mayank thammalla envisions maldives' future with swim or sink concept
mayank thammalla envisions maldives' future with swim or sink concept
may 15, 2015

mayank thammalla envisions maldives' future with swim or sink concept

maldives is a small island nation located roughly 600 kilometers (370 miles) of the south-western tip of india. it has a population of approximately 330,000 spread amongst 192 of the areas 1,000+ islands. between the country’s near-equator locale, perfect sand, and lush blue-green water — it sounds like a paradise; and it is, for now. maldives possesses another interesting trait, it has the lowest average ground elevation in the world, sitting a mere 1.5 meters (4′ 11”) above sea level

mayank thammalla swim or sink project designboom
all visuals courtesy of mayank thammalla



herein lies the republic’s problem. as oceans rise — currently about 3.5mm (0.14”) a year — the islands will continually sink deeper into the depths. by year 2100, given current trends, water will rise anywhere between 0.8 to 2 meters (2.5′ to 6.5′). asides from swamping most coastal cities worldwide, the height increase would essentially render the maldives and its people extinct. to address the inevitable relocation of the maldivian people and culture, mayank thammalla created the ‘swim or sink’ project.

arrival at the port underneath the oil rig – below the platform level



the concept revolves around the repurposing of semi-submersible oil rigs for permanent human habitation. to give the refuges a sense of familiarity, thammalla intensively studied the cultural history and lifestyles of residents of malé, the atolls’ capital. his research provided a catalyst for the design, which translated into a spatial environment catered to be as natural as possible. living quarters were made to typical enclosure ratios, with traditional coconut timber as the main construction material. on the main platform, thammalla imagined a space identical to the city’s center. historical attributes like places of worship, along with more everyday qualities like markets and shops.

mayank thammalla swim or sink project designboom
public realm — platform level 



‘swim or sink’ does not take into consideration economical factors involved with such a proposition. however, the maldivian people require a fail-safe solution in order to maintain their geographic position on the planet. by using technologies already in existence, such as semi-submersible oil rigs, the 2,000 year old oceanic culture can potentially be saved without the need of a mass-migration

housing units are located on the upper levels 

mayank thammalla swim or sink project designboom
contextual image of malé cityscape 

mayank thammalla envisions maldives' future with swim or sink concept

future of the maldives

mayank thammalla envisions maldives' future with swim or sink concept
planning diagram

mayank thammalla swim or sink project designboom
physical model



designboom has received this project through its ‘DIY submissions’ feature, which welcomes readers to submit their own work for publication. see more designboom readers submissions here.


edited by: nick brink | designboom

  • Mr. Soleri, I’d like you to meet Mr. Cook

    dbkii says:
  • VERY GOOD!!!!!!!!

    tung cab says:
  • why not build cable cars as a safe means of transport between the islands? cheap and efficient.

    Filip says:
  • Correction: “living quarters were made to typical enclosure ratios, with traditional coconut timber as the main construction material.” Coconut timber was used a long time ago, maybe 50, 60 years back to build houses. Now only resorts use them, not the average house. Just look at our capital. Anyways, cool designs, although I will say not very practical. But the people here are finding this interesting, nonetheless.

    Shaad says:
  • Where will be the airport? Moreover, tourists go to Maldives for beaches. If those beautiful beaches are not there, then people will not go there.

    Anand says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

architecture news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
504,180 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample
designboom magazine