A tiny fiberglass island is bobbing up and down in the San Francisco Bay right now.
From far away, it looks like a beluga whale poking through the water. Up close, it looks like a misshapen raft. In reality, it's a buoyant structure known as the "Float Lab," which is designed to foster a floating ecosystem.
The prototype was deployed in August by a team of designers at the California College of the Arts (CCA)'s Architectural Ecologies Lab. Their goal is to see if animals will attach to the island, thus expanding its size and creating a buffer against ocean currents. An entire network of islands, they predict, could help calm the bay's choppy waters and prevent future floods from ravaging the coast.
If the structure holds up, it could even provide a model for floating cities - a design concept that's supported by the United Nations as a way to address rising sea levels.
Take a look at how prototype is faring in the water.
The island launched in the San Francisco Bay in August. It's roughly the size of car and made of fiberglass, a type of reinforced plastic.
Fiberglass doesn't corrode or rot, so it should be capable of withstanding the harsh marine environment.
The team hopes that animals will attach themselves to the island, creating a mini ecosystem.
The structure is lopsided to foster marine life.
Caves underneath the structure create "fish condos."
The team will soon install an "underwater chandelier" for animals to latch onto as well.
By slowing down waves, the Float Lab could mitigate the impacts of tsunamis or hurricanes.
The Float Lab team uses computer simulations to make predictions about how an entire fleet of these islands could operate.
The design could one day incorporate human habitats.
In the future, Marcus said, marine animals could live on the outside of the structure, while humans could live on the inside.
Technically, floating cities are illegal in the San Francisco Bay, but the city has been supportive of the team's research.
The Float Lab is different from other floating architecture concepts because it's about testing materials — not housing communities.