Hotelier at Sea

[Image: Courtesy of Morris Architects].

Could nearly 4000 oil rigs soon to be decommissioned in the Gulf of Mexico be retrofitted into an American Dubai of offshore luxury hotels?
If so, would that really be a good idea?

[Image: Courtesy of Morris Architects].

Either way, Morris Architects has proposed exactly that:
    There are approximately 4,000 oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico varying in size, depth and mobility that will be decommissioned within the next century. If a deck on one of these rigs is about 20,000 square feet, then there is potentially 80 million square feet of programmable space just off the coast of the United States. The current method for rig removal is explosion, which costs millions of dollars and destroys massive amounts of aquatic life. What if these rigs were recommissioned as exclusive resort islands? Could the Gulf be America’s “Dubai” and the rig the artificial island on which to build it? This project examines the possibilities of creating a self-sufficient, eco-friendly high-end resort experience in our own backyard – the Gulf of Mexico.
According to Curbed LA, the hotel rooms themselves "are pre-fabricated, designed to be transported out to the rig as a standard cargo container."

[Images: The rooms arrive by ship – before sliding open to form individual cabinettes. Courtesy of Morris Architects].

Once there, a new world of luxury interiors unfolds above the continental shelf – apparently an ideal environment in which groups of semi-nude women can watch James Bond films.

[Image: Courtesy of Morris Architects].

Of course, if the real Dubai is any model for what might actually happen with such a resort, then we'll probably see dozens of oil rigs partially converted to luxury hotels only then to be abandoned by their construction crews and investors. As the lands of southern Louisiana continue to disappear into the Gulf, heavily armed refugees on fishing boats will move out to sea, recolonizing the derelict structures. There will be campfires at night, burning driftwood, and specialty gardens.
Within four or five decades of inconsistent contact, the Library of Congress sends out a new, 21st century Alan Lomax to visit those thriving offshore subcultures and record their folk songs and oral histories.

[Image: Courtesy of Morris Architects].

He discovers a sort of new Kalevala, written by dwellers of empty structures at sea, somewhere between creation myth and national folk history. The Kalevala of Abandoned Oil Rigs.
Alas, it turns out to be a latter day Ossian – that is, he just makes the whole thing up.

[Image: Courtesy of Morris Architects].

Or, of course, the economy will recover, this plan will work, and within a decade you'll be suntanning on a platform in the Gulf of Mexico, reading Self.

(Via Curbed LA, with thanks to David Donald).

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Blogger Clare Dudman said...

I'd not heard of Kalevala before - and now I have! Fascinating stuff, as usual. Thanks.

February 17, 2009 12:18 PM  
Blogger Kit said...

Of course, to be fair, Lönnrot largely made up the Kalevala, too. That is, he decided it was one story, and not a collection of unrelated stories.

February 17, 2009 12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speculative BLDGBLOG ... my favourite!

That said, while I'm a little leery about the term "programmable space", I would be cautiously optimistic about either of these scenarios unfolding, odd as that sounds.

February 17, 2009 2:10 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

I think converting them into prisons would be more likely! I don't know what the weather is like out there, but nobody would want to go to an oil-rig hotel in the North Sea!

February 17, 2009 4:37 PM  
Blogger Genevieve said...

Really interesting post... very inspiring!

Check out my blog covering the progress of my senior capstone project, an urban village made of shipping containers placed along a railroad in Southern Louisiana. After experiencing the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav firsthand, container housing is an economical and practical solution to relief housing. I'd appreciate any comments- thanks!

February 17, 2009 5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant post, Geoff.

Of course, the thought of staying in that "hotel" seems about as appealing as a vacation on a cruise ship sans engine.

February 17, 2009 8:58 PM  
Blogger Ben Lepley said...

I'm immediately reminded of all the previous possibilities, like independent island-fortress states like you had posted a while back about Sealand. Are these in international waters?

About converting the prisons, They shut down Alcatraz, which is in San Francisco bay simply because the the fuel and transport costs were to high to ship supplies out to it... (kind lame excuse if you ask me) ok now Alcatraz is profitable not as a kick ass prison, but a tourist attraction. so maybe a hotel would be profitable. not to mention because of the recession people are traveling lesser distances for their vacations.

February 18, 2009 2:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have you read Christopher Brookmyres book :

its about a tourist resort built on a decomissioned oil rig.

February 18, 2009 11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sincerely, I had the same thoughts as another poster, a prison more likely.
There is no greenery, movement possible nor changes of location.

February 18, 2009 12:12 PM  
Blogger Liam_B said...

this idea was generated and developed by graduate students Eric Hughes and Andrea Manning at Rice University - the studio was one about tourism, taught by (at the time) PLOT, Bjarke Ingels And Julian De Smedt - a principle at Morris Houston teaches at Rice, and former students work there; I believe all of them saw the presentation and are now using it for a real project without the students who originally developed the idea...

February 18, 2009 3:30 PM  
Blogger Grant Newton said...

I bet Michael Bay wishes he'd waited to film The Island. Probably would have saved a fortune on set construction.

February 18, 2009 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Once there, a new world of luxury interiors unfolds above the continental shelf – apparently an ideal environment in which groups of semi-nude women can watch James Bond films.'

Isn't this what everyone in luxurious rendered environments is doing nowadays? A hard day spent being naked, looking wistfully into the distance, or clutching those square paper shopping bags that you get in the parts of the city where they don't sell anything useful.

Whilst the rest of us sit in low-ceilinged offices, making nothing, selling nothing to each other, getting rich on nothing at all, and waiting to win life's lottery and join their vacant ranks. And that's it. The world in 2009. Well done everyone!

Good post as usual, bang on the money.

February 18, 2009 11:09 PM  
Blogger sholo said...

although these proposed hotels seem very alluring please let us not loose sight of important things there are enough beautiful special fun hotels in the world why do we nreed to use the ocians as well why not simple dismentle the rigs and use the materials to build really cool dwelling for regular people or under privilaged people that would be less abusive to the environment would it not ?

February 19, 2009 4:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@matr: Get real. I was at Rice at the same time and the projects are nothing alike.

February 19, 2009 10:16 AM  
Blogger Liam_B said...

cynic - c'mon - you're hung up on the formal realization of the idea - i'm talking about the big idea: decommissioned rigs to tourism infrastructure - but if it makes ya feel good, you can tell me to get real again - up to you.

February 19, 2009 2:24 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

i'm talking about the big idea: decommissioned rigs to tourism infrastructure

Whoa, I'm sorry, but if you're seriously laying claim to this idea - of turning oil rigs into a new infrastructure for tourism - then you might want to do some very, very, very basic Googling. Projects involving transformed oil rigs are extraordinarily easy to come by, and I very highly doubt that they've all somehow grown out of your studio at Rice.

Literally at the very least rent the movie Face/Off, which imagines an oil rig transformed into a maximum security prison. Then take a look at Sealand, Archigram, and even the oil rig construction and engineering industry itself.

Having said that, I would actually quite love to see that project by Eric Hughes and Andrea Manning, but assigning them originary status for this idea seems historically misguided at best.

February 19, 2009 2:32 PM  
Blogger Wordblox said...

Regardless of the origin of the idea, I think the question of whether or not it's a good idea is far more important. In response to that, I would ask if the world really needs more luxury tourist destinations? Probably not. Rich people are gonna be just fine. I think reusing oil rigs as something that contributes to the greater good: providing new energy sources, food production, and solving the associated logistical problems associated with those programs is far more worthy of appreciation. Converting them to luxury hotels seems unimaginative and simple by comparison.

February 19, 2009 3:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As the lands of southern Louisiana continue to disappear into the Gulf, heavily armed refugees on fishing boats will move out to sea, recolonizing the derelict structures. There will be campfires at night, burning driftwood, and specialty gardens.
Within four or five decades of inconsistent contact, the Library of Congress sends out a new, 21st century Alan Lomax to visit those thriving offshore subcultures and record their folk songs and oral histories."

This is why you are masterful.

Also, it is wonderful to see projects of a speculative nature, half real, half school project, all excitement. Every time I see one I feel happy. Way to take that and speculate even more.

February 21, 2009 12:04 AM  
Blogger dutchfrankie said...

If the OIL companies or GOVERNMENT
would want to be real smart now,,, they could change them into WIND TURBINE ISLANDS or SOLAR PANEL ISLANDS so that these ugly polluting islands get a clean purpose instead of using them for the snobby rich to play and pollute all around them.
Big long cables on the bottom of the sea can bring all the produced energy back to a lot of city around the coast line.
Interesting taught right,,, to use them like that, please let me know what you think about this. Because sometimes I think I am stupid but if you think about it,it would gain much more energy then using energy, and of course maybe some of these islands can be used for recreation but mostly i would gain energy from them.

Greetzzz FRANK

February 23, 2009 10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I LOL'ed good stuff!

February 23, 2009 10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

get an original idea...check out this.

February 23, 2009 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmm, not impressed. i think the structures are not suitable for hotel use. the structures often are designed for 30 years or so..

February 24, 2009 3:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Anonymous with an original idea:

I wouldn't be so sure that Britton Chambers was the first person to envision a portable unit that either unfolds or expands on-site. These are pretty common practices when it comes to shipping things.

Have you ever seen an RV (recreational vehicle)? Many models expand when parked to allow more space within, in exactly the same manner as Britton Chambers' work or the Morris project.

Calling someone out on the "originality" of an idea seems petty and jealous to me, and also lacking in an understanding of how the architectural process works.

February 24, 2009 3:59 PM  
Blogger Liam_B said...

Geoff: Whoa, whoa. Did I seriously claim this idea? No. Your response jumps to wild conclusions about my response to ‘cynic’. I disagreed that the Morris project and the PLOT studio projects were dissimilar, and my suspicion was that ‘cynic’ stated they were not alike because of the forms the projects took; the research, proposals, site (Gulf Coast) were all the same. You should not be so quick to make vast assumptions about simple statements, and then go on to make it personal by calling participants on this forum ‘misguided.'

February 26, 2009 8:54 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

matr, I hadn't intended my use of the word "misguided" as a personal attack against you, but if you took it that way, I apologize.

February 26, 2009 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of all other ramifications of this concept...the human pyramid of waterskiiers in the first image is pretty funny...

February 27, 2009 11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For quite some time a had the same idea: convert an oilrig into a hotel or restaurant. Next year we hope to launch 'REM island' in the Amsterdam Harbour! Check out the following URL for some history of our platform on Youtube:
or check the website of conrete:

Hope to see you next year!

March 17, 2009 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone could have, must have thought of that idea before. Just think of the days and days some of the people who work out there are stuck there with not much else to do but think and dream. You don't have to go to college or have a degree to dream.
I thought of the idea when I saw Matt Lauer on NBC on one of those things a few years back. It was part of his annual " Where in the World is Matt Lauer" Go see when those students did their project. What even got them thinking about those old rigs anyhow?

March 24, 2009 9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The less is more, once said almost a century ago. So why now invading over the oceans to create more appealing places for the rich. Do you think any of us can afford the private helicopter to land on one of these? If they will turned into something, they should be oceanic research and protective facilities occupied by researchers, scholars, scientists, not just the rich. It is just a unmoving luxury ship. it would actually be very boring. Enough is enough and design should allow good things for the world not just for the satisfaction of the one with the money. Be careful designer!!!!

March 30, 2009 8:04 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Harmon said...

Forgive me, I couldn't resist posting my own thesis from 2005 which proposes a monastic resort which is sited on Ekofisk, an offshore oil drilling complex in the North Sea. Perhaps a little less zingy on the renderings (not my schtick), but no less conceived.



March 21, 2010 3:08 AM  
Blogger Richard Morris said...

You all need to check out Liberty Island by Richard Morris on you tube. filter with Seasteading.

August 02, 2012 7:46 PM  

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