Nicholas Scribner & Clare Hacko
California College of the Arts


Evan Jones & Margaret Ikeda
California College of the Arts



This interesting study brings attention to climate change and rising sea levels by imagining a floating community in the Maldives. The students understood how to work with a different ground planes and included an exploration of what it would be like if you could see a building from below. Above ocean the design is a simple modern style, while underwater “bladders” create ballast and an ocean microecosystem.

DESCRIPTION   Measure 1: Design for Integration
Dis/Placement constructs a terrain upon which its inhabitants explore a life in the act of translation from ground to water. Climate change poses an imminent threat not only to the low lying and quickly eroding land of the Maldives, but also to its drinking water supply. The existing water supply has become precarious due to saltwater contamination, rising sea levels, the increasing unpredictability of the monsoon seasons, and the lack of redundancy in the systems which often results in the expensive and wasteful import of bottled water. Through the construction of an offshore community, designed to leverage water catchment and storage, this water farm will provide clean drinking water not only to its inhabitants but also to the entire adjacent island of Dhangethi.

Measure 2: Design for Community
While each module is scaled to the individual family, public and private space within the units is divided to privilege the collective. Sleeping quarters are bunks in the lowest volume of the module, leaving the entire first floor for the collective and the second floor as an elevated kitchen. The adjustable panel walls allow for the boundaries between the public space of the unit and the public space of the site, the “grounds”, to be completely dissolved at will in order to cultivate larger collectives and invite the blurring of traditional ownership boundaries. Terraced roofs extended the collective space of the units to the site, creating opportunities for the construction of a collective at the scale of several families.

Measure 3: Design for Ecology
Unlike traditional sea crafts, Dis/Placement invites the growth of sea life through its geometry and surface rugosity. These precursor species are the foundations for healthy ocean ecologies, and will ultimately support human life at sea by maintaining a healthy and diverse ecosystem. Dis/Placement constructs a closed loop, self-sustaining system which protects and fosters the surrounding ecology through the onsite filtration and reuse of greywater and the onsite composting and reuse of both solid and liquid waste from composting toilets. The underside of each module constructs a terrain of curvature which creates maximum substrate surface area to encourage the development of biodiverse microecosystems.

Measure 4: Design for Water
Rainwater is collected at each rooftop and stored in the hull below, where water storage bladders are suspended in saltwater chambers. As the bladders fill with freshwater, saltwater is displaced from the chamber, maintaining an equilibrium for ballasting the module. Clean drinking water is pumped above for use in the module's kitchen and bathroom. After its initial use, the water is sent to a "Greywater ground module” for filtration through a wetland column. At each greywater ground, used water can be filtered, stored, and reused for agriculture.

Measure 5: Design for Economy
Dis/Placement is constructed entirely from Fiber-Reinforced Polymer. What this innovative and developing material lacks in initial construction affordability, it makes up for in material longevity. The FRP modules are durable at sea and can be constructed on site at Dhangethi from a series of reusable molds. The site blurs traditional ownership boundaries, in order to extend the personal domain into the public, privileging collective over private ownership. This site strategy allows the individual to gain access to larger, flexible public spaces which can accomodate a much larger variety of programming than any individual unit.

Measure 6: Design for Energy
Each module is designed for maximum airflow in order to combat the warm and humid climate. The section draws air from the lower areas up through the highest volume. Adjustable wall panels allow maximum cross ventilation for passive cooling. When opened, the rotated panels perform as a shading device to reduce solar heat gain. A photovoltaic array provides energy to the site which is constructed as a micro-grid which allows for maximum efficiency in energy production and eliminates the need for fossil fuel run generators.

Measure 7: Design for Wellness
The mental and physical wellness of the inhabitants of our community depends on thoughtful integration of thermal, visual, and acoustic demands. The module’s minimal cross sectional dimension allows for maximum passive airflow, the most effective strategy for passive cooling in the hot, humid Maldivian climate. Daylighting is moderated by the panel infill walls which can be completely rotated and retracted to maximize the occupant’s connection to the outside. The translucent panels can be easily adjusted to provide ample passive ventilation, natural daylighting, while blocking direct solar heat gain, keeping the interior comfortable and well lit.

Measure 8: Design for Resources
FRP composites have been recognized by LEED as cost effective, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly construction material for their extreme durability and lifespan. This makes them ideally suited to marine environments. Minimal material is required by leveraging a form-active structural design. Each panel is produced from reusable molds which can be shipped to the Maldives for fabrication at the island’s existing boat building facilities. Curved stoppers and inserts are used to construct 13 different columns from a single mold.

Measure 9: Design for Change
The residents of the Maldives must preserve their national identity as they lose the physical land which defines its borders. Maldivians must become independent from the ground.. Each module in our project is designed to tile together, allowing for future expansion and aggregation at the scale of the site. As more land is lost to the rising sea, more floating housing and ground modules can be permanently joined or temporarily connected to strengthen the collective. Since each aggregation functions as a micro-grid, and power and drinking water are generated on site, the community is insulated from possible failures of larger-scale land-based infrastructures.

Measure 10: Design for Discovery
Dis/Placement developed out of the expertise of a unique set of consultants, from structural engineers to marine biologists, naval architects, and fabricators. This unconventional grouping of experts allowed us to discover unlikely methods for addressing the needs of the community. The form of Dis/Placements allow for stability, especially through aggregation, in the water. This form however, required significant ballasting in order to maintain that stability. Dis/Placements was able to leverage that space for fresh water storage through the design of its water chamber system. Diverse expertise has proved an invaluable part of our creative process.