The 'standard' structural style of Aquarius in the TMP 2 vision, the Tectonic approach gets its name from its emulation of natural landscape. Using a simple derivative of the column and slab commercial concrete construction methods common worldwide, it employs it to the effect of simulating a landscape through the use of contour profile levels. In other words, the levels of the structure -each three storeys high- are layered on concentric contours just like those on a contour map. The end result is an elegant organically flowing terraced structure similar to the ancient terraced hills of mountain farmlands in Asia, Polynesia, and South America where various features are formed by the widths of each terrace relative to each other. This system would accommodate the need for modularity in the use of pre-cast concrete components while also providing some of the freedom of form of organic design, the curving shapes accommodated by using interstitial edge pieces that smooth the edge of curving shapes approximated by rectilinear modules much as curves are built up on a computer screen.
The system would also provide a very high flexibility in space because the structure is essentially generic, the specific use of its habitable space determined by retrofit structure and the common use of window-wall systems at terrace edges. To accommodate this with the greatest ease of repurposing, all surfaces, inside and out, of the primary concrete structure would be equipped with formed-in sockets in a roughly one meter grid that allow for the plug-in mounting of reusable and recyclable Utilihab style mezzanine and finishing components, infrastructure hardware, PRT guideway components, exterior fixtures and decking, planting bed drainage grids and irrigation systems, as well as decorative elements such as tiles and light moulding shapes. Using these components, a great variety of aesthetic styles can be emulated in a local context within the overall aesthetic of the macrostructure, giving residents a fair degree of freedom in personal expression, particularly with interior design. Some (probably most) spaces may be given a Modernist or contemporary look, others may employ features suggestive of ancient architecture or concepts from pure fantasy, others may go an organic route with an organic in-fill facade. All these are possible without conflict with the very elemental and aesthetically neutral volumetric landscape of the primary structure. The tectonic structure would also be able to employ curtain-like water features and very large area 'floating' glazed canopies where terraces form a relatively steep 'slope'. Using planar glazing, formed lucite, or architectural membranes, these flow-formed canopies could be used to create vertical farming areas and enclosed interior avenues or could be used as a cladding for tall thin pinnacle structures. At the same time, the community structure would be perpetually upgradeable in technology without a need for radical structural modification. Even the core structural system could be incrementally replaced over time.
Because of the reliance on modular components, the Tectonic style of design offers the marine colony the most freedom of structural evolution over time -at least until the advent of NanoFoam- since most of its structural components would be demountable and reusable -albeit with the aid of heavy handling equipment. In effect it is more 'organic' in nature than even the more organic-looking forms of structure. Residents would be less reluctant to experiment with their own habitat or to develop and employ new technology with it since there is no risk of painting oneself into a corner with the structure. This type of structure is also very well suited to evolving industrial uses because of the generic nature of the primary structure, its large spans, and the freedom retrofit systems afford in adapting it. The Post-Industrial residential fab shop would be as easy to implement as fairly large plants and facilities, such as OTECs, PRT/PPT service facilities, SuperStore automated warehousing, and more.
Another virtue of this form of structure is the potential for hybridization in order to obtain the benefits of different building systems. There are practical performance limits with current precast concrete structures that limit the maximum heights achievable by the overall colony landscape. But the form of the colony is largely independent of its internal structural systems and alternatives can be readily integrated to allow for varied performance demands without impact on the colony aesthetic. For instance, as demand for much taller core structures grows the colony can overcome the limits of precast concrete using lighter conventional steel structures that still conform to the same modular geometry and can even build such structures in-place. However, with the advent of Sea Foam most colony construction, regardless of original style, may evolve to favor a more monolithic composition since this material and its fabrication methods will offer properties that compete with those of precast concrete while offering greater design flexibility and reduced waste. Whether this will lead to an ultimate abandonment of Tectonic design in favor of a more physically as well as functionally organic style of architecture is something only time will tell.