Architecture

XTU Architects envisions sand-based sustainable "city" for the Sahara

Flohara by Paris-based XTU Architects (Image: XTU)
Flohara by Paris-based XTU Architects (Image: XTU)
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The science behind the project is a little vague but, essentially, XTU imagines using light, inflatable, and easily-transported textile "bubbles" (Image: XTU)
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The science behind the project is a little vague but, essentially, XTU imagines using light, inflatable, and easily-transported textile "bubbles" (Image: XTU)
Think of a big papier-mâché head with a balloon inside, like you may have made in school, but instead of paper, layers of hardened sand would form around the bubbles (Image: XTU)
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Think of a big papier-mâché head with a balloon inside, like you may have made in school, but instead of paper, layers of hardened sand would form around the bubbles (Image: XTU)
The bubbles would either be shipped to location or created locally and automatically by some kind of unspecified machinery (Image: XTU)
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The bubbles would either be shipped to location or created locally and automatically by some kind of unspecified machinery (Image: XTU)
Once in place, the bubbles would be inflated and oriented toward the wind and oncoming sand (Image: XTU)
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Once in place, the bubbles would be inflated and oriented toward the wind and oncoming sand (Image: XTU)
The bubbles once covered in sand (Image: XTU)
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The bubbles once covered in sand (Image: XTU)
The shelters would feature an integrated deep well system that provides water for cultivating vegetables and other greenery, making a veritable oasis in the desert (Image: XTU)
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The shelters would feature an integrated deep well system that provides water for cultivating vegetables and other greenery, making a veritable oasis in the desert (Image: XTU)
Flohara by Paris-based XTU Architects (Image: XTU)
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Flohara by Paris-based XTU Architects (Image: XTU)
Architectural drawing of the concept (Image: XTU)
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Architectural drawing of the concept (Image: XTU)
Architectural drawing of the concept (Image: XTU)
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Architectural drawing of the concept (Image: XTU)
Architectural drawing of the concept (Image: XTU)
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Architectural drawing of the concept (Image: XTU)

Here's some highly conceptual food for thought from XTU Architects. The Paris-based firm has drawn up a concept for creating sustainable shelters using that one material that the inhospitable Sahara desert has in abundance ... sand.

The concept, dubbed Flohara, was created for the Morocco Pavilion of the 2014 Venice Biennale, and would be suitable for other similar desert climates. Though referred to as a city by XTU, it looks more like a large group of basic shelters rather than the kind of sprawling urban center that a city usually brings to mind.

The basic idea of creating homes in the desert using sand sounds great, and it's not the first time that this kind of idea has been presented. XTU's concept is remarkably similar to Magnus Larsson's vision for a desert-based habitable wall, aptly named Dune. It's also reminiscent of the tech behind Dupe, but without the pee.

XTU imagines using light, inflatable, and easily-transported "bubbles" as support skeletons for building upon. These bubbles would either be shipped to the location needed or created locally by some kind of unspecified machinery.

The bubbles once covered in sand (Image: XTU)
The bubbles once covered in sand (Image: XTU)

Once in place and duly inflated, the bubbles would then be positioned toward the wind. Sand, water and a hydrogel would be added to Sporosarcina pasteurii (a bacterium that solidifies sand), prepared into a mixture, and sprayed onto the bubbles. They would then be left in place for the shifting sand and sun to slowly build and harden the structure before the bubble was deflated and work started on the next shelter. Or that's the theory anyway.

Surprisingly perhaps, solar power is not mentioned in the proposal (nor power of any sort), but the shelters would feature a deep well system that provides water for cultivating vegetables and other greenery, making a veritable oasis in the desert. The shadow cast by the wall-like shelters is also put forward as a positive by the architects, and XTU reckons this could aid cultivation.

Source: XTU

7 comments
Buellrider
Because living in the desert where there is absolutely nothing to do to earn a buck is why these parts of our earth are so full of violence. The XTU architects need to go there and build enough of these sandy huts and study their idea by living in these ugly sand huts themselves. That will certainly be the day that we would see that happen. How about figuring out how to turn the entire region into an oasis that people would then be proud to inhabit. I'm surprised these architects didn't just recommend that holes be carved into the sand because it would naturally be cooler living underground.
Nik
Architects are always building castles in the air, so why not in sand?
Germano Pecoraro
There are only renderings, stop!
VirtualGathis
@Buellrider - "How about figuring out how to turn the entire region into an oasis that people would then be proud to inhabit." First the folks who live there are proud to inhabit such places, and the toughness it requires of them as a people. Second if you had been paying attention you would know that the Sahara fertilized the Amazon jungles. Look up "NASA, Sahara, and Dust" to find some excellent articles, pictures, and animations, so if you "greened" the Sahara the Amazon would turn into a wasteland. There could be larger ramifications from that as well so be cautious about making large changes to a complex system we know so little about. Everything is connected on planet Earth. Anytime you make large scale changes you are affecting the entire system around the change as well.
StWils
Never mind whining about the Sahara or Sahel think about how this will look from the high western plains to southern California as global warming continues.
Nelson Hyde Chick
Always trying to accommodate for more and more people when the fundamental problem is more and more people.
Brian Sharpe
The problem isn't more people, just fewer creative people with ideas for more efficient resource development.
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