Taking a break from the skull-splitting doings going on in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento this week, I came across two amazing building designs that, at first glance, definitely ring futuristic. But reading more about them, and discovering that one project is about to open in Shanghai this spring as a matter of fact, they don’t seem that implausible at all.

In an article in Popular Science, and reprinted in an AGC newsletter this week, one entry in a skyscraper competition in eVolo Magazine
envisions a floating reverse skyscraper of sorts. Malaysian architect Sarly Adre Bin Sarkum called his entry the hO2+ scraper. It’s an autonomous floating unit of “livable, functional and self sustaining space.” It is self sufficient as it generates its own power through wave, wind, current and solar power and it generates its own food through farming, aquaculture and hydroponics. It carries its own small forest on top and supports places for its thousands of residents to live and work in its depths.

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Since around 70% of Earth is ocean, ultimately we will be running out of livable land so this concept really makes sense, in a common sense sort of way. Besides, it won’t be like in San Francisco where anti-development groups complain about the shade and shadow a skyscraper creates, unless, of course, the Citizen Fish Coalition takes offense when it can’t see the yonder coral reef…

As eVolo reports: “Obviously, no one has any plans to build anything remotely like this. But if global warming throws us into a WaterWorld like future, Adre bin Sarkum's aqua-condo looks like much sweeter digs than a rickety boat captained by a urine-drinking fish-man.”

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The other design is dubbed the “Shanghai Chandelier.” It’s part of a mixed-use complex surrounding the new Shanghai International Cruise Terminal. Designed by Sparch, the Asian arm of the Archial Group plc, the 40 meter-high glass-clad Chandelier overlooks the public park and waterfront. Looking up from the ground, a view of several floating cafes, restaurants and bars suspended on cables beneath a seven-story steel truss will greet pedestrians. This is the very first suspended cable construction of its type in the world and stems from the Shanghai authorities’ desire to create more “breathing spaces” in the crowded municipality.

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This development also represents a first in Shanghai for sustainability, incorporating “River Water Cooling Technology” that utilizes water from the Huang Pu River as a refrigerant to cool and thereby greatly reduce the buildings’ energy consumption during the summer months.

When fully operational, the cruise terminal can accommodate up to three 80,000-ton cruise ships at any one time and handle an expected passenger flow of over 1.5 million people annually. (Any U.S. coastal port city’s tourism arm would salivate over the prospect of that many tourists on the loose in their environs – how come we can’t build something like this? Think of the sales tax revenue…)

Sparch was appointed the master planner of the Cruise Terminal mixed-use development in 2004. Occupying a total floor area of more than 260,000 sq meters with half of it underground, the development comprises 80% commercial use and 20% public facilities, entertainment and retail outlets.