Gallery: LILYPAD: Floating City for Climate Change Refugees


There are very few urban design solutions that address housing the inevitable tide of displaced people that could arise as oceans swell under global warming. Certainly none are as spectacular as this one. The Lilypad, by Vincent Callebaut, is a concept for a completely self-sufficient floating city intended to provide shelter for future climate change refugees. The intent of the concept itself is laudable, but it is Callebaut’s phenomenal design that has captured our imagination.

Biomimicry was clearly the inspiration behind the design. The Lilypad, which was designed to look like a waterlily, is intended to be a zero emission city afloat in the ocean. Through a number of technologies (solar, wind, tidal, biomass), it is envisioned that the project would be able to not only produce it’s own energy, but be able to process CO2 in the atmosphere and absorb it into its titanium dioxide skin.

Each of these floating cities are designed to hold approximately around 50,000 people. A mixed terrain man-made landscape, provided by an artificial lagoon and three ridges, create a diverse environment for the inhabitants. Each Lilypad is intended to be either near a coast, or floating around in the ocean, traveling from the equator to the northern seas, according to where the gulf stream takes it.

The project isn’t even close to happening anytime soon, but there is value in future forward designs like the Lilypad. They inspire creative solutions, which at some point, may actually provide a real solution to the climate change problem.

+ Lilypad, a floating ecopolis for climate refugees

via Freshhome


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  1. few food January 19, 2015 at 6:57 am

    Excellent post. I’m dealing with many of these issues as well..

  2. Have you heard of the L... May 23, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    […] floating city that produces it’s own energy and processes CO2. To learn more about this visit . They also have other really unique […]

  3. sarahluk October 8, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    This is so awesome. But I have my doubts that we are never going to make it. :(

  4. harmonyanonymous97 March 29, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I don’t think that this is a solution to climate change; it’s only an escape route from it. Besides, how about wastes? Humans produce every kind of waste – plastic, paper, even our excretions….

  5. jdoherty January 7, 2012 at 4:20 am

    While the Earth has always endured natural climate change variability, we are now facing the possibility of irreversible climate change in the near future. The increase of greenhouse gases in the Earth?s atmosphere from industrial processes has enhanced the natural greenhouse effect. This in turn has accentuated the greenhouse ?trap? effect, causing greenhouse gases to form a blanket around the Earth, inhibiting the sun?s heat from leaving the outer atmosphere. This increase of greenhouse gases is causing an additional warming of the Earth?s surface and atmosphere. A direct consequence of this is sea-level rise expansion, which is primarily due to the thermal expansion of oceans (water expands when heated), inducing the melting of ice sheets as global surface temperature increases.
    Forecasts for climate change by the 2,000 scientists on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) project a rise in the global average surface temperature by 1.4 to 5.8°C from 1990 to 2100. This will result in a global mean sea level rise by an average of 5 mm per year over the next 100 years. Consequently, human-induced climate change will have ?deleterious effects? on ecosystems, socio-economic systems and human welfare.At the moment, especially high risks associated with the rise of the oceans are having a particular impact on the two archipelagic states of Western Polynesia: Tuvalu and Kiribati. According to UN forecasts, they may be completely inundated by the rising waters of the Pacific by 2050.According to the vast majority of scientific investigations, warming waters and the melting of polar and high-elevation ice worldwide will steadily raise sea levels. This will likely drive people off islands first by spoiling the fresh groundwater, which will kill most land plants and leave no potable water for humans and their livestock. Low-lying island states like Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and the Maldives are the most prominent nations threatened in this way.“The biggest challenge is to preserve their nationality without a territory,” said Bogumil Terminski from Geneva. The best solution is continue to recognize deterritorialized states as a normal states in public international law. The case of Kiribati and other small island states is a particularly clear call to action for more secure countries to respond to the situations facing these ‘most vulnerable nations’, as climate change increasingly impacts upon their lives.

  6. tongonwilson November 19, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    they dont look that big…what if a whale shark rammed into it? or what happens during a typhoon storm?

  7. NouraAlsuwaidi October 10, 2011 at 9:41 am

    First let’s question our self why do we need these kinds of “cities”! Isn’t there any place for people to live? Why are we harming the aquatic environment? Don’t we have something called environmental urban planning! Why are we ignoring it! While doing that we are destroying thousand of aqua lives and we are creating an imbalance in the nature. Haven’t we had enough from harming the environment? And I’m not really sure why do we need it from the beginning, is it really worth it…

    Don’t we consider if this project is economical to be built or not while we are recovering from the damage happened after the financial crisis!

    “Producing its own energy” how can we guarantee that it will indeed!

    What about the food and water! Isn’t it a waste of money to transfer the human needs using ships! What about 50,000 human wastes!

    It’s nice to have a new different place to live in but it should be economical!

  8. ajdorsey July 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    I will be more impressed when we actually build one of these things. lol designs are cool, finding the funding is something else.

  9. echaa June 29, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    hey, so what were the refugees should eat???…fish???…it will be extinct if often eaten right??

  10. feline74 June 29, 2011 at 5:54 am

    Marshall Savage, in his book The Millennial Project, suggested that a floating city could use OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) plants to generate electricity. OTEC’s inputs are warm surface water (as a side effect, the surrounding ocean would be cooled) and cold water from near the sea floor (useful for cooling the city itself). The outputs are the electricity and cool sea water containing nutrients brought up from the ocean bottom; the latter can be used to feed mariculture-grown sea life which can be eaten or exported.

    That’s two of the concerns people have expressed here (feeding the occupants and quality of the surrounding seas). Storm surge and tsunami safety can be dealt with by designing the floats to double as wave energy generators (I forget who came up with that idea, sorry).

  11. baoooab November 9, 2009 at 5:01 am

    how do we get a car on this island

  12. RevGadget July 11, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Wow…. How is the food going to get there and where is it going to come from? Room service? The problem with ideas like this, is that all the refugees from global climate change are the third world peoples from low lying areas, such as Bangladesh. None of them would have the money to move onto one of these things.

  13. picolee May 23, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    hmmm …. this one came first

    but all credit to pixelab who have done an astounding job on the copy!!

  14. Izaul V. April 24, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    I have more ideas about this project if you want know or you need help please let me know . This my E=mail. i liked your idea is nice..

  15. arbiforumnow March 31, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Beautiful! I’m imagining however that it will be grossly populated by exiled infamous corp execs on the run from abandoned land-bound laborers and stakeholders.

  16. confiture September 20, 2008 at 9:46 am

    This project is one of the best projects I had ever seen concerning the futur. This architect has got very good ideas for a better world for Today.

  17. Corina61 August 16, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    This is so amazing. If you need someone to try it ou and live on it to try it out, sign me up. I’ll be a ginnea pig.

  18. Miki July 30, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    When this project goes forward, whenever there is a need of capable designers for product design and ergonomics, I would love to dedicate my life to a project like this. Please let me know. I can be easily contacted via inhabitat.

  19. graupelschauer July 22, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    I can only support frances’comment. While it can certainly be fun for the designer to indulge in Modernist escapism, I can see no benefit for the wider community in this design. If the Great Ideas about zero emission are any good then it would certainly be commendable to think about ways to make them available to an as large number of people as possible. However it seems to fall to Dubai billionaires to indulge in zero-emission living – as if they were interested. And unfortunately Dubai billionaires do not constitute a sufficient percantage of the world’s population to make an impact against global warming. And even for them, why float about in the sea? Just for fun of course. If you can make urban life independent of agricultural land resources, you would not have a shortage of space on land. And yes so much more, what about global warming causing the seas to atrophy, how are the inhabitants going to cope with cyanide-generating algae all around them. It can make one angry to witness these proposals implying that we would just be able to withdraw from the problems.

  20. marie July 20, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Great I love it and hope to see the realisation of what to me seems clean and eco-friendly. Good for the rich, who by buying a nice place on that clean lilypad will be able to enjoy a live without pollution, take the helico to go to work and come back home their clean-lungs kids and wife. It is beautiful and also a wonderful project but unfortunatly their is a price for everything, and hard work usually pays off, you think governement will give the guy that invent it the money he deserved and then put refugees on it. All this prove that we are still extremelly hurt by the way the world is turning but also that their is still discrimination all over the world. People are ready for it but not the government who wants to put big time in their pockets, have fun with the lilypad, I will not be here but at least I can dream about it, it looks like heaven……M

  21. sarah5121 July 12, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    This is amazing. If someone built this it would definitely be enough to make me wish I was a refugee. Of course the real things never look as good as the blue print pictures. =)

  22. lazaros July 9, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    to me is a very uptodate wonderful project.I’d say it’s inspired by GOD.The architect may be a PROFET.
    same as NOAh.The way the world is going.nukes,climate change,anger,greed,fuel price,food price,biofuels,Powers,emerging powers,Religions,Lobies,NOT Trust,selfishnest,imorality.I’ve nearly lost faith in people.FLOATING CIYTES Hopefuly will save life in this planet.LIKE NOAH!!

  23. hannes July 4, 2008 at 4:49 am

    Combine this idea with those of the late great Wolf Hilbertz and his Sea-cretion technic and you
    can build this for pennies with chickenwire and a few solar panels, don’t need no billion dollar sponsor.

  24. trudy July 3, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    What about hurricanes?

    Is there an area on it to grow enough food to support the population?

  25. Bruce AIA June 27, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    All things are new again. Upon seeing the Lilypad I was taken back in time to our own original design for a floating city. In 1971 as part of a 4th year architecture design team at Cal Poly, SLO, CA we were asked to design a vacation resort of the future. A quote by the philosopher Seneca, \”Beyond all things is the sea\” inspired us to create a floating \”Sea City\”. A six sided mother ship was the central core of each City and was surrounded and attached to six sided housing modules. The City could grow or shrink as the housing units would move from area to area to always be in the best climate for a vacation. The core was connected to land with an underwater umbilical cord for required services. The small recreational boats were contained within a dock at sea level, and the entire City could be raised to buffer against rough seas. We had even envisioned that libraries would not be needed on board, since all books would be available on hand held computer screens. 37 years later some things have happened, but the technology to make this Sea City work is still a long way off. It reminds me of architect Paolo Soleri\’s design to stick a city in almost anything, a dam, or a bridge. It is much easier to sketch and verbalize than to actually build. But a vision for the future is what gives life promise. B

  26. mrtoadmaster June 23, 2008 at 10:57 am

    The hurricane/tsunami issue, to me, is a show-stopper. It could work, I suppose, in a well-protected harbor.

  27. frances June 19, 2008 at 10:02 am

    This appears to be a big waste of resources, especially to make it hurricane or typhoon-proof, and about as financially practical as living on the moon, relative to solid ground on the earth.
    Why not just not create those 50,000 people who need a place to live? When the environmental movement started, ZPG (zero population growth) was the reigning mantra. With a projected total world population of 10 billion people, almost double what exists now, the fundamental issue facing the health of our planet is human overpopulation. It’s not a sexy subject, and almost a taboo subject, but it’s the bottom line. Humans are no different than all the other “invasive” species we fret about. If anyone has ever raised an animal, fish, reptile, etc., for any length of time, it quickly becomes apparent what happens when there are too many animals inhabiting the space. Filth. I wonder and doubt that people can overcome or mitigate through technology the exponential harms to the environment that we have been creating since the industrial revolution. The ultimate of hubris.
    As a post above said, we will have to deal with all the turf and water wars that will first arise, before indulging in such Spielberg fantasies as floating cities.

  28. dj June 18, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    ummm, where do all those other boats dock?

    climate change refugees, give me a break. a funky place for the rich, more likely. we have a hard enough time with “normal” refugees.

  29. bluemonkey June 18, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    It looks nice till the wind picks-up and three sisters waves occur.

  30. Moll June 16, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    If I was to be displaced by the rising tides I think the last place I would want to live would be on the water that destroyed my home. On the flipside though, I think this would be an awesome alternative to those who want waterfront homes but can’t afford one.

  31. clairseach June 16, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    The reality is that future climate change refugees will be facing starvation, disease, and resource conflict. They won’t be living in lovely floating cities. Real solutions are needed, not fantasy.

  32. June 16, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I think this kind of living would be great. But would it be more adorable than living on the land so not only will refugees be like \” oh bro, i live on this floating paradise now, its way better than africa\” but those living on the coast of France for example will be like \”damm those refugees have it sweet, im going to join them\”.. then the cote de aure will empty and everyone including tourists and refugees will be on floating islands rather than the mainland.

  33. PaTrond June 16, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    I only got one word for this; Wow!

    The architect was really thinking about everything when he designed this :)
    The round windows were a bit wierd though :p

  34. shawn June 16, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I appreciate \”dreamers\” in our society to push the envelope but the feasibility of this is just silly. The upkeep and possibility for disaster are huge, just ask Jack & Rose.

    We as a society could be doing more resonspbile things with our money to make the work a better place for healthy, happiness and habitat.

  35. hushtown June 16, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    This project is eerily similar to BIG/PLOT’s floating city, not just in concept but in final form and rendering.

    The original can be seen here:

  36. Archinect June 16, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    We posted this project last week, however, took it down shortly after due to reports of plagiarism. It appears that this project closely resembles another, earlier developed, project by Danish firm PLOT. More information here:

  37. noslenpar June 16, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Wow, if only there was some howard hughes-esque billionaire who was passionate and reckless enough with their money to invest in something like this, a true legacy

    I think Maianga is right, there are billionaires in Dubai that would probably build a smaller scale version of this. Unfortunately no one in the west would.

  38. Maianga June 16, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I dont know if financial projections are available for this project, but my first reaction is to believe that a smaller version, say 10,000 inhabitants, could be viable in certain locations, due to overpopulation (consequently high price per sq mtr in traditional realestate). On top of the list comes hong-kong and monaco. I also see some similarity with the dubai palm/world islands…

  39. manujarch June 16, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Fantastic. I would love to assist the Architects who conceive such amazing ideas.

  40. Chas June 16, 2008 at 8:55 am

    well supposedly the “Freedom Ship” is still moving forward. I think that it could learn a lot from what these people are striving for. if it could borrow 1/10 of the goals of this, it would be a much better project.

  41. Jesseneale1 June 16, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Wow, if only there was some howard hughes-esque billionaire who was passionate and reckless enough with their money to invest in something like this, a true legacy.

  42. paguthrie June 16, 2008 at 5:27 am

    Renders by pixelab, more info and images on <a href=””

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