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Marine Research Facilities



The goal was to imagine a different scenario for the near future where marine research facilities and international embassies for the environment thrive under the influence of communities coming together. The independent structures, anchored in international waters are completely disconnected from the individual concerns of countries. They are a symbol to the brotherhood of man in the face of environmental adversity.

Our storyline was developed with a utopian and prospective approach. Utopian because it seems impossible to implement in the present economic and political crisis we are going through; Prospective because it tries through its architectural ambition to stimulate forward thinking research and experimentation solutions; Enabling people to find solutions to urgent problems as well as long term issues.


The marine research facility, located off the coast of Great Britain, in what used to be international waters, came to life when nations realized the importance of the international management of environmental issues.

The project is therefore intertwined with global, political, economic, scientific and environmental constraints. Moreover, it doesn’t ignore our society’s present way of functioning and global issues. It implements a different approach by putting forward this global exchange platform; a project born from independent actions and ideas. Gathering people with eclectic backgrounds and giving them the means to share their knowledge and skills with other groups.

The aim is to take independent action and implement new and appropriate solutions to various environmental issues. Part of this project’s meaning resides in the simple and perhaps naive belief that result is greater when initiative and vision are shared.


Marine ecosystems are under tremendous pressure from our intense human activities developing at an alarming rate. Most of our actions have a significant effect on the oceans, whether they are pollution due to the use of plastic, shipping activities, offshore drilling or more recently nuclear energies. Put together with the inevitable climate change, the consequences of these events must be fully understood to shape and undertake suitable actions.

We have chosen three environmental orientated fields associated with the waters of northern Europe.


Intensive fishing techniques are incessantly decreasing our global marine resources. It is estimated that around 40% of the fish we consume is bred in fish-farms. Fish farming seems to be the solution to providing the necessary quantities of fish to meet human demand without destroying our natural reserves. Nevertheless scientists have not yet mastered the breading methods of specific species like blue-fin tuna. It is therefore necessary to study these breading methods and their effects on marine ecosystems: diverting rivers, obstructing migrating fish paths (salmon, trout, eel, lampreys) and deteriorating downstream biotopes by discharging large quantities of organic waste.


Eutrophication is a problem that mainly affects coastal areas, estuaries and bays. It causes a change in the composition of plant and animal species and enhances the growth of algae and fast-breeding animals. Eutrophication reduces light penetration in deep waters and as a result, leads to the extinction of fauna and flora in the affected areas. Agriculture and urban waste water are the principal cause but the consequences and extent of the phenomenon is still poorly understood. Actions must be undertaken to monitor and eliminate this problem. Specific reduction targets have to be set in affected areas and additional measures implemented to counter the origins of eutrophication.


To this date the European coast is home to some of the largest wind farms and innovative research in tidal and wave power. A handful of companies invest in research on tidal energy and wind power. Marine and wind power are an endless resource that will have to be used on an industrial scale to take part in the renewable energy race. Understanding their consequences on the environment will therefore also have to be a priority. These resources may overcome the increasingly growing needs.


The marine research facilities comprise of three entities built on and around the sea forts.


It develops around the abandoned military forts, giving them a third lease of fife. The building’s designs echoes that of the old naval structures, rising above sea level. The work spaces are dedicated to scientific research and enclose the programmatic elements essential to ensure quality working and living spaces. The original forts are reused as a library, exposition areas, meeting rooms, leisure. New laboratories and lodgings are anchored around the rehabilitated military structures. The whole is linked together with a series of new closed walkways.


The open experimentation area is dedicated to “on location” research, accumulating and analyzing various results in specific research domains. They comprise of in autonomous and mobile floating modules. Using mariculture as an example, we have used the modules as small bases. Each cluster studying a specific aspect of mariculture, breading methods, environmental impact…


This area of the project is dedicated to political debate and decision making. The three rehabilitated ocean platforms act as an international communications base through its architectural presence and symbolism, also attracting tourists. The amphitheater, conference halls, hotels and restaurants and a greenhouse participate in making this platform a leisure and diplomatic base. Its goal is equally educational, attracting tourists and investors as well as scientists the first group helping to finance research undertaken by the second. The three stations are self-sufficient, using energy from the surrounding sea to produce electricity for example.

E. A BRIEF HISTORY (World War Two)

1943: A series of naval sea forts are deployed in the North Sea to defend the Thames estuary from German aerial bombing.

The Maunsell sea forts were commissioned by the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Designed by Guy Anson Maunsell, these military forts were built to protect military supply ships navigating through the Thames estuary towards the London Docklands. The forts were erected in urgency because of the German Luftwaffe’s incessant attacks on allied boats. The German forces used marine mines, U-boats and aerial bombings to weaken the allies.

A first series of forts were put into service but were not sufficient. The German attacks intensified. The Royal Navy had to commission yet another series of sea forts. Guy Maunsell was asked to conceive another kind of structure. These new forts combined seven individual towers linked to one and other by six walkways. Each of the towers has a specific role. The Bofors tower was mounted with a 40mm Bofors canon. Four other gun towers complete the aerial defense as well as a search light tower. These five buildings were arranged in a semi-circular fashion around a central control tower. The 120 foot Maunsell Anti-Aircraft towers comprised of an accommodation block above sea level fitted to the four reinforced concrete legs that rested on a concrete base on the sea bed.

The sea forts were assembled at the Red Lion Wharf docks, tugged out to sea and lowered on the sea bed with cranes. The first “Fort Nore” is moored between the months of May and July 1943. The second, “Redsands” in September 1943. «Shivering sands», the last of the three naval forts is ready for action in December of that same year. Each fort, with its seven towers, could accommodate from 165 men in the beginning up to 265 nearing the end of the war, when the German Luftwaffe deployed the infamous V1 Bombs. The British Navy’s sea forts gunned down 22 aircrafts, 30 V1 bombs and one U-boat during the Second World War. They also acted as a deterrent, warning off the enemy attacks.

1952: The British government decides not to continue the sea fort program. The towers are decommissioned and abandoned for the first time.

The forts remained operational right up until the end of the war. In 1952, the British government decided not to pursue the sea fort program. The towers were therefore decommissioned. Among the first series of sea forts, only two are still standing today, Rough Sands and Knock John. Fort Sunk Head was destroyed by the British government in the 1960’s and Tongue Sands collapsed after a violent storm in 1966. The government then decided to remove most of the walkways linking the towers of the individual forts. Fort Nore is dismantled in 1959 as it was a hazard for maritime harbor activities.

1963: Pirate radios began broadcasting pop and rock music from the disused forts in international waters.

Nevertheless from 1964 Pirate radios began broadcasting pop and rock music from ships and the disused forts in international waters. On May 27th 1964 “Radio Sutch” begins to broadcast from the Shivering Sands Fort. This first attempt was rapidly replaced by another radio station «Radio City» which came to the waves in September of that same year. Radio 390 was based on “Redsands”, Radio Essex on Knock John and Tower Radio on Sink Head. On August 14th 1967 the British Government declared that the naval sea forts were within British Territorial waters. Therefore all offshore broadcasting became illegal and the sea forts abandoned for the second time.

We would like to stipulate that we do not hold the copyright to parts of the video footage included in our presentation which is a mixture of video extracts from internet sources combined with our own documents and production.


United Kingdom

Competition Details

  • Name: Open Architecture Challenge: [UN]Restricted Access
  • Host: Architecture for Humanity
  • Type: Public
  • Registration Deadline: May 01 2012
  • Submission Deadline: June 01 2012
  • Entry Fee: $50 USD Professionals , $25 USD Students , $0 USD Dues paying Architecture for Humanity Chapter members , $0 USD Developing Nations
  • Award: More than $5,000 in prizes
  • Status: Concluded

The competition entry ID for this project is 13425.

Project Details

NAME: Marine Research Facilities
PROJECT LEAD: Christopher Rombaut & David Lelong
LOCATION: Whitstable, United Kingdom
START DATE: March 10, 2012
CURRENT PHASE: Design development
PROJECT TYPE: Technology Facility

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