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SDF 2020: Architect Kai-Uwe Bergmann Delivers Keynote Speech
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SDF 2020: Architect Kai-Uwe Bergmann Delivers Keynote Speech

Cutting edge design focused on sustainability will be key in a future defined by a changing climate, revolutionary architect Kai-Uwe Bergmann has said.

Speaking at BOAT International’sSuperyacht Design Festival, Bergmann revealed that the UN has commissioned his firm BIG Architects to create the concept of a “floating city” as it prepares for a future of “climate refugees”.

The concept caters for a population of 10,000 people and sees remote floating houses built on pontoons serviced by technology including “wind turbines and hydroponics,” Bergmann said.

“The UN came to us and asked us to consider that in the future, when Pacific Islanders are losing their habitats and their homes, there needs perhaps to be an alternative because there will truly be climate refugees looking for places to move,” Bergmann said at the event.

The floating city builds on a project already completed by Bergmann’s firm, which saw three floating shipping containers repurposed into 12 trendy student apartment dorms in Copenhagen.

“Imagine that floating dorm on the scale of a city,” he said.

It is not clear when or if construction will begin on the floating city concept, but Bergmann warned that it was not simply a “pipe dream”.

“Believe it or not, the UN is committed to actually designing the first prototypes of this to find how we can address these issues of climate change,” he said. “It’s a real honour to be asked to do this.”

BIG has also been commissioned to create a design solution that protects Manhattan against rising sea levels. The commission comes in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which caused $20 billion of damage to the city in 2012, and rising water levels taking effect across the globe.

“Ninety per cent of Miami Beach is affected by a two to three-foot rise in water. Just last month in Venice [when the city experienced historic flooding] you can see that the city is truly suffering as well.”

Bergmann's solution in Manhattan is The Big U; a park system which stretches 10 miles along the coastline and is intended to be “enjoyed and used every day”.

“As opposed to thinking about it as an engineering exercise and just building sea walls, we wanted to make sure that the people and their activities were not lost so we thought about how to integrate what the people want as well as what the city needed,” Bergmann said.

The funded project is underway, with construction beginning this year on the first 2.5 miles.

Bergmann drew parallels between cutting edge architectural design and superyacht design, arguing that both now place sustainability front and centre.

“The yacht industry is dealing with a lot of the issues that we are – ecological and sustainable approaches to design,” he said.

He highlighted superyacht designer Philippe Starck as one of the industry's revolutionary designers.

"He’s one of those designers that’s been able to bridge from architectural work into yacht design," he said. "Starck's designs are almost like portraits of the clients that they are made for."

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