‘puffer village’ mimics the defense mechanism of a pufferfish 


the ganvie lake village in benin, africa, suffers from high sea levels, forcing its people to build wooden houses that float on water. being poorly constructed, these houses get worn out and destroyed over time – ultimately endangering the lives of villagers. in light of this issue, iranian architect sajjad navidi reveals his ‘puffer village’ proposal: a system of smart houses that adapts to rising sea levels. as the name suggests, the project borrows the anatomy of the pufferfish – a species commonly found in ganvie’s lake nakoué. the pufferfish is known to inflate like a balloon – filling up with water or air – to scare away or escape predators. 

puffer village
the houses can fill their balloon skins with water during harsh weather to avoid damage or drifting away



‘balloon skins’ that inflate/ deflate based on water conditions


inspired by this defense mechanism, navidi envisions a floating system that can inflate and deflate in response to sea levels and weather conditions. design wise, the architect defined the house geometry by studying underwater sand rings created by a pufferfish to attract a mate or protect the female’s eggs. once that was set, he proposed equipping each house with two sensors: one that responds to water levels and another to high waves. on rainy, high tide days, the water level sensor activates an air fan under the floating house, prompting a ‘balloon skin’ to fill up with air and letting the body rise to the surface. during stormy and rough conditions, an ‘impact’ sensor activates the substructure base pores to let water fill-up the skin — increasing weight and sturdiness to avoid damages or houses drifting off. finally, when conditions are stable, the balloon shell closes off, and the system starts to look a lot like typical houses with flat roofs. 

puffer village
in stable conditions, the balloon skins are deflated and the structure looks like houses with flat roofs



clean energy and aquaponic systems for agriculture


below each structure, a tidal energy system generates electricity from seawater waves. similarly, the upper part of the balloon skin features flexible photovoltaic panels that yield power from solar radiation. moreover, to contribute to the rural economy, an aquaponic system sits in the wooden fences around each house — allowing villagers to grow and cultivate their agricultural products. the proposal was part of a 2021 competition launched by fondation jacques rougerie — and was included in the top 10 list under the category of ‘innovation related to sea level rise’. 

puffer village
the puffer village adapts to all coastal areas and settlements where the risk of rising sea levels is high

smart village to adapt to changes in sea level rise inspired by the biomimetic structure of puffer fish 5
a proposed aquaponic system for agricultural labor sits in the wooden fences

smart village to adapt to changes in sea level rise inspired by the biomimetic structure of puffer fish 6
the energy system (lighting, fan system etc.) is supplied via clean energy

smart village to adapt to changes in sea level rise inspired by the biomimetic structure of puffer fish 1
nightime view of the system, with inflated ‘skins’ that help houses float lightly on water surfaces






project info:


name: puffer village

location: ganvie, benin, africa

proposal year: 2021

built area: 25-50 sqm

principal architect + designer: sajjad navidi

visualization + concept design: sajjad navidi 

typology: future architecture / biomimetic architecture



designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom