Cleaning Europe’s waterways: the floating island of Physalia


Physalia on the Seine, Paris

Vincent Callebaut Architectures has designed Physalia, a floating structure that takes its name and shape from the Portuguese Man o’ War. It has, however, a friendlier purpose than its venomous, invertebrate namesake.

Variously described as an amphibious garden and a floating island, the structure is designed to sail down the polluted rivers of major European cities, purifying the water as it goes.


The East elevation: solar panels and vegetation

Entirely self-powered via solar panel cladding and pneumatic roof membranes, Physalia crafts are intended to help clean the Seine, Thames, Volga, Danube and Escaut using the following process:

  • The vessel has an aluminum surface covering its steel structure.
  • A titanium dioxide layer of anatase form reduces water pollution when reacting with ultraviolet rays.
  • In addition to being a self-cleaning vessel, it can absorb and recycle through a photo-catalytic effect.
  • Physalia’s double hull is criss-crossed by a hydraulic network that filters the fluvial water and purifies it biologically, thanks to its planted roof.

The deck of the vessel

Other projects have fused conceptual architecture with water purification systems: the Whitney Water Purification Facility and Park, designed by Steven Holl Architects, was chosen as one of the Top Ten Green projects for 2007 by the American Institute of Architects.

The ecofriend blog showcases another floating island used for water purification on a smaller scale: this one, in Poland, is powered by people on exercise bikes…

(Images by kind permission of Vincent Callebaut Architectures.)

ESI references


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