Research Cruise-Ship | Heterotopic Floating Cities

The idea of inhabiting the ocean has been a recurrent topic on this blog. Speculative ideas on recycling and reusing ships graveyards as floating micronations or making a comparative between the MV Blue Marlin with the Sea Based X-Band Radar and Buckminster Fuller‘s ideas for a floating megastructure, has driven us to research some interesting projects related with this issue. Following all these ideas, ‘Research Cruise Ship‘ was a studio taught in the University of Cyprus, School of Architecture by Aristide Antonas and Petros Phokaides, Studio VII, fall semester 2008. They describe it:

The aim of the course was the search for new architectural programs and their adaptation to the structure of an existing cruise ship. In this context particular ships were studied and redesigned to provide the facilities for research trips: individual rooms were equipped with basic workstations that meet the needs of a modern researcher, meeting spaces for small gatherings around tables or theater spaces for larger meetings with recording equipment, libraries and archives to record research results and the discussions that took place on board. The special program of research done at sea and the particular destination of the research cruise defined the design and identity of every ship. To this end interviews with researchers from different fields provided the necessary information. For the design of the journey assumptions were made about the frequency of travel, the possible stops and site-visits for research and meetings.

As they explain, some of the proposed travels insisted in different kind of topics related with the cruise-ships, as the study of archaeological sites located near cities-ports, the infrastructure of cities and ports, operational aspects of cities, the study of ancient shipwrecks, the study of plant and animal life in specific areas of Cyprus or ethnological and other types of documentation. Similarly passengers on board were archaeologists, architects, engineers, skilled scientists, ethnologists, sociologists, anthropologists, etc.

The context of the cruise and redesign of an existing ship is related to the special circumstances of Cyprus today. The workshop explored the case of a stroke circumnavigation of Cyprus with stops at four major ports of the island: Limassol, Larnaca, Kyrenia and Famagusta. It is obvious that such a trip is not currently possible within the bounds of international law and the instability of the region.


Port of Limassol, Cyprus. Google Earth caption


Kyrenia. Source: Research Cruise-Ship


Port of Larnaca, Cyprus. Google Earth caption

Based on the circumnavigation of the island, students had the task to analyze the problems of the cruises. On Cyprus, the ship can run on this route only with special permission from the UN or with one or another way of avoiding entering the ports. This is due the geopolitical situation of Cyprus, that according to wikipedia, the Republic of Cyprus has de jure sovereignty over the entire island of Cyprus and its surrounding waters except small portions, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, that are allocated by treaty to the United Kingdom as sovereign military bases. The Republic of Cyprus is de facto partitioned into two main parts, the area under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus, comprising about 59% of the island’s area and the Turkish-occupied area in the north, calling itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, covering about 36% of the island’s area and recognized only by Turkey.

In different ways the idea of traveling and research are already developing alternative conditions of approaching or commenting the communication between the communities in Cyprus and poses the political problem under the critical aspect of architecture, by producing built comments or pragmatic proposals, as Phokaides and Antonas defined it.

The project Approximateur by Christos Pasadakis acknowledges the illegality of the trip around Cyprus and includes landing mechanisms in the form of small passenger and equipment shuttles. It is a non-military ship charged on landing without reaching the coast. It can easily throw into the water, floating shuttles with passengers and research equipment and recover them.


Approximateur by Christos Pasadakis


Approximateur by Christos Pasadakis

Apotheca Ship by Stavri Yannakou endorses a research approach of the market as self-sufficient, unifying mechanism that promotes the deterritorialization of the vessel: the automated internal supply machine turns the ship into a neutral ground making political differences unimportant in a technical financial planning.

Α pragmatic approach shapes the character of IMA Ship by Maria Matheou. This project responded to a realistic scenario for underwater archeology and suggested the existence of a neutral field of archaeological cooperation.


IMA Ship for Underwater Archaeology by Maria Matheou


Apotheca Ship by Stavri Yannakou

VoyageR by Giorgos Kallis understands the journey as an impossible mission and insists on a fantasy of a unified reality through representations and virtual reality systems. VoyageR is a ship programed for virtual pleasures. It can be thought as a new type of prison or as a function of paradise. The travelers can enter different constructions of simulated conditions. A number of experts are observing their behavior. A new and revisited version of Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four, with it’s pervasive surveillance and incessant public mind control.


VoyageR by Giorgos Kallis


VoyageR by Giorgos Kallis

Acting as an floating heterotopia, a real space which is simultaneously mythic and real, all these projects represents the idea of living on water as possible solution for the huge urbanization problems in the current cities. But all of them has an utopic [some times even dystopic] point based on issues like isolation and confinement. One of the definitions of Foucault’s heterotopia refers to places that are spaces of otherness, which are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and mental. In that sense, we can consider the floating cities as the utopic dreams of the avant-garde or simply the development of Cedric Price‘s belief that architecture must “enable people to think the unthinkable”.

“The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.” -Michel Foucault

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– All the info about the Research Cruise Ships project, here.
– A complete photo-set at flickr


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