TOWN Green Architecture News: The Futuristic Open Ocean Pavilion of South Korea

In late March, the New York Times reported that an ice sheet in Western Antarctica is melting more rapidly than previously thought. Scientists speculate that sea levels can rise 6 feet if this one ice mass continues to melt at its current pace over the course of the next 85 years.  These predictions put cities set adjacent to the ocean in tremendous danger of flooding. The article listed New York, London, New Orleans, Miami and others among the major cities facing the highest flood risks. (One quote pointed out that New York has existed for 400 years, but the chance of it lasting another 400 is “remote.”) The same evening the New York Times article was published, a panel of experts gathered at the welcome center of the Miami Design Preservation League on Ocean Drive, to discuss ways Miami can save its buildings should sea levels continue to rise. One solution is to raise them three feet or more “above flood,” though cost estimates for such an undertaking involving a 2,000-square-foot home can reach six figures.

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In an effort to raise awareness of the constant changes in sea levels as a result of global warming, Daniel Valle Architects designed “Water Pavilion,” a construct that allows visitors to walk either on the water’s surface or below it, depending upon the current level of the water.

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Water Pavilion made its debut at the 2012 South Korean design expo called Yeosu. Originally intended for construction in Seoul, the project spans 30,000 square meters, which equates to nearly 323,000 square feet. According to the architect’s website, the concept of the project explores fluidity, buoyancy and constant change. “The pavilion stands on the unstable limit of sea level, changing its configuration according to various uses during the expo.”

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The pavilion can actually float above the sea and host large gatherings or sit below it, facilitating up-close-and-personal marine observation exhibits or intimate events. The generated environment is deliberately unstable, meant to call attention to the changing sea levels resulting from global warming.

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A cross section of the construct reveals that water runs through its “veins,” helping it shift positions. Tech Insider, which likens the structure’s functionality to that of a submarine, reports that the pavilion would also contain a purifying system that would turn saltwater into freshwater.

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The pavilion could become a pop-up attraction at any city waterfront, as its design allows it to undock from a port and travel elsewhere across the sea.