A futuristic city floats on water.
(Rendering courtesy of Luca Curci Architects + Tim Fu Design)

By David Jen

Global sea levels continue to rise despite efforts that cities around the world are making to mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce their carbon emissions.

One firm, however, is hoping to combat the effects of climate change. Luca Curci Architects, based in Venice, Italy, has released Floating City — a concept that would allow urban areas to rise with the waters, while leveraging renewable energies to reduce their own carbon emissions.

Displayed at the Biennale Architecttura 2023 international architecture exhibition in Venice, the proposed floating city would have 25 acres of interconnected floating platforms supporting high-rise and low-rise buildings for residences, offices, government organizations, health care facilities, and schools — large enough for 50,000 people, according to written press materials provided by LCA. 

The project team fed descriptive, natural-language text of their idea into artificial intelligence models to generate imagery for the concept, says architectural designer Tim Fu, who collaborated on the project.

Floating City, which can expand to accommodate more than 200,000 people, was designed to "adapt to the shifting needs" of coastal cities that are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, like New York; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Shanghai, according to LCA.

Materials for the buildings would comprise a combination of reinforced concrete, steel, and composites, with salt-water corrosion playing a central role in the choices, according to architect and LCA founder Luca Curci. These buildings could reach heights of up to 90 m, only limited by the stability and safety considerations of resting on a floating platform.

Image shows what a floating city could look like with green spaces, sidewalks, tall trees, and homes with big windows to see nature.

(Rendering courtesy of Luca Curci Architects + Tim Fu Design)


"Taller buildings would require more robust foundations and structural designs to ensure they can withstand the movement of the platforms on the water," says Curci. "The specific location of the floating city will influence the design of the high-rises. Buildings would need to be designed to withstand factors such as wave action, wind loads, and potential storm surges."

Meanwhile, the platforms themselves would incorporate a variety of buoyant elements, such as pontoons and chambers filled with foam or air, and other hollow structures to provide the necessary buoyancy and stability, continues Curci.


Open spaces supporting biodiversity, recreation, and social interactions could be tailored to individual city needs, depending on the available area and the overall layout of the city.

"Green spaces will serve as areas for recreation, relaxation, and ecological balance," says Curci. "Additionally, (these spaces) will contribute to the city's climate resilience by providing shade, cooling effects, and natural stormwater management." 

The team also envisions a combination of renewable energy sources extracting power from wind, water, and the sun to power the city.

By the 2070s, nearly 36.6 million people in Kolkata, India; Mumbai, India; and Dhaka, Bangladesh, could be exposed to coastal flooding when considering sea level rise, population growth, and land subsistence together, according to "Ranking of the World's Cities Most Exposed to Coastal Flooding Today and in the Future," a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The Floating City concept was designed to support the global response to the threat of climate change, Curci and Fu both note.

David Jen is a freelance science journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This article is published by Civil Engineering Online. It first appeared in the January/February 2024 print issue of Civil Engineering as "Floating City."