Off the coast of Brazil, dozens of floating oil rigs mark the first wave of an enormous boom in offshore oil extraction, with 45,000 workers already deployed offshore and more on the way. 70,000 helicopter trips every month ferry workers to and from the mainland. In the coming years, in order to service the drilling operations, the oil industry is expecting to build up to 50 new deep-water platforms, floating far beyond helicopter range. With this expansion, Brazil’s latent offshore oil industry is poised to shake up the region’s laws, economies and geopolitics, and to once again radically reshape the urban form of South America’s biggest nation and its capital city.
The Petropolis of Tomorrow focuses on the technologies, logics, logistics, and architectural possibilities of the floating mechanical islands that will serve this emerging oil boom. Edited by Neeraj Bhatia and Mary Casper, this ambitious book brings together critical essays by a number of architects and theorists, along with architectural projects, which are the products of design studios that Bhatia, now an Assistant Professor at California College of the Arts (CCA), ran at both Rice University and Cornell. Petropolis takes us on a historical and speculative exploration of oil frontiers, outposts, company towns, port cities, and artificial islands — as well as the lines of infrastructure, logistics, and capital that tie them together.
Bhatia is no stranger to infrastructure: as co-director of the research collective InfraNet Lab, founder of The Open Workshop, and co-editor of Bracket [goes soft], his work has revolved around the larger speculative agenda of territory and infrastructure as it relates to architecture.
Can networks and logistics of extraction engender city making? And what does design offer to such places (and presumably the people who live and work there)?
Petropolis explores three main ideas — first, how the idea of floating cities opens up a way to think about architecture that moves beyond objects and towards networks; second, how the geography and use of vast territories take shape around the infrastructures of extraction and production; and third, how the logistics and technical realities of extraction and transmission imprint themselves on cities and landscapes, shaping land use and subsequent urban development. While the concepts may be heavy, the book explores them through a lush combination of photography, rich narrative, design provocations and critical theory and history — striving at once to introduce the reader to these striking landscapes, and to treat the critical topics with depth.