Inside incredible plan for floating ‘Lilypad’ city of the future with self-driving cars & pilotless helicopters

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AMBITIOUS plans for astonishing futuristic floating “lilypad” cities with driverless cars and pilotless helicopters have been unveiled.

The designs for a series of enormous artificial islands off Penang Island, Malaysia, would be the biggest project of its kind ever built.


Plans for a futuristic ‘lilypad’ city have been unveiledCredit:
The city would be made out of interlinked islands


The city would be made out of interlinked islandsCredit:
Autonomous vehicles would transport residents and visitors around


Autonomous vehicles would transport residents and visitors aroundCredit:

Plans were first released by Danish architecture and design firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) in 2020, in collaboration with Denmark-based engineering group Ramboll and famous Malay architect Hijjas bin Kasturi.

The vast project, if completed, would include three artificial floating islands, covering a total area of 1,821 hectares, roughly the size of 2,550 football pitches.

Each island would be modelled in the form of a lilypad, and include mixed-use districts, up to 5km of public beaches, 242 hectares of parks, and a 25km-long waterfront.

The islands would each be able to support between 15,000 and 18,000 residents, with most of the buildings made of a combination of bamboo, locally-sourced wood, and so-called “green concrete” which uses recycled materials.

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Most futuristic of all, the islands would be connected by an entirely-anonymous transport network, featuring self-driving cars and pilotless helicopters.

This would make the floating city entirely car-free, with focus instead given to pedestrians and cyclists.

The goal of the so-called BiodiverCity is to create a “global destination” to help bring tourists and jobs to Penang, without damaging the island’s unique coastline and natural landscapes.

It is part of the local government’s Penang2030 vision.

“Our masterplan proposal, BiodiverCity, supports the Penang2030 vision with a clear focus on livability, on stimulating a socially and economically inclusive development, and on environmental sustainability for future generations,” BIG said.

“BiodiverCity will be a new sustainable global destination where cultural, ecological and economic growth is secured and where people and nature coexist in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet at the southern shore of Penang Island.”

A glossy video for the project shows autonomous buggies travelling over waterways and between breathtaking futuristic buildings and calming palm trees.

“If Penang is defined by its rich cultural diversity and its abundant biodiversity, we would like to envision the Penang South islands as an archipelago where the two can coexist in a human-made ecosystem, expanding and enhancing one another,” BIG founder Bjarke Ingels said.

“We proposed the creation of urban lilypads organised by a cellular structure of urban districts connected by natural patches and corridors for habitats.”

The first-built island would be called Channels, including a “Civic Heart” for government and research institutions.

Alongside it would be a Cultural Coast district designed to resemble Penang’s state capital George Town.

The island would have at its heart a 200-hectare digital park, which the designers say would be for locals and guests alike to “explore the world of technology, robotics and virtual reality”.

A second island, Mangroves, would be found in the centre of BiodiverCity.

This would feature business-focused districts and at its heart would be the Bamboo Beacon, a huge venue for major events and conferences.

Districts would be organised around a series of urban wetlands and native mangrove forests.

The final island, The Laguna, is described by its designers as a “miniature archipelago” made up of eight smaller islands arranged around a central marina.

Residents would live in a mixture of floating houses, stilted housing, and terraced home, surrounded by spawning grounds for marine life to protect the native wildlife.

It isn’t the only remarkable scheme being designed by BIG.

Elsewhere, the firm is working on plans for a “city of the future” in Japan.

The ambitious scheme, created in partnership with Toyota, would be built alongside Mount Fuji.

Made of mostly wooden buildings, the first phase of the city built on the site of a former car factory would have solely autonomous vehicles.

It is one of several incredible futuristic schemes for “floating cities” currently in development worldwide.

One such plan is an £8billion one-mile-long Freedom Ship that could carry 100,000 people on a never-ending cruise around the world.

While Italian design firm Lazzarini has unveiled plans for an enormous turtle-shaped “terayacht” with space for 60,000 passengers.

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If completed, it would become the largest sea structure ever built.

And designs have been published for a floating city project off the coast of China including underwater streets for submarines.

The cities would have space for more than 50,000


The cities would have space for more than 50,000Credit:
The plans look like something out of science fiction


The plans look like something out of science fictionCredit:
They would be off the coast of Penang, Malaysia


They would be off the coast of Penang, MalaysiaCredit:
Most of the buildings would be made from timber


Most of the buildings would be made from timberCredit:
Driverless cars would help people get to work and play


Driverless cars would help people get to work and playCredit:
The cities are designed to be sustainable


The cities are designed to be sustainableCredit:
Would you like to live in a city like this?


Would you like to live in a city like this?Credit:

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