Floating Architectures

Fantasies of Safety in Oceanic Riskscapes

Authored by: Melody Jue

The Routledge Companion to Media and Risk

Print publication date:  March  2020
Online publication date:  February  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138638938
eBook ISBN: 9781315637501
Adobe ISBN:


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With the acceleration of global sea level rise, the science fictional trope of the floating island has begun to seem less speculative, and more necessary to the survival of low-lying island republics in the Pacific. This chapter takes the imagination of floating islands as an occasion to explore the implications of theorizing risk as a kind of environment or milieu, which coheres in the neologism “riskscape.” The riskscape figures as both topology and tropology, aimed at making forms of vulnerability visible and mappable. Although the riskscape of sea level rise presents one imagined version of living in risk, many western designs tend to internalize the paradigmatic architectures of capitalism (the shopping mall, the skyscraper, the cruise ship, and the oil rig) that would damage or rearrange indigenous lifeways, introducing new economic risks related to financial speculation. The chapter concludes with the Thai architectural firm S+PBA’s designs for a Wetropolis, whose porosity exemplifies a way of living with water and with risk.

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