Imagine a post-apocalyptic world populated with prefabricated buildings, manufactured on land from “memory metal” that can pop into shape when carried out to deep-ocean building sites. Frankly, it is not that far-fetched in this day and age – except that the architect behind these dreams is now 92 years old and counting.
Living off the grid in sustainably-powered, self-sufficient homes, sea-steading … sounds like something perfectly suited as a response to emerging environmental issues. What were once the implausible Utopian ideals of a young architecture student have evolved into the Venus Project, which seeks to address urban design and home-building issues on an ever-more-populated planet and in a changing global climate.
Much of what these oceanic future cities entail is not as technologically complex as it would have sounded to an early 20th-Century audience. “Homes could be prefabricated of a new type of pre-stressed, reinforced concrete with a flexible ceramic external coating that would be relatively maintenance free, fireproof, and impervious to the weather. Their thin shell construction can be mass-produced in a matter of hours. With this type of construction, there would be minimal damage from earthquakes and hurricanes.”
However, the Venus Project goes beyond design – it contains a vision for a cleaner world of peace, prosperity and unity, without even a monetary system as we know it. So is this kind of perfect-world thinking out of sync with the realism (or pessimism) of today? Perhaps so, or maybe we are just a little too jaded. Sometimes it is worth taking a step back and looking at the larger picture even if it seems impossible – designing without boundaries for a moment in anticipation of a world that is never fully built.