Thoughts & Insights

In the Realm of Amazement

It takes an effort to believe your eyes the first time you lay them on the sketches of Jacques Rougerie.

The French architect presents us a futuristic city concept that follows the trail of the great Jules Verne into the freedom of the watery deep, of an entirely different shape from Fritz Haller’s Integral Urban. Architecture and literature appear to cross paths in science fiction in an extraordinarily creative and fascinating way, fertilizing each other again and again. Indeed, Rougerie makes no bones about his enthusiasm for the fantastic adventures of Captain Nemo and his Nautilus in Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea.

In contrast to Haller’s global settlement model, Rougerie’s Underwater Village is a flirtatious “one-off” whose elements are more reminiscent of exotic plant and animal life from the depths of the ocean in their design and architecture rather than actual habitable buildings.

The firmly anchored yet free-moving enclosure to the Seaspace underwater observatory also bears striking similarities to living sea creatures or mutations of fish and gigantic crustaceans.

The spectacular Sea Orbiter capsule resembles a giant seahorse or the muzzle of a gigantic white shark striking out of the water with full force. It offers enough space for a crew of 18 and the launch is planned for 2013. The Sea Orbiter is able to travel noiselessly in water because it is driven by the ocean current. More than half of the 51-meter-high building is under water, with five storeys worth providing a free view of the underwater world from huge windows. It opens up entirely new realms for experiences and realisations to the people on board – and that over weeks or even months. Previously unknown and undreamt-of possibilities of observation are there for the taking and we can finally add to our scant knowledge of this alien world. Apparently, 80 per cent of the oceans are currently uncharted.

And anyone lucky enough to catch a glimpse of this “ship” on a journey of discovery through the oceans one day will trust their eyes even less than they did when they looked at the model in diagrams. What’s more, the amazement will be a lingering one.

Images to this article appear on Jacques Rougerie’s must-see website.