Editors’ Choice
2020 Skyscraper Competition

Milos Petrovic, Sara Stojkanovic

More than ever, the world is witnessing a high level of danger due to the constant increase in a number of natural disasters. Humanity is in demand of a fast-responding solution for evacuation and danger detection. Therefore, renewable energy and optimizing collaboration between program, technology, and architecture have come to the forefront of design approaches.

Giving an example of Tokyo, the project focus on tsunamis whose rapid growth has been reported in this region in the past decade. Earthquakes, the usual cause of tsunamis, aren’t uncommon in Japan as it sits within what’s known as the Ring of Fire, a chain of tectonic plate boundaries that hugs the Pacific basin. It’s home to around 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes. A decade ago, one of the deadliest natural disasters in history killed 227,898 people – nearly 170,000 of them in these regions. The people from Japan face an uncertain future as the next tsunami is predicted in a few years with 100% death rate in the area it affects, going 16 kilometers into the land. Is this country ready for the next one? Can it be saved by water force itself?

In the deep ocean, tsunami waves may appear only a foot high, but as they enter shallower water they slow down and begin to grow in energy and height. Observing the divers in water during earthquakes and other disasters, it’s known that the effect it has on them is minimal. Recognizing this phenomenon can save lives.

Submersus, that takes the concept of submarines and applies it to structure, is a built emergency shelter for the ones caught in extreme conditions. Under such circumstances, applied technology based on natural principles is as much a thought experiment as it is a serious architectural proposal.

The idea sprung from the way in which submarines are powered. We envision Submersus to work as one at a much greater scale placed in water 3.5 to 4 kilometers from the shallow. Having in mind that Japan doesn’t have many high lands, it’s calculated that 7 times more people can be saved if evacuated to shelter in the ocean than running deeper in the city in 15 minutes given before hit of a devastating force. For this structure to withstand environmental loads like water it must be flexible enough to move, yet provide enough resistance and weight, to dive itself into its own excavated engineered landscape.

Thus, the core part of this proposal is the use of tsunami’s strength to trigger the mechanism, and by the law of buoyancy to dive the structure, as its shield turns by using water currents to mobilize its hydraulic pivots. The Submersus has grates open at the bottom, and the shield is filled with compressed air that doesn’t allow water to get in. In order to move and dive during the danger, the skyscraper is designed with floodable sections filled with coming ocean water displacing the air from them, when vents on top of the skyscraper are open. In order to surface, the reverse method is used – air pump produces the compressed air that can’t escape from mentioned spaces so it starts pushing water back out. This is decreasing overall weight and is more than enough to surface again when it’s safe.

The captured waterworks as both a movement generator and energy source, allowing the creation of a shelter comprising rooms with clean air and drinkable water. This frame contains cell-like modules that act as sleeping areas.

In addition to this clever use of the natural properties of water, the shield surrounding the structure is coated with two outer hulls, which generates heat for inhabitants of the shelter.

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