It’s been almost three years since New Orleans weathered Katrina’s wrath, and debate still rages over plans to reconstruct the sunken city. Myriad options have surfaced ranging from rebuilding the levees to designing storm resistant structures to not rebuilding at all. Here’s an approach that endeavors to ride the river rather than stem it’s course. Harvard Graduate School of Design students Kiduck Kim and Christian Stayner have conceived of a Floating City that will “rise safely in an Archimedean liquid landscape.”

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We’ve covered floating homes in the past, but never on the scale of an entire city. Kim and Stayner’s concept re-imagines the city’s recourse to rising flood tides, welcoming in a once “unwanted guest.” Their proposal explains: “Housing plats and roads are marked by solar-powered lighting poles. Individual dwellings bob, tethered with RV-type umbilical cords through which potable water, electricity, sew-age, and telephone connections continue uninterrupted.”

Once the flood fades away, the city is redistributed in a new arrangement and “a postdiluvian landscape emerges. The city’s historic economic stratification is blurred. New soil de-posited by floodwater renews, regenerates, and reorganizes a city—by the very force threatening its existence.”

It’s a beautiful vision, but the project strikes me as tenuous to the point of abstraction; there is an abundance of practical and social factors that won’t fit neatly into freely floating boxes. The implications of continuing to subject the poorest people to the ebb and flow of floodwaters are dubious at best. One crucial consideration relates to how we deal with displacement – wouldn’t a city founded upon free-floating entropy end up in chaos? A flourishing post-diluvian society is an idyllic notion, but a system of constant displacement may serve to fracture the very community it hopes to sustain. Still, it’s future-forward solutions such as this that push the hardest for progress, and they are certainly worth exploring.

+ Floating in a Sinking City

+ Harvard Graduate School of Design