A prototype ocean cleaning facility by Slovak designer Lenka Petráková has scooped the highest award in an architectural competition for projects posing creative solutions to environmental challenges.
Called The 8th Continent, the floating station designed to solve one of the world’s most pressing pollution problems: ocean plastic waste. Marine debris currently covers a surface of approximately 1.6 million square metres in the North Pacific — known as the Great Pacific garbage patch — which, as Petráková suggests, could be considered the world’s eighth continent.
The 8th Continent was awarded the 2020 Grand Prix Award for Architecture and Innovation of the Sea from Foundation Jacques Rougerie, a French institute that awards visionary projects that encourage sustainable collaborations between scientists and designers.
Petráková’s model consists of interconnected petal-shaped buildings which stand on tentacle-like platforms, and all work together to collect plastic debris from the water surface and transform it into recyclable material. The prototype also features a research and education centre that studies and showcases marine environments, a greenhouse where plants are grown using hydroponic cultivation — a method for growing plants without soil just using water — and living facilities for the station’s researchers.
Petráková prototype is conceptualised to be self-sufficient and both adapt and benefit from the ocean’s environment. The buildings are designed to allow wind to pass through the station, making it more resistant to strong ocean winds, collect water for irrigation, and harness tidal and solar energy.
“Although it is an unbuilt project, as Jules Verne said, anything one man can imagine, another man can make real,” says Petráková. “And I believe today is the time to imagine a cleaner, environmentally more 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.”