The “8th continent” is an award-winning design that restores ocean health and simultaneously recycles plastic.
Ocean garbage represents one of the world’s biggest pollution problems, and this facility prototype by Lenka Petráková proposes to solve it. The name is “8th continent” and its design collects plastic waste from the water’s surface and breaks it down into recyclable material.
Depicting a cleaner and sustainable future for marine environments is the major goal of this floating station, getting its name from the marine debris currently covering a surface of approximately 1.6 million square metres in the North Pacific Ocean, known as the Great Pacific garbage patch (the eighth continent). The design project was recently awarded the 2020 Grand Prix Award for architecture and innovation of the sea, following a competition launched by foundation Jacques Rougerie, a French institute that awards visionary projects that encourage sustainable collaborations between scientists and designers.
Petráková’s model is a petal-shaped building, standing on branched platforms working together to collect plastic debris and transform it into recyclable material. The entire structure is designed with six main departments:
Barrier, which serves to collect waste and harvest tidal energy;
Collector, to store the sorted and biodegraded waste;
Research and education centre, that studies and showcases marine environments and their increasingly worrying conditions;
Greenhouses, where plants are grown using hydroponic cultivation;
The barrier floats on the water’s surface and moves waste towards the collector, designed to optimize waste handling. The collector itself and the greenhouses are then linked to the research and education centre to study and follow the water processes. Aerodynamics are also important, as greenhouses (located at the upper level) are shaped to allow wind navigation along the station, optimizing at the same time the condensed water collection. Living quarters, public spaces and support facilities pass through the building’s centre and connect all parts, geometrically matching the ship’s keel.
The station’s movement and position, as well as the inside environment, is affected by natural forces, allowing the station to be self-sufficient. The barrier also collects tidal energy, which powers the turbines to collect the waste. Solar panels cover greenhouses and ensure there is enough power for the water reservoirs’ heating, allowing the evaporation of water and its desalination.
After the wastewater extraction, the filtered clean water is pumped into the water tank and either desalinated or used for plants’ cultivation.
These the words of Lenka Petràkovà: “I believe today to be the time for imagining a cleaner, environmentally sustainable future and ways to achieve it with technical, architectural and artistic creations, to allow us to build them for ours and the world’s better tomorrows”, and again, “The live-giving ocean is suffering, and we need to help restore its balance for our planet’s survival. We cannot achieve it only by technology, but we need an interdisciplinary platform to educate people and change their relationship with the marine environment for the generations to come”.