Star Wars inspiration and biomimicry combine for the design of the Facility at Sea, a sustainable marine research platform and feat of offshore building engineering. The concept came together in an architecture studio at the University of Texas, which evaluated potential applications of the soaring structural designs of Star Wars for a marine research facility. Designer Jason Mellard took further inspiration from the engineering acumen of Santiago Calatrava and present-day offshore oil platforms.
Taking a cue from the trunk of a tree, the central structural element of the Facility at Sea will serve as its lifeline, providing structure to the building while housing the facility’s mechanical and vertical circulation, including energy storage, waste removal systems, a control and engine room, and emergency generators. The trunk will be surrounded by three main branches, two research spheres, and a “habitation disk” that will not only move up and down vertically but also open and close (weather permitting), literally bringing the clam out of the water.
The research spheres will house laboratories, classrooms, computer labs, viewing platforms, holding tanks, offices, and storage. The “habitat disks” will house sleeping and living areas, including a communal dining and food preparation kitchen, a medical clinic, recreational areas, as well as Star Wars-inspired observation decks and docking platforms.
Much like the International Space Station project, the Facility at Sea will house scientists for 6-12 months periods. Because the clam structure will be airtight when closed, the Facility at Sea will be situated for life both above and under water. Not only will the underwater atmosphere provide an excellent view for marine research, it will serve dual purposes, protecting the Facility at Sea from the sometimes harsh environment above sea level, including storms and extremely windy conditions.
The Facility at Sea would be completely amiss not to take advantage of the surrounding air turbulence. Therefore, the automated shells will harness wind energy through its integrated rotating pinwheel design and solar power through incorporated PV Cells. The natural resources do not stop there – it will also be equipped to generate electricity from the ocean current and use its trunk to attract electricity to the storage batteries during seasonal (and unpredicted) thunderstorms.