An oasis of salt

Seawater may be the key to building sustainable cities of the future, says TU Delft alumni Eric Geboers. The architecture graduate-turned-innovator recently designed an entire city made of salt.

Inspired by biomimicry, whereby structures and processes found in nature are applied to architecture, Geboers developed a sustainable urban ecosystem in desert areas that utilizes seawater as its major resource. Using the sun’s energy, the water is pumped and desalinated to irrigate crops, while the residual salt is compressed into a building material for the city’s construction. As part of his Master’s thesis, Geboers initially tested the strength of his salt material at home by baking bricks in the oven and applying a protective coating to make them waterproof.

“What interested me the most is the idea of an ecosystem,” Geboers said. “Every organism in an ecosystem fills a certain niche, lives on the waste products of others, uses purely local materials and ultimately, uses only solar energy. Simply separating seawater into freshwater and salt happens a lot already, but I found out that salt is often a waste product and the brine is just dumped back into the sea.” Geboers wanted to add value to the process by creating new products from the infinite amount of seawater and launched The Salt Project as a result.

Thus far, the project has gained international recognition, including an award from A*Star‘s Science of Future Cities competition in Singapore and a nomination for the Archiprix Prize 2016 in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, Geboers in convinced that there is still a lot of work to be done. “Of course it’s a great feeling to be nominated,” he admitted, “but I also know the project is still at an early stage. So the recognition and promotion that comes with it is very nice but I know there is a long road ahead before we are actually building seawater cities.”

Currently, Geboers is preparing to design a large-scale pavilion made of salt in preparation for the Netherlands’ 2016 Innovation Fair. In doing so, he will be able to make critical improvements to the building material and construction process. “There are many challenges and potential problems for the material and the seawater infrastructure, but I really do believe in it,” Geboers said. “I hope we can kickstart this project and make a positive impact on the world.”

For more information on The Salt Project, visit

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