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Student Project: Artificial Islands in Switzerland Share Share

A contemporary Utopia

(Video only available in French)

As part of his master thesis, young architect Adrien Alberti envisioned floating peninsulas on Lake Geneva, with forms inspired by nature and automatically generated by a computer algorithm.

"I imagined the city of Lausanne as roots of a tree growing towards the lake ..." Adrien Alberti, freshly graduated from the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC) at EPFL, may not have come up with this year’s most realistic architecture master’s project. But his is certainly one of the most poetic ones.

Supervised by Jeffrey Huang and Georges Abou Jaoude, the young architect wanted to propose a new interpretation to the concept of "metabolist" architecture, developed in Japan during the 1960s. To do so, he applied the tools of parametric architecture, his supervisors’ specialty, to the concept. In parametric architecture, a computer is given the task of determining the shapes of a building based on a set of data that it is fed.

Adrian’s algorithm uses existing town-planning records of the city of Lausanne and its suburbs. Using mathematical formulas provided by Adrian, the computer processes these data to “single-handedly” generate peninsulas that follow the same design principles as nautilus shells, for instance.

An underwater subway

Adrian then devised the different types of "modules" that would make up these islands. Housing, services, and crop cultures would all be integrated using these building blocks. Below the surface, a fast underwater subway would give maximum mobility to each resident. "My project is designed for zero reliance on fossil energy. The roofs of certain buildings are equipped with mirrors that focus the sun's heat onto the top of a tower that produces all of the electricity required."

Natural shapes, conceived by "spontaneous generation", limit the visual impact of such buildings - unlike the artificial islands built in cities such as Dubai. Adrian’s project, on display at the exhibition of architecture master’s projects, seems to get it just right and harmoniously decorates the banks of Lake Geneva. "It would be able to accommodate up to 60,000 people though," calculates the architect.

A versatile aesthete, Adrien Alberti worked very hard for his graduation dissertation. He spared no efforts and produced outstanding presentation boards in a style inspired by the engravings in Thomas More's Utopia. Computer animations as well as a skillfully bound book explain the theory behind his project. It makes you want to believe in it. "However,” he concludes, “I think that dreams of this kind are not always meant to be realized."