Slovak designer Lenka Petráková has won the 2020 Grand Prix Award for an ocean-cleaning research facility in the Pacific. The "8th Continent" project is a floating station that restores the marine environment by collecting plastic debris from the surface and breaking it down to recyclable material. The plastic recycling center connects with a research and education facility to create an interdisciplinary and sustainable platform for the future.
As Petráková notes, millions of tons of trash enter the ocean each year. "Today, large surfaces covered in marine plastic pollution equal the size of a continent. The one growing in the pacific ocean is called The 8th Continent. For too long, we lived in the delusion that we can not hurt the ocean by our action onshore. We left hundreds of species to get extinct." The ocean-cleaning research facility was designed with a reimagined approach grounded in architectural and technological designs. The proposed floating station would clean the ocean to restore balance in the marine environment.
The design collects plastic debris from the surface and breaks it down to recyclable material. The station not only physically improves the water but creates a platform to gave and observe the marine environment. Made to be self-sufficient, the station optimizes power. The Barrier collects tidal energy, which powers the turbine to collect the waste. Solar panels cover Greenhouses and ensure there is enough power for the water reservoirs' heating, allowing the evaporation of water and its desalination. After the wastewater extraction, the filtered clean water is pumped into the water tank and either desalinated or used for halophilic plants' hydrophobic cultivation.
The station consists of five main parts:
- The Barrier that serves to collect waste and harvest tidal energy
- The Collector, where waste is sorted, biodegraded and stored
- The Research and Education Centre to study and showcase the increasingly troubling side of aquatic environments
- Greenhouses where plants are grown, and water is desalinated
- Living Quarters with support facilities
As she explains, each of the main parts is developed based on the required environmental characteristics and the program they carry. The Barrier floats on the water surface and moves waste towards the Collector. The collection technology at the center of the building is designed to optimize waste handling. The research and education center is linked to the Collector and Greenhouses to follow the water processes and study them. Greenhouses are shaped to optimize condensed water collection and resemble large sails. The Living Quarters, public spaces and support facilities pass through the building's center and connect all the parts together, geometrically matching the ship's keel.
The 8th Continent was awarded the 2020 Grand Prix Award for Architecture and Innovation of the Sea from Foundation Jacques Rougerie, a French institute that awards visionary projects that encourage sustainable collaborations between scientists and designers. It was also recently recognized with Render of The Year 2020 - Overall / Directors Choice Award.
The 8th Continent was completed at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna with Studio Hani Rashid.