still faces that limitation of not being able to logistically support open-sea living. However, it may be able to move far enough away from shore -relying on fast-ferry links- to exploit at least a degree of autonomy from the state-level coastal governments and to enjoy some independent international shipping. And it may have the necessary economic power to begin exploring alternative transportation technologies -such as ekranoplanes, airships, open sea 'fast ships', and marine railway systems- that will fast-track its ultimate move to the equator.
Up until this point the fledgling colony has enjoyed a lot of freedom in its potential architecture but here the nature of the PSP, the need to accommodate much larger community size, and the ultimate architectural style emerging in the full scale Aquarius will reduce the choice of surface structural technology to just one; a heavy modular component reinforced concrete deck system. Other light surface structures are also usable but these would be temporary because they are inconsistent with the architecture the colony must employ to achieve its full scale and maximize, by height, its efficiency of space use.
A Pneumatically Stabilized Platform consists of an array of modular float units composed of a set of cylindrical open-bottom cells with reserve flotation in the interstitial spaces between the cylinders. A PSP works by using a series of ducts between the float cells to transfer the energy of advancing wave fronts as air pressure into adjacent cells in order to dampen the waves with their own energy. Small turbines in the ducts extract electric power from the wave energy -not a lot in the calmer waters of the equator the colony will ultimately move to but in near-shore areas with a lot of steady wave activity most, if not all, the colony's power could be produced by this, freeing up a larger percentage of top-surface area previously required for solar power. Structurally, the PSP is very similar to a static ferro-cement float module in that it is most likely made of concrete and is likewise relying on an alloy connecting frame at its edge with the modules bolting together, winched into place with a cable system. But the PSP is much larger, much higher from the water surface, and creates a tall default 'utility deck' directly above the PSP cells. This is where the ductwork between cells may be built, where the turbines are mounted, and where large electric powered 'azimpod' azimuth thruster units used for station-keeping will be mounted within select cell wells. It's also likely that this is where much of the colony's utilities infrastructure, energy and commodity storage, ISO container storage, later power systems like OTEC, fresh water generators, waste processing, and a lot of the colony industrial activity would all likely go.
The height of the PSP is the chief complication in integration with older platforms and only those structures already based on some form of concrete construction will likely be able to make a direct transition. Having shifted to free-floating deep-bay conditions earlier and likely already transitioned to static float platforms of some greater height, the integration of PSP modules at the perimeter of the colony platform will be fairly straightforward. One feature of the PSP is that its wave attenuation is so efficient that it completely absorbs all waves of shorter wavelength than its cross-section width. So once a structure reaches a certain area the inner-most portions of the platform have no need for the active wave suppression and so can use static float structure instead. Thus the earlier structure of the colony can potentially be left in place as is, surrounded by the new PSP modules, until they must be replaced to accommodate larger loads. Other types of structures will have to employ a side-by-side transition where the new platform is built adjacent to the older one and incrementally obsolesced as the new platform is incrementally built. With a few structures -such as the capsule float supported space frame platforms- they will not even be able to be physically connected except by surface walkways. Clearly, the concrete based structures will have an easier time of it here and the modular ferro-cement platform type the easiest of all -which is why I have personally tended to favor it.
With the transition to the new platform technology the fledgling colony must now also begin the transition to the form of organization and architecture employed by the full scale colony. At very large scales the Chinese Mansion form, which may have been used for much of the previous development, can only support large populations by creating very large perimeter enclosure heights -thus leading to forms akin to the land based arcology. Structures of such very great perimeter heights cannot be achieved be on water (unless submerged) because the marine platform cannot remain stable when so top-heavy. As Marshal Savage realized with his own Aquarius design concepts, it is necessary that large structural heights be achieved in a centralized position with a proportional increase in perimeter area, thus necessitating a sloped mountain-like structural form. This requirement has led me to the conclusion that the most efficient form of surface structure for the full colony is a 'tectonic' one.
The term 'tectonic' is used here to imply that the structure is mimicking the forms of natural landscape, predominated by sloped mound-forms. There are two architectural styles one can use for this; the 'terrace' style and the 'hybrid organic' style.
The terraced tectonic structure appears roughly like a literal recreation of a topographic map, being composed of curved articulated terraces with the 'slope' of the structural profile determined by the distance between the edges of the levels. The best analogy for how this would look is the example of terraced farming in South America and Asia -a very elegant looking structure when employed with generous articulation in the perimeter curves of each terrace, some of which can be formed into concave shapes creating small enclosures like lagoons or courtyards within the perimeter of the terrace. Habitable space is located primarily inside the edges of these terraces, each upper terrace being the roof for the interior spaces below and the edge of the terraces -usually with some roof overhang- being enclosed in non-load-bearing walls of masonry block, textile blocks, panels of various materials, and glass window-walls. At this local scale this is exactly the same kind of surface structure used for the previous modular concrete platform, creating the same kind of generic loft space retrofit for function using the same kind of formed-in plug-in socket grid. However, the primary level heights may vary here from one to many stories, calling for the use of intermediate plug-in mezzanine structures to support floors in-between and in some cases additional terrace articulation. Obviously, for those seed settlements that have already employed this style of architecture, this will be an easy transition.
The hybrid organic style follows the approach outlined previously for integrating free-form organic architecture with the modular concrete float platform -an approach which, as was noted previously, really requires a structure of large scale to be effective. Because we currently lack a structural technology that can accommodate free-form organic design at very large scales, we are limited to using it as a light 'in-fill' structure over a more robust conventionally built structural core. The result is a core structure identical to the terrace style but which is enclosed on its surface by an organic style 'encrustation' which, by itself, never has to bear the loads of more than a few stories of structure. Residences and other functional space would be created just as with the free-form organic style of seed settlement, consisting of domed and spherical chambers within the organic encrustation that appear as though excavated out of a faux rock exterior landscape. Large internal spaces must similarly employ an encrustation approach, where the core structure is supporting a sometimes suspended encrustation to create organic style enclosures that defy the normal spans of organic style construction methods. Rather narrow tunnels between the surface organic matrix and interior organic matrix in large interior spaces would have to be created to hide the presence of the more Euclidean based underlying core structure but this would not be too difficult as long as primary structure level heights are fairly high. This underlying core structure would also be hosting most utilities infrastructure and so would likely still use the plug-in socket grid.
This hybrid organic strategy allows for continuation of architectural style for seed settlements originally based on this form of architecture but I still tend to see it as less efficient since it still retains that problem of requiring surgical demolition to support adaptation and squanders a lot of interstitial space for purposes of appearance. However, at the very large scale of the macrostructure this encrustation accounts for a rather tiny percentage of the overall structural composition. So it's less wasteful at this scale than it might have been in earlier structures.
Limited to a tectonic structural approach, the the colony is now compelled to assume macroforms compatible with this tectonic approach. What this basically means is that we now organize the overall shape of the colony as a kind of landscape form. The choice the colony makes at this stage will determine the general final form the colony assumes when it eventually reaches the equator. Though we are limited to these two basic styles of architecture at the local scale, at the macrostructure scale we do have a lot of freedom. We can potentially get away with any macroform shape desired -be it intended to mimic nature or present some kind of symbolism. But the colony must be self-mobile in order to make the eventual move to the equator and so its form must be relatively self-contained. It can't sprawl too much or portions of it will face too much stress under motion.
I envision several basic macroforms that colonists can choose from in this stage;
The mountain: This is the simplest of these forms and is much the same as the central island form envisioned by Marshal Savage. A simple radial shape of concentric terraces climbing up -and increasing in slope- to a tall peak structure at the top, perhaps marked with an integral top central tower. The form need not be perfectly circular or symmetrical and can incorporate bays and lagoons at its perimeter through the articulation of lower level terrace edges. The central interior core of the 'mountain' form may be open to create a very tall atrium space of cylindrical, conical, or domed shape -lit by light wells sunk around the summit of the 'mountain' and which serves as a commercial and service center for the community. Residence is either facing out to the sea and the terrace-top gardens or into courtyards, valleys, or lagoons created by the articulation of the terrace edge.
The lowest level in the structure is the widest and would be where the most frequent structural change in the colony takes place. It would be where ports for large scale shipping are built and where most industrial activity would take place while its terrace top would concentrate most farming, solar, and wind power facilities. Bays or lagoons to accommodate pleasure craft and recreational water access would also be created here. The PSP is very high out of the water (perhaps as much as 50 feet) and must function as a sea wall in the event of storms. This precludes the use of the perimeter edge for recreational water access as may have been done in earlier phases. To provide this bays and lagoons sheltered by the PSP are necessary. Though some people might like the elevated ocean view of the perimeter edge, those expecting close water access will have to create residences within these bays and lagoons.
With this form structural expansion of the colony is generally proportional throughout. The lowest level terraces will tend to be expanded first and upper terraces would extend farther out on top of them. the core atrium would be expanded by incremental disassembly of terrace decks inside, creating a progressively larger interior space.
The mountain form is also the logical form for colonies anticipating eventual deployment of a Space Elevator system, that orbital tether being logically located at the peak of the mountain form.
The caldera: This macroform is a direct evolution of the Chinese Mansion organization, predicated on the need for the structure to accommodate increasing perimeter structure height by use of a sloped form. In nature, a caldera is the crater or bowl shape created when a volcanic peak collapses. Here the colony is assuming a similar form, sloping up to a mountain-like perimeter rim peak then sloping down into a sheltered central valley space. The rim peak need not be uniform in height and can even take the form of a crescent shaped mountain wrapping around the valley and angled in the direction of prevailing winds. Like the mountain form the core of the caldera's rim peak can be opened into an atrium space, creating a vast interior avenue. As with the mountain form, perimeter level bays and lagoons must be created to provide public access to the water.
Expansion is similar to that of the mountain form but now must accommodate three zones of construction. The perimeter is expanded by addition, the inner valley is expanded by subtraction, and the core atrium avenue is expanded by both, its center shifting over time as the rim peak becomes progressively wider.
The advantages to this macroform are similar to those of the Chinese Mansion with the key one being the creation of a very large wind-sheltered space for a forest-scaled community park. However, because this structure must accommodate sloping of its perimeter structure it cannot provide the individual residence with access to both ocean and interior park views. It's either-or. Integration of structures like the Space Elevator become more complicated. Either a secondary mountain form must be created in the center of the caldera for it, or a portion of the rim peak is expanded into a primary peak, or a companion mountain is spawned from the side of the caldera to accommodate it.
The atoll: This form would be predicated on the community's desire for a large amount of commercial and residential space with direct access to the water. it is essentially the same in basic form as the caldera with the difference being that its central valley descends all the way to the water creating a large sheltered central bay. Most residence space would cluster to the edge of the bay and a host of marinas and artificial beaches created along its edge. There could be some competition here for using the space for commercial shipping as well, though that would most likely be isolated to mooring structures along the outer perimeter where most industrial activity would be concentrated. Much surface area for farming is sacrificed to this bay and would have to be made up for in a wider set of outer terraces.
A multi-bay form is also possible. Here several atolls would be clustered around a central mountain form and each dedicated to different uses. One might be for recreational water access, another for commercial shipping, another for mariculture, and perhaps another formed into a caldera rather than a bay for sheltered park space. This multi-bay form is also good for Space Elevator integration due to its centralized peak. Combining so many of the benefits of all the forms and having such a pleasingly variegated shape, this may be a preferred option.
The atoll form is also the default form for any colony begun using the Reef Colony mode of architecture. This form is the natural consequence of the expansion of that type of settlement, the central bay being home to its vast artificial reef habitat and the underwater dwellings clustered within it.
The prow: This form is a variation on the mountain form which would be chosen by communities considering evolution into a mobile arcoliner rather than the equatorially stationed marine colony. it is essentially the same as the mountain except that it has an overall oval shape where the mountain peak -with a commercial atrium core- may be shifted toward one end of the oval (fore) and the other end (aft) formed into an oval caldera valley or atoll lagoon. An arcoliner uses a slightly different platform and perimeter structure compared to other colony types but these features need not be incorporated until the community is ready to take on nomadic existence. Later, the community still has the option to return to a stationary lifestyle by evolution into one of the other forms -such is the flexibility afforded by the use of a modular component superstructure.
The prow form also has much going for it as the seed structure for the later development of a multi-bay atoll macroform. This could be created by simply spawning more radial extensions from fore end of the structure like petals on a flower until the structure evolved into that multi-bay form.
Despite all these variations of macroform the basic organization of function on the colony will tend to be the same because they all implement habitable space in much the same way using the same type of core structure. This organization will take the form of several 'zones' of structure. Let's examine each of these in turn;
Sea Level: this is the level of the 'utility deck' as noted previously, the level of the PSP platform itself. This level has the largest area of all levels and will be subject to the highest pace of change as it is where expansion of the colony is begun, where most industrial activity takes place, and where the colony must accommodate its evolving transportation needs. This rapid pace of change means this zone will have the most difficulty accommodating the use of the hybrid organic design, especially where its use conflicts with conventional transportation and industrial systems.
There are two kinds of waterfront at the Sea Level; an outer waterfront which is dominated by industry and commercial shipping and may have a lot of radial extensions for different activities and an inner waterfront which is created in sheltered lagoons or bays either formed along the perimeter of the Sea Level or, in the case of the atoll macroform, within the center of the colony and which is dominated by residence and recreational uses.
The Sea Level will see the most amount of sprawl with extensions created for a vast assortment of purposes such as ship mooring, aircraft landing decks, mariculture, algaeculture, farming, and solar power. As it grows in average area it defines the proportional growth of the rest of the colony, in the form of incremental expansions of the upper decks out over this Sea Level. As the largest area level the Sea Level also has the largest interior area of any of the colony levels and thus will host a great deal of storage space as well as most of the utilities infrastructure, energy, and waste management systems.
Habitat Zone: this is the region at the perimeter edge of all the levels in the colony and it is where most residence would be concentrated. With the terrace style of design the habitat zone has a stepped level appearance articulated by variations in the overall curve of the level edge. With the hybrid organic style of design the edges of levels are completely hidden under an organic encrustation which mimics natural rock and landscape features and within which residences are formed as though excavated in place.
Most residence space will be above the Sea Level with potentially large areas of garden space between them and the view of the sea. With the caldera macroform this zone also has an inner facing side which faces the large valley-like area of the garden filled caldera center. Within the inner waterfront area of the Sea Level residence has the option of extending right down to the water level by virtue of a series of static float extensions of the primary PSP structure which slopes the structure down to the water level and can support artificial beach decks. These waterfront homes would tend to be very vertically oriented by virtue of the desire to provide as many homes with water access as possible.
The outer waterfront habitat zone of the Sea Level would also have the option to host some residences in underutilized areas of the level perimeter. These would consist of low large area residence spaces at the very edge of the utility deck or directly on top of it, high (50'+) above the water level. There would be no water access but an uninterrupted view of the horizon and the shipping passing by. Though these residences would be on the utility deck with a lot of industrial activity going within the enclosed deck space behind them, they may offer a rather quiet atmosphere and be preferred by people with a need for a lot of in-home work space for art, craft, and light industrial activity.
Near the peaks of the macroforms the habitat zone features rather steep slopes with little to no space for the large area public garden terraces common to the rest of the structure. Here residences would have an aspect akin to the housing in a classic arcology, units open on two sides, one facing the outside with small private terrace space and the other facing the central atriums which make up the public core.
Public Core: this zone is created by the large interior atriums which cut through the macroform to create either a vast central atrium or canyon-like interior avenues lit by a combination of skylights, sun tubes, and heliostat powered illumination. The aspect of this space would be like a shopping mall and so the zone would concentrate the majority of commercial activity as well as many recreational facilities and community service facilities. Again, depending on the choice of design style, the public core will either be created within an organic encrustation attached to the primary deck structure or will be retrofit -much like contemporary shopping mall architecture. While the exterior organic encrustation may focus more on mimicry of natural forms, within the public core it would tend toward the more fanciful, assuming more abstract or zoomorphic shapes much like those of the interiors of individual organic style residences but expressed over a very large interior volume.
Lower larger area levels of the colony may feature secondary internal public centers and interior avenues directly behind the perimeter residences. These would tend to feature public service and recreational facilities shared by local 'neighborhoods' among the perimeter residences, seeking to create a bit quieter atmosphere than the busy primary public core and may be popular as a location for schools and daycare centers.
In addition to housing a lot of commercial and recreational facilities, the public core is also likely to house a lot of public services including health care facilities, schools, municipal services, and perhaps even some religious facilities. However, the colony's much more efficient use of space means that many facilities of this kind can be minimized in scale by off-loading space to personal residences. For instance, hospitals would not need rooms for more than the most intensive care because with hospital facilities only a few minutes by PRT from any individual residence less critical patients could stay in their own homes. Likewise, nursing homes would be largely obsolete for the same reasons. School facilities can be kept more efficient by making teachers and their equipment mobile/deployable rather than having students rotate among specialized classrooms as though they were workstations in a factory. Higher education needs little specialized facilities as tele-education becomes very effective in such a dense community with such potentially very high communications bandwidth, though some subjects would still require access to specialized facilities such as workshops and labs. Certainly, there's little logic to the use of specialized dormitories to house students in this environment.
Infrastructure Zone: this zone is comprised of the interior space between the perimeter zone and the public core and is the primary location of the infrastructure systems of the colony such as telecom, power, water, cold sea water air conditioning, and waste systems. However, a lot of other facilities will find their place here as well, thanks to the potentially vast internal area offered. A combined PRT (personal rapid transit) and PPT (personal packet transit) system will be implemented in this space, using back side access to individual residences to provide door-to-door transit throughout the colony. This system would also be used to support industrial activity, maintenance robots, and possibly even rapid deployment defense systems. A key element of the PPT system will be an automated warehousing system which serves both commercial activities as well as personal storage and community tool and media libraries.
The PRT/PPT system is essentially akin to an elevator which can travel both horizontally and vertically, providing fully automated transportation throughout the colony. It can use a variety of special purpose 'cabs' with functions ranging from simple passenger carriers with bench seating and touch-screen displays to miniature EMS units or other emergency service vehicles, utility and maintenance vehicles, carriers for robots, self-mobile workshops, self-mobile examination rooms (for door-to-door doctor's visits), self-mobile shops, or simple self-mobile pallets used to transport bulky objects or various materials containers. It's PPT functions are facilitated by the use of special cabs designed to interface to a PPT port installed in homes and businesses which supports the automated transport of several sizes of RFID tagged packet containers ranging from reusable plastic envelopes to boxes up to the size of a full PRT passenger cab used like a walk-in closet. On the utility deck the PRT/PPT system uses an expanded guideway allowing it extra space to transport full scale ISO marine containers carried on special self-mobile pallets. At the time of the platform transition phase the colony is not likely to be large enough for deployment of this PRT/PPT system to be practical. It will most likely be implemented when the community reaches the equator and expands to full colony scale.
The infrastructure zone will also host various emergency support structures such as emergency evacuation staircases and walkways, civil defense stations, fire control stations, storage of storm shutter panels, and other emergency supply and equipment storage.
Within the upper levels the zone will also be required to host a series of water storage tanks composed of a series of connected chambers which are used to provide hydrostatic pressure for the colony's water supply. The colony's primary potable water storage would, in fact, be on or under the PSP deck, possibly taking the form of a series of bladder tanks located under the center of the platform. (where wave action cannot reach)
Garden Zone: this zone is comprised primarily of the top surface of the colony structure and is used for the creation of community parkland as well as agriculture. It may also include some container gardens within the public core zone. Most intensive farming would be performed atop the Sea Level and its next adjacent level and would be considered a largely industrial activity. The rest of the garden space would be for public recreation but also has a very important functional purpose. At the equator solar insulation and humidity are exceptionally high. The concrete structures of the colony thus require the use of cold seawater air conditioning as a public utility. The use of plant cover throughout the colony will greatly reduce thermal gain in the structure while making the outdoor climate more tolerable and providing a mechanism for pre-processing graywater waste. All farming and gardening would rely on hydroponics using mariculture-sourced nutrient both for water efficiency reasons and because the growing mediums used for these would tend to be based on inert man-made materials.
Again, the differences between the terrace and hybrid organic styles of design present some differences in the way the garden zone is crafted. With an organic encrustation crafted to mimic natural landscape, the garden zone is likely to see a very varied artificial landscape interspersed with a lot of artificial rocks, zoomorphic structures, and sculptures of purely decorative purpose -though they may feature some functional features hidden within them such as lounges or PRT terminals. The garden areas would consist of series of highly variable shallow basins for loose granular growing medium divided by raised walkways and interspersed with pools and 'flow form' paths for flowing streams. With the terrace style of design the top decks of each level are more uniformly flat, thus calling for a more overall cultivation matrix composed of growing medium over a matrix of tiles that plug into the socket grid and host drainage, feed, and large plant anchorage -much like the 'green roof' systems now being employed atop many office buildings. There would be a greater use of raised bed containers as well for special planting arrangements and to host large trees. The former style would tend to favor a denser more jungle-like park environment with a higher maintenance overhead while the latter would tend to favor lower density gardening with generous field spaces and tight copses of trees as well as more formal European style garden beds. Of course, these approaches to gardening aren't mutually exclusive. Even if the colony does not employ the hybrid organic style for the rest of its habitat, it can certainly employ it in the garden zone, though the converse -a terrace garden with organic habitat- would not work as well.
Much has been discussed in the past concerning the use of pools and streams as skylights for interior spaces and this is most certainly a possibility, though the engineering of particularly large skylight pools is an open issue.
For the public core the gardening would be almost exclusively container based but has the interesting option of large aquariums as an alternative to plants. Given the potentially large area of some of the public core atriums this could be quite large and elaborate. a recent project in Germany features an indoor aquarium in the form of a column many stories tall which patrons can even take an elevator ride through. It takes little imagination to envision even more ambitious aquarium projects. Similarly, the sheltered recreational bays of the inner waterfront habitat zone have the option of cultivating artificial reef systems as a form of underwater gardening deriving from the colony's mariculture industry. Large aquariums as a public recreational venue are, of course, a virtual no-brainer for a marine colony but would mostly be located within the public zone or in special areas of the Sea Level.
Command and Control: on a ship the 'bridge' is usually composed of a single location within the vessel but with Aquarius we are talking about a series of command and control facilities specialized for different areas of responsibility which would be located in different locations about the colony, thus comprising a 'zone' of the structure. In TMP Marshal Savage envisioned the vast diversity of support sub-systems in Aquarius as requiring the creation of a massive central control supercomputer which might ultimately be developed into an artificial intelligence. But this sort of technology is actually quite unnecessary. Rather than a single computer being the centralized brain of Aquarius, the more likely approach is to employ a network with a more distributed intelligence. Thus I envision the heart of the command and control infrastructure of Aquarius as a simple IP network which plays host to a series of systems spread throughout the colony and interfaced using small embedded computers known as 'web controllers.' These devices host a miniature web server which functions as a virtual control panel which can be accessed from anywhere within the network and which can be controlled collectively using computer programs known as 'sequencers' which create higher-level control interfaces as well as managing groups of the web controllers autonomously. Thus the entire command and control system of Aquarius can be managed with little more than a hypertext-like matrix of control interfaces all accessed by a web browser. This may sound familiar to some readers. It is exactly the same technology I proposed as the basis of the Modular Unmanned Orbital Laboratory and it is likely that much of this technology will have already been implemented by the time the colony reaches the platform transition phase -since a lot of this is already available off-the-shelf.
While this technology does afford the option to control the full diversity of electromechanical and electronic systems on Aquarius from just about anywhere in the colony, there is still a need for discrete centers of operation to allow for the continual monitoring of certain activities and to organize response during emergency. Most of the infrastructure of Aquarius will be automated but marine and OSHA regulations will still require continuous human monitoring for many things. Thus the command and control zone will need to provide a series of operations centers for different spectrums of activity.
The largest of these would be the main operations center -a bridge of sorts- which would be located high in the colony's structure to afford broad viewing radius and appropriate nearby mounting of tracking and doppler radar and marine communications systems. This operations center would include workstations for station-keeping, marine and air traffic monitoring, control, and communication (later on the full scale colony would designate dedicated facilities for air and marine traffic control), weather monitoring, environmental management (control of active systems for thermal management in response to weather), and a situation center for emergency management.
An engineering center -along with several satellite control and monitoring stations- would monitor structural integrity, utilities and infrastructure systems including power plants, the station-keeping thrusters, underwater structures, the PRT/PPT system, and similar systems. The PPT's warehouse would be its own engineering facility, as wood the automated ISO container terminal located on the utility deck. Additional maintenance centers would be dispersed among the structure to provide storage and work facilities local to regions of the structure. Some would be specialized to garden zone maintenance activities, whereas the others would tend to be more generic to all infrastructure maintenance. The engineering center may also find itself managing fleets of robots performing underwater maintenance operations, cleaning activities, garden maintenance, and infrastructure maintenance through special automated maintenance ports integral to the PPT and PRT system.
A telecommunications center would monitor the colony's networks and telecommunications links and maintain a battery of computers used for public network services such as the conventional Internet Service Provider functions, only media services, and possibly more sophisticated activities such as the colony's own electronic financial market systems.
Numerous emergency response stations would be dispersed throughout the colony. These would provide mustering stations and equipment storage for fire control, civil defense, environmental, civil, and medical emergency response. Owing to its smaller population and limited man-power, the EMS personnel of Aquarius would have to be a much more multidisciplinary. much more sophisticated, and much less hierarchical team than is typical in most communities. They would be trained to take on the simultaneous roles of police, medical emergency, firefighting, rescue, and civil defense. This is likely to lead to a very different mind-set than is typical of these individual vocations.
Along with these emergency response stations, the colony may also have to begin addressing the need for detention centers in anticipation of losing the ability to simply unload its criminals on a parent nation's criminal justice system. How the colony society defines and addresses the issues of criminal behavior is beyond the scope of this discussion, but I envision some unconventional approaches due to the effective unsustainability -economically as well as in terms of space and resources- of conventional western practices of incarceration. The marine colony simply does not have the physical space and resources to squander on the cultivation and warehousing of a vast population of criminal underclass as is so common in most western countries. It is thus compelled to be more rational about what truly warrants incarceration and must regard crime more like a disease, engaging in very pro-active social intervention. It's always more efficient to prevent or preclude the emergence of criminal behavior than to deal with it after the fact -though the logic of this seems to have eluded most societies for centuries.
Migration Phase Edit
In this phase the now robust and largely independent marine colony would begin its migration to the Equator, asserting its autonomy from its parent nation and coastal communities -a move much more radical than the physical change in location and likely to require much planning and negotiation both within the colony and without. There are many incentives for this move in addition to the long-term goals of TMP. Two of the most powerful would be the exploitation of political autonomy to establish a tax haven and an independent financial market. If shrewdly cultivated in concert with its industries and, in particular, its renewable energy technologies, these would allow the colony to quickly become one of the most economically powerful communities in the world and go a long way to establishing the economic infrastructure needed for the rest of TMP. But this is also a tricky strategy, many island communities having attempted to exploit tax haven status but failing due to their lack of transportation and communications infrastructure. Again, this is a case where the popular notion of isolationism and absolute self-sufficiency work against the survival of the colony. It can only exploit the power of its political autonomy by being well plugged-into the rest of the world. Otherwise, it is powerless.
A critical factor in the ability to make this move will be the population scale and the types of transportation its population can support -the colony now home to perhaps 25,000 residents or more within this phase. However, there is a complication here that the colony would still be unable to host large commercial air transportation -even if its population is beginning to reach a stage where it can consider building airstrips for this- because of the fact that the colony would often be in motion and would not be large enough to host an airliner scale airstrip built into it. (indeed, such an airstrip will be larger in surface area than the colony itself at this phase) However, it could support air transport for smaller aircraft, though these will generally not have the necessary flight range as the colony moves beyond the 200 nautical mile limit of the Exclusive Economic Zone of its parent nation. Indeed, very few forms of air transport can handle such ranges and provide STOL or VTOL capability. The only options in this present day are airships and tilt rotor aircraft like the Osprey -and both are not fully developed for this application, there still being no commercial Osprey and no VTOL airships in production. Similarly, sea plane technology has been so long neglected by the aerospace industry that we have lost ALL the marine aircraft capability the civilization had prior to WWII! The only option for this capability today is a single Ekranoplane -the Orlyonok made by the Volga Ship Yards- and it too is not in regular production. It is possible that development of companies producing such vehicles on the marine colony itself may be a prerequisite for this phase, though it would seem more likely that the colony would rely on the use of a variety of fast-ships and slow but more environmentally sustainable solar wingsail vessels for most passenger transit and conventional shipping for most everything else. This means the residents of the colony must accept a situation where they will lose the very easy access to coastal communities and now must rely exclusively on the colony itself for employment and services. However, since we are talking about a phase which may be reached some 20 years or more after the founding of the seed settlement these transportation issues may be much easier to overcome.
It is also in the beginning of this phase when the colony must definitively decide on the choice between a stationary Equatorial colony and the nomadic lifestyle of the arcoliner. It is likely that the choice was made over the previous stage as part of the community's decision on which of the several possible macroforms it would choose to pursue but there is still the freedom to change this in this stage. (the arcoliner macroform described earlier is still a viable 'seed' form for other stationary colony types) If the community is split on this choice, there is a distinct possibility here of the community itself splitting to pursue both these lifestyle options, though this split would tend to delay deployment of both.
if the colony chooses the stationary lifestyle its preparations would include the minimization of perimeter structural sprawl -unifying its structural extensions into an expanded Sea Level- and the development of facilities with a much higher degree of self-sufficiency. There may be need for deployment of a new extensible long distance telecommunications infrastructure, perhaps based on the use of relay aerostats as a lower-latency higher-bandwidth, lower-cost alternative to satellites. Deployment of OTEC plants would be prepared, if they haven't already been deployed, but may not find use for some time. Much of the colony's ISO container storage capacity would temporarily be converted to power storage, the colony stockpiling power during stationary stages for later use during mobile stages. This energy would be stored in special ISO containers designed to function as giant batteries, but based on the use of stored hydrogen, recyclable liquid borohydride, or vanadium redox solution. These containers would later be used to export the colony's energy output to other countries. Optionally, the colony may deploy some OTECs on ships, shuttling between the colony and the Equator to provide it with a steady supply of power and then being installed into the colony when it arrives at its destination.
The colony's migration to the equator would be a very slow process -perhaps not more than a kilometer a day in movement based on the use of its existing station-keeping thrusters and with stationary phases of as much as a month for power stockpiling. However, once in waters that can support OTEC use the colony can use the vectoring of OTEC discharge as a source of continuous thrust while continually collecting power.
If adopting the nomadic lifestyle of the arcoliner, the colony would be compelled to assume the arcoliner macroform described previously and would have to prepare for this new mode of use with numerous structural changes. The arcoliner must have a smooth uniform platform shape and this would require the internalization of many Sea Level based structures. A special aluminum skirt sea wall would be constructed along the Sea Level perimeter, streamlining the platform's edge. Its central float cells would be closed underneath to reduce net drag. Many more azimuth thruster units would be installed along the perimeter platform cells and a much enhanced power system would be installed with most of the ISO container capacity of the colony permanently converted for use of container power storage modules. The colony may install its own deployable OTEC plant but the high power needs of the mobile colony and its frequent travel outside of zones suited to OTEC use would mean the colony would most likely support its energy needs through a fleet of OTEC ships or stationary OTEC bases along the Equator which produce and shuttle power as container battery modules shipped to wherever the colony may be located.
The arcoliner would be a very slow moving vessel -perhaps having a top speed of 5mph- and its motion would be virtually imperceptible to its inhabitants. But this is speed enough to afford it the ability to pursue a seasonal migration, chasing the sun, as it were, about the globe and remaining briefly in different coastal locations, perhaps cycling decades between different countries and coastal cities. The arrival and temporary stay of this futuristic mobile city could be the subject of much popular attention and the vessel could be greeted with a festival-like reception and see hoards of visitors at each destination. Cities might compete for its visits, much like the Olympic games.
Due to the concessions in structural design for its mobility, the arcoliner would have a very different logistical situation compared to the stationary colony. It would not be able to be as self-sufficient as its stationary cousin. It would not be able to deploy marine cable or aerostat based telecommunications links and so would have to settle for satellite telecom with is limited bandwidth and latency issues. It would be unable to deploy airstrips for intercontinental fixed wing aircraft and so would have to rely entirely on the few VTOL capable systems of the kind -and as noted those are very few. (readers may be aware that some condoliners such as the Freedomship have planned for the use of top-deck airstrips but without the capability to support intercontinental aircraft the point to this is moot -and few residents would appreciate the noise and hazard of large planes landing on their roofs) Ship access would be reduced as the arcoliner could only support much fewer and much more specialized service vessels -and these only when it is stationary. All this would hamper its industrial activity with many industries -such as mariculture- impossible to implement, thus calling for a much heavier focus on commercial enterprise and tourism. Still, the lure of a nomadic life and the status of the arcoliner as a kind of global community celebrity would be compelling to many.
There is also a third migration option which would become available if the colony has managed to achieve the necessary industrial capability, technological sophistication, and is seeing a very rapid pace of population grwoth; the Linear City migration. It is possible for the colony to literally grow its way to the Equator and ultimately around the world by growing into a connected community structure linked by a high bandwidth transit core. There's a key advantage to this approach in that it effectively overcomes the logistical problem of transportation across the vast intercontinental distances to the Equator -and does it in a way that is most efficient in the use and communication of renewable energy and most valuable to meeting the transportation needs for all future marine colony development. it also demands little change in the lifestyle the residents may have cultivated in their coastal location. However, it has the chief disadvantage of being a very slow process, taking many additional decades for the community to ultimately reach its goal of the Equator. In fact, the colony would now take on the new goal of not simply reaching the Equator but bridging continents across the Equator, creating transportation, communication, and renewable power links between them. This strategy would be most practical where the colony has been founded in a region that is already relatively close to the Equator, free from the most severe marine conditions, relatively close to regions suited to OTEC deployment, and near a coastal urban center that would be a logical destination on a projected intercontinental Equatorial transit path.
Unlike land based Linear City arcologies, the need to provide unobstructed transit for surface shipping would preclude a fully continuous structure on the marine surface. So what would be created instead is a chain of colony islands linked together by an underwater transit conduit; a large segmented structure a few kilometers long for each leg between surface islands and kept at neutral buoyancy by integral cellular float chambers 20-40 meters below the water surface. The transit conduit would contain a cluster of tunnels which would serve a variety of functions. Some would be used as local transit routes for PRT/PPT lines, used primarily for local travel within a couple dozen kilometers. Others would host mag-lev rail lines capable of airliner transit speeds and would be used for long distance travel. One would be used as a telecommunication conduit, another would host a superconducting HVDC power conduit. Another might serve as an aqueduct for surplus fresh water generated by OTEC use. And another might be used as a liquid hydrogen pipeline. The transit conduit would be made primarily of reinforced concrete with flexible alloy couplers allowing the conduit segments some limited space for drift. Small electric station-keeping thrusters on the segments would help keep them in position and near shore anchor lines would be used. In locations with steady currents the segments may also play host to large superconducting induction loops used to extract electric power from the steady fluid motion.
Each island on this chain would have the option to be a complete and largely independent marine colony and could specialize in style of architecture, spectrum of industry or business, and local culture. Some may be dedicated entirely to industrial activity or perhaps specialized for recreation in the manner of large theme parks. They could be much smaller than the large Aquarius colony, each like an individual town or village of a few thousand people, but at points where the transit conduit must branch or near their coast destination points they would tend to grow quite large. As the Linear City reaches into regions suitable to OTEC use, each colony would deploy one of its own, sending its surplus power back to the shore in the form of electric power or hydrogen and possibly contributing a supply of fresh water as well, all of which the coastal communities would be paying for. Across the full length of this collective Linear City this is potentially enough surplus energy to meet the needs of all the nations of the world, making the colony the primary source of renewable energy for the civilization.
Early development of this Linear City would be a very slow process due to the high cost of constructing each transit conduit leg and the great distances involved. Hundreds of colony nodes might be built along the way to the Equator. This may require that each new node of the city be initially adjacent to existing ones and moved to its later location as its transit conduit link is completed. But with each new colony node on the line the potential revenue the community could divert to this construction work would increase exponentially, making the expansion quicker every year.
This is definitely the most speculative of approaches but, given that the migration phase could come some decades after founding the seed settlement, the technology available at the time may make this as attractive and practical a strategy as the others and would fast-track a phase of marine development that would otherwise come long after the initial Equatorial settlement.
Full Equatorial Colony Edit
This final phase of development is actually the beginning of the colony's life as a full independent marine colony. Having arrived at the Equator, the stationary marine colony (the arcoliner will only see this stage if it later decides to become stationary) would be free to continue it previous patterns of growth but now with the benefits -and complications- of full political autonomy and the ability to fully deploy OTEC not only for its domestic power needs but as a means to generate power and export products for the world. Its population may ultimately reach or exceed 100,000.
The first priorities upon arrival at the Equator are the deployment of OTEC plants and new intercontinental transportation facilities. The population of the colony may now be large enough to support the deployment of a full commercial airport hosting commercial airliners with intercontinental range. This facility would most likely be built as a separate platform due to its noise and pollution, the platform doubling as a container storage facility and perhaps incorporating a shipping terminal as well. Airliners are not the most efficient or environmentally responsible form of transportation and their facilities cost is extreme, especially when a commercial scale airstrip could require as much surface area as the whole newly arrived Aquarius colony. But for large volume air transit over intercontinental distances it is likely to be the only available technology for some time unless the colony -and the Foundation- itself pursues alternatives, the global aerospace industry quite stagnant today and likely to remain so for some time to come if left to its own devises.
Airships, as Marshal Savage envisioned, and ekranoplanes currently offer the only potentially more sustainable alternative forms of large volume intercontinental air transit due to their greater energy efficiency, lack of vapor-generating jet engines, and (in the case of airships) the option to deploy hybrid electric power systems and use solar power. There is no question that airships and ekranoplanes cannot perform in the same way as fixed wing airliners -this often being used as an excuse by the aerospace industry to ignore the technologies- but that is irrelevant considering their logistical factors in the context of marine development -factors the existing aircraft simply cannot address. What other technology beside airships can offer intercontinental range and VTOL capability with zero fuel overhead? When you can do that -and do it at twice to three times the speed of surface ships-, does it really matter if you can't travel at 400mph? And what other technology but ekranoplanes will let you build aircraft with the capacity of ships that can do 400mph, potentially run on hydrogen, and operate at a tiny fraction of the energy overhead per ton of an airliner? Does it really matter if it can't fly higher than 20 meters off the water? But the Magnus Effect airships described by Savage are based on a now obsolete technology. The likely model for airships developed by/for Aquarius would be the LTAS line of solar hybrid VTOL airships, though the LTAS company itself remains in a moribund state at present. And there is only one commercial scale ekranoplane available in the world. Much work would be required to develop these technologies into viable transportation systems.
Were the colony able to deploy these it would see a significant savings in the necessary facilities needed to support them. VTOL airships would need only simple landing pads at the Sea Level of the colony and ekranoplanes would need only some specialized docking slips and deployable hangar/drydock structures which could also be deployed at the Sea Level perimeter.
The colony would also have the option to deploy MagLev rail transit conduits as described for the Linear City option -assuming it hadn't previously- but this strategy would initially only be useful for the linking of other Equatorial colonies at first, being added to later colonies as they move to join Aquarius and create a larger marine community. With no connection to an existing coastal urban center, the economics of this transit system would be much tougher and its development much slower, since colonies would tend to have much more to export to the land than they would have to send to each other. So it is likely that this would be a much later development, perhaps conducted by a coalition of marine colonies with the intent of creating a Linear City network to get their goods to the land with higher efficiency.
In this phase the colony also has the freedom to begin the pursuit of space in earnest through the development of its own space center. The form of this space center would depend on the type of technology deployed but would tend to take on several likely forms; a simple industrial facility on the colony Sea Level geared to the fabrication and deployment of in-water-launched vehicles, a separate platform with its own smaller operational center macrostructure and an array of launch pads and companion assembly structures used for deployment of above-water-launched rockets, a MagLev launch system consisting of an long initial track followed by laser guided self-aligning chains of mass driver loops on pylon buoy structures, and then there's the deployment of a Space Elevator system using the colony structural peak as an anchor point.
The basic architecture of Aquarius in this final phase would have been established in the platform transition phase but here, with the colony in its intended home, it can be expressed to its maximum in terms of scale and elaborateness. The colony also has much more freedom of structural sprawl than ever before and can deploy large specialized extensions of the Sea Level to engage in industry as much larger scales than before. A key type of industry now would be mariculture which would be pursued to the scale of a global export industry calling for structures much larger and more elaborate than before and making the most of the discharge of OTEC plants. With the use of PSPs the colony has no need for a breakwater ring as described by Marshal Savage to protect its structures. But it may choose to deploy very large ring and geometric shaped enclosures specifically for mass mariculture use. Thus we can easily imagine the macroform of Aquarius becoming quite intricate as it grows, its gardens cultivated into quite robust forests and jungles, its Sea Level sprawling in all directions with a great variety of structural shapes; large clusters of rings, radiating branches for ship quays or spoon-like landing pads for airships, and arc-shaped extensions covered in farms crops or arrays of articulated mirrors powering solar furnaces.
Over time, however, Aquarius could see several architectural transformations and spawn new colonies with very different architectural approaches as a result of the technological achievements of its now largely independent industrial infrastructure. High priority would be placed on the development of structural materials that can be produced from raw materials sourced at sea and this could result in the development of that Sea Foam material I eluded to earlier, inspiring a new era of large scale fully organic design as a result. But perhaps the most radical architectural transformation possible for Aquarius overtime would come with the introduction of nanotechnology and the diamondoid materials it would offer. These could ultimately replace all forms of concrete and allow for super-strong and extremely light structure with fully organic design. Taller structures than ever before would become possible and new life support technology for surface gardening would become possible. The macroform could become indistinguishable from a natural island even at the human scale, or could evolve into fanciful forms impossible to realize with current materials. Should NanoFoam ultimately be developed (the intelligent self-assembling self-transforming material I described in previous articles) the colony could indeed become the self-assembling virtually sentient artificial organism Marshal Savage (and before him people like Rudolph Doernach) envisioned.
With the success of the first colony, others would be sure to follow, spawned from the parent colony or joining it in the Equatorial seas after similarly starting from coastal seed settlements around the globe. Each is likely to realize its own unique culture, expressed in its own choices of architectural design. Some may not be as progressive as Aquarius and others may go farther socially, culturally, and technologically than we can even imagine. With luck, a vast and diverse marine community may be created, spreading around the globe like a necklace of pearls under the hot Equatorial sun and fulfilling the TMP dream of an end to zero-sum economics through their flood of renewable energy and food.