Gallery: Whale-Shaped Floating Garden Designed to Clean the World’s Riv...


Vincent Callebaut, visionary behind the Lilypad and Dragonfly, has created a whale-shaped floating garden designed to drift through the world’s rivers while purifying their waters. The Physalia is a self-sufficient ecosystem that generates all the power it needs from the sun and works to reduce water pollution through bio-filtration.

Callebaut’s designs are certainly fantastical, but it’s a treat to ponder them and hope that someday this type of utopian technology will actually exist. His newest vision is a floating environment filled with gardens and covered by both a green roof and thin-film solar panels. Hydro-turbines generate power from the moving water underneath the boat, thus, all of the boat’s energy is generated from renewable sources.

The craft’s exterior features a layer of TiO2, which reacts with ultraviolet rays to clean the water. Additional water is pumped through the garden systems, which biologically filter out contaminants and pollutants. Inside there are four distinct thematic gardens named, “Earth”, “Wind”, “Fire”, and “Water”, which represent the four elements.

Physalia was inspired by the “Physalia physalis” jellyfish, whose name translates roughly to “Water Bubble”. This water bubble is meant to navigate the major rivers of Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East, traveling along the Danube and Volga, between the Rhine and Guadalquivir, and through the Euphrate and the Tiger. Completely self-sufficient and incredible looking, the Physalias would turn heads wherever it floated.

+ Vincent Callebaut

Via Freshome


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  1. feline74 September 17, 2013 at 12:14 am

    Messr Callebaut missed a complication. Different rivers are in different climates; this, plus differences in the toxins needing cleanup lead to different plants being used and different support systems needed for those plants. Different rivers will also have different running conditions–depth, speed, obstacle types, width and bendiness, etc. Add it all up and a machine designed for the Seine won\\\’t always work well in the Danube or vice-versa, much less the Mississippi or Nile.

    Global coverage like he envisions would require several types, making them a financial and engineering headache . . . and an artistic and design opportunity.

  2. superchick106 May 27, 2010 at 4:17 am

    phase 2???

  3. funguy7 April 6, 2010 at 6:38 am

    I am glad that i googled “floating gardens ” again.This concept gives verification to my conception that floats and feeds off sea water. This is more like a portugese man o war, maybe jellyfish. Solar bubbles distill the water,the crops are fed with seaweed and fish nutriens caught in the tentacles primarilay designed for floatation.Please have a look at the seacrete process of carbon fixation. A method of growing solid structures by absorbing calcium carbonate from the ocean.
    Our fresh water supply is the sun in it’s action.
    OK these concepts have been with us for a long time so let’s get the next phase active

  4. tobuildagarden March 5, 2010 at 9:25 am

    I own a fish pond and bio-filtration through the growth of water hyacinths and lotus plants has been my solution to keeping the pond clean. It’s amazing how nature takes its own course when left alone. A simple floating garden keep the water clean and clear without any human intervention.

    This design is definitely a good vision and in fact has a good possibility of becoming a realistic project. God knows we need to come up with solutions to the ever increasing pollution in our rivers, ponds and lakes.

  5. Chris Harries January 21, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Well, I have to agree with taroona and fish his land.

    Yes, it’s good that people are thinking about novel ways to do things, the simplest ways are nearly always the best. We westerners want to make simple things highly technological and fancy, more often than not just exacerbating the problems we have.

    Let the designers put things on paper (or make 3D projections), then just take the good bits out and throw out the unnecessary glitz and overkill machinery.

    I visited natural floating gardens on the Kashmir lakes where they grow vegetables. Practical floating gardens pre-date fancy technology.

  6. CoolGardenThings January 15, 2010 at 10:47 am

    @fishiisland @taroona while it may be high-design and not quite realistic in your eyes of the future, we are fortunate that it is in someones eyes. The dreams need to be big and appeal to the masses in the “anythings possible” world of “possibilities”. All we need is everyone to start thinking and believing in the concepts for these types of things and begin asking about them till it *does* become reality.

    Just like in high fashion, you will see a designer create dreamy fantasy styles, but the end results that go to the store are “inspired” by these. Same with anything else. It takes a large vision and that is what many people want and need to help them see a greener future.

    Is it practical? No, maybe not. Is it what it would look like if someone made it today, No, maybe not. Is it as cool as the utilitarian design that will probably be derived from it and be put into use… well we’ll see, but I’m glad to see this design… It’s inspirational!

  7. fishisland January 14, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Let’s get away from green gimmickry and actually design stuff. Anyone who has designed something like this before knows this specific concept is overbuilt, too costly, and based on some incorrect treatment assumptions.

    When it’s easier to design up some actuals, why are we circulating photos of lofty and unviable conceptual renderings, such as those drawn up by design school students?

  8. taroona January 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    It feels just like a glorified high-tech solution. I recommend projects as suggested by gmoke:
    Similar wetland projects have been inplemented in Adelaide in an attempt to conserve its water supply. As a smaller example, a mine near Emerald in Queensland grows tomatoes in floating gardens to reduce algae and then gives the fruit[?] away for free to locals.

  9. gmoke January 11, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    You should take a look at what John Todd has done with cleaning ponds, lakes, and canals using biological filtration

  10. aquamoon January 11, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Totally amazing!!!

  11. Rudy McCormick January 11, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I see this as a fantastic way to clean up rivers and we have one here in Wisconsin that could benifit from something like this.

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