Leo Bentegeat, alongside with Zhicheng Weng and Zicheng Cui, is the creator of H2O : Humanitarian Harbour of the Ocean.
With this project, they were rewarded with the Special Mention of the category "Architecture and Sea level Rise" during the 2016 edition of the International Competition in Architecture of the Jacques Rougerie Foundation.
This project was born with the idea that the rise of the sea level is a phenomenon for the centuries to come. Humanity will face tremendous changes in the global landscape because of it. The inevitable consequence for people has actually already started to made its appearance : climate refugees.
Expected to represent up to 250 million people in 33 years, this community that has had to move from their homeland because it has been devastated by natural disasters is becoming more and more common.
H2O, for the mollecule, but also as a play on words (Humanitarian Harbour of the Ocean), is an ambition to find a place for these people to live. Adding up to this, is is also a floating farm that can provide resources to the life inhabiting it. For this project, the three architects used all the most innovative agricultural techniques, that is aeroponics, aquaponics, or even entomoculture, to give birth to a self-sustaining eco-system called "high-tech permaculture".
We interviewed Leo on his life, his projects, and the experience he lived :
Above all, tell us about yourself in a few words: Where do you live, study or work at the moment?
I graduated last year in Architecture at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure of Architecture of Paris La Villette. I am currently looking for a job.
1) One sentence to tell us about your project
Faced with rising sea levels, H2O, the humanitarian floating farm, is an emergency structure aimed to house and feed the increasing number of climate refugees. Based on a system of "high tech permaculture" combining innovative agricultural techniques, this module is evolutionary and allows to adapt to the future stages of the rising waters.
2) Was does your project mean to you?
The H2O project is a concrete solution to the urgency generated by climate changes. More precisely, the originality of the architectural concept that we proposed is to address the problem of rising water in terms of the food challenge it implies. We choose to design a functional and feasible structure, combining different innovative techniques already existing. Thus, NGOs as well as large companies can seize them today, as an productive floating farm or as a humanitarian platform.
H20 means "Humanitarian Harbor of the Ocean". Beyond the obvious reference to the water molecule, present at all stages of the high-tech permacultural ecosystem we proposed (hydroponics etc.). Our project answers first and foremost to a human stake, which was near and dear to our heart (the project almost called itself "Humanitarian Heart of the Ocean"!).
3) What challenges did you face during the creation process of your project?
Moving from utopia to reality, the main challenge we faced was to imagine a floating structure dedicated to agriculture. Then the challenge was to shelter so many programmatic elements (housing offer, innovative agricultural techniques etc.) on the same platform and to combine the aesthetic with functionality.
When choosing the category, we thought about long-term consequences of coastal erosion but we were far from imagining that the humanitarian emergency was so current. So our formal project was born and evolved to take this urgency into account.
Finally, one of the challenges was also to produce a short video that has to be as pedagogical as possible about a very complex technical project.
4) How does it feel to try to be one of the most visionary architects in the world?
The Special mention of the Rougerie Foundation prize is very rewarding and represents the recognition of both personal and collective work. Personally, I feel very honored that our H2O project is distinguished by professionals and international experts. This award reinforces my proposals in the face of environmental and food challenges.
5) Do you think the Foundation played a crucial role in your project’s advancement, visibility?
The Rougerie Foundation has been as available as necessary for the development of our project. Moreover, the Foundation supports our project in terms of visibility.
6) Why participate in such a competition? Would you do it again?
I have always been attracted by creation, how to imagine the world of tomorrow. The Rougerie Foundation allowed us to project ourselves in the long term and gave us a large creative freedom.
7) What’s the next step?
Enriched by this experience, I hope to find a job in an architecture agency, ideally specialized in urban agriculture or at least in sustainable projects. I would like to work on projects contributing to a productive and self-sufficient city, in terms of food and energy.
8) A word of advice for this year’s participants?
I advise the Rougerie Foundation Prize to any inventor at heart. I think that one must believe in his project, not self-censoring itself. However, we must not confine our project to a purely aesthetic and formal approach, but above all to propose concrete mechanisms based on solid research to answer the problem of the category.