The first SEA20 Creative Session took place in Hamburg in late August, with key influencers brought together to determine how the cities they represent can best take advantage of the Smart Marine Ecosystem. Their chief outcome was a series of future-focused visions, exploring how urban settings could draw upon the untapped potential of the ocean.


City vision: Mangrove 

A new vantage point bringing the coastline back into focus for the city’s inhabitants and guests – commercially self-sufficient and fully powered by renewable energy.The 18th century saw the port city as the focus of regional trade and commerce. In a sense, this is “where it all began” in terms of our conception of trade and commercial prosperity. The sea-enabled trade directly fed the growth of the city, and the world’s port cities prospered above all others.

In the 19th century, a shift took place. The railway station became the new epicentre, as the technology enabling swift regional transport became accessible to the masses. Our landscape as traders, travellers, citizens and consumers was expanded hugely as a result.


Most familiar to us now, of course, is the situation we find ourselves in as the result of the 20th century. Airports are now seen as the most critical transport hubs, and citizens haven’t been bound to their immediate locale for as long as anyone can remember. The role of other transport methods – essential as they are to our daily lives – is consigned to near invisibility.

Enter the Mangrove

And so we arrive at the present day, and the urgent need to reawaken the potential of the world’s port cities, a feat which will take nothing less than an oceanic awakening.

Mangrove –a concept created during the first SEA20 Creative Session in Hamburg – is an ambitious and futuristic architectural development intended to address this need, creating a spectacle worthy of any great marine city.


The idea is striking in its simplicity – a new vantage point literally bringing the coastline back into focus for the city’s inhabitants and guests. Visitor footfall, enabled by frequent passenger journeys to the mainland, ensures its commercial self-sufficiency, while the structure is fully powered by renewable energy. Mangrove establishes a completely new category of urban space, enabling novel approaches to living, working, and enjoying the meeting point of land and sea.





City vision – Ecotone
Port-situated “living labs” in every SEA20 city, each piloting new ways for inhabitants to engage with and enjoy the benefits of the ocean.


No change as momentous as the one the marine industry is currently undergoing happens immediately, and the same can be said of the way our cities are formed and the ways in which they develop. “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, as the famous adage aptly states.


Perhaps change needs to arrive in smaller pieces, with potential strategies, techniques and concepts tested out on a reduced scale before the most successful are rolled out more broadly. This is the central idea behind the Ecotone, also developed during the Creative Session in Hamburg. The name comes from the natural phenomenon of a meeting place of eco systems (in this case, those of land and water), forming a third one embodying new conditions and hitherto unexplored potential.


Reserved for innovation


The Ecotone locates a dedicated space in each SEA20 city’s port area reserved for the piloting of new ways for inhabitants to engage with and enjoy the benefits of living side by side with the ocean. Along with the core concept, initial suggestions for these potential pilot programs were suggested, each with a particular SEA20 city in mind.


Participants in the Creative Session speculated that Hamburg might host an urban incubator at its port, showcasing new shore-focused urban experiences, and port-located residential, commercial and industrial activities.


In Helsinki, the city’s thriving start-up culture and mobile-app expertise was explored, with participants positing an app service making local and international sea-bound travel more accessible.


New York could look into the benefits of positioning a port offshore, with dedicated vessels connecting the main facility to pop-up test sites within the city, be they retail hubs, fresh-produce markets, or nodes connecting to innovative distribution-chain disruptors such as Amazon.


While for Singapore, a new multi-level approach to unloading and logistics was offered, with self-contained strata for goods, vehicles, and passengers travelling on foot.




City vision – Blue Belt
A new smart port is situated at a remove from the shore, while the city coastline is given a radical clean-up, as we set our sights upon swimmable waters and a wholly new setting for residential and commercial development at the core of the urban environment.


The Blue Belt is a multi-tier approach combining the benefits of smart technology in a marine context with its ramifications for urban planning.


It begins with the strategy of locating a new smart port – embodying all the benefits of the smart marine ecosystem – at arm’s length from the city shoreline. The session participants in Hamburg speculated that this might take a new lattice-like form to enable exciting new operating models.


New horizons


Water-bound logistical networks are to be revised, connecting vessels, goods, and consumers in entirely novel ways. The Blue Belt would see smart ports; facilitating efficient transportation of passengers and products between cities from smart port to city; and within the city to the general public – in support of innovative logistical centres using smart technology to distribute goods according to new operating models.


With all this achieved, the city shoreline is, in essence, liberated, and can play host to any number of new developments. Citizens are free to enjoy it differently, as new leisure and commercial spaces become viable in the heart of areas that were previously locked down for industrial usage.


And why stop even there? A shoreline given new life can enjoy new targets, as citizens rediscover the potential of their living environment. A 100% swimmable harbour could be the blue future every great marine city deserves.


The way forward


With these city visions documented, it is now time to explore their potential with stakeholders in city planning and urban governance. No change is possible without broad collaboration, but with proposed models in hand – no matter how far-sighted – the transformation moves that little bit closer towards realisation.


We invite you to contribute to this movement by publicly endorsing ‘An Oceanic Awakening’ and rallying your supporters to join the conversation. Follow the discussion on #AnOceanicAwakening and #SEA20.