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A fairly common feature in near-future works is cities built on artificial islands in the middle of the ocean. Often they are built to alleviate overcrowding on land, especially when Global Warming causes sea levels to rise and envelop coastal cities, but just as often they are sites for Mega Corps to do things that may or may not exactly be "legal" in most conventional nations due to the idea of international waters where a nation's jurisdiction no longer applies. This is an oversimplification of actual laws and treaties regarding the high seas as there are still some laws that apply universally like those against piracy and ships are still subject to the laws of the country they're registered under, but the allure of an unregulated frontier is a strong one in the popular imagination and thus in fiction.

Related to Underwater City, which is when the colony is underwater instead of on it. Likely to also be a City of Canals, and sometimes part of an Ocean Punk setting or a Flooded Future World. May also be a form of Mobile City if the "islands" are actually barges or ships (rather than being rooted to the seafloor) and the whole complex can move (or be towed) to some new part of the sea.

Not to be confused with Floating Continent, which floats in the air.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Gargantia fleet in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet consists of ships that have locked themselves together, essentially forming a giant floating city.
  • In Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, the setting is a series of connected cities on water due to a cataclysmic event that flooded the world.
  • The titular location of Doraemon: Nobita's Treasure Island is actually Captain John Silver's island-sized spaceship, housing hundreds and hundreds of pirate citizens aboard.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Man-Machine Interface features Poseidon Industrial's artificial island city, where Motoko Aramaki's real body is typically stored.
  • My Hero Academia: Two Heroes presents I-Island, which is a city dedicated to the study of Quirks, making it Scienceville as well.
  • One Piece:
    • The conclusion of the Enies Lobby arc shows turning the City of Canals Water Seven into this is mayor and shipwright Iceburg's next big project.
    • Germa 66 is an entire country, albeit an incredibly small one, made up of a fleet of interlocking rafts carried by giant snails. Due to the snails' ability to cross both the Grand Line and the Red Line, impenetrable barriers to most people, they are among the few people who can travel about the planet as they please.
  • Neo Venezia in ARIA, naturally, since it's a replica of Venice.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, cities on Ganymede take this form due to the moon being completely covered in ocean. They're kept afloat by massive air-filled sacs and anchored in place by a network of cables.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: In Ixalan, the closest thing the pirates of the Brazen Coalition have to a capital is the city of High and Dry, a collection of derelict ships lashed together and kept afloat. It originally grew around two ships that became hopelessly entangled after ramming into each other, with more and more ships being added over time until it became a full-sized settlement. It usually floats off of Ixalan's northeastern coast and serves as neutral "ground" for the pirates to meet, unwind and strike deals with each other.

    Fan Works 
  • The Legend of Genji: The Ocean Folk are an indigenous group from the Earth Kingdom's eastern shores who are known for building floating villages atop ocean waters using vines and clay.
  • Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space: Gneelix proudly shows off holographs of his past adventures. One shows construction workers proudly standing on the deck of a newly completed mid-Atlantic seadrome. The next image shows the same group fleeing in terror as the floating airport is swamped by a vast rogue wave.

    Film — Animation 
  • San Angel from The Book of Life sits in the middle of a lake.
  • Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence has an android manufacturer that bases its factory on a ship because they're dubbing the ghosts of young girls into their robots.
  • Psycho-Pass: The Movie takes place primarily in a floating city owned by a Southeast Asian government in the Pacific called Shamballa.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The 1933 German film F.P.1 involves a floating airport that would have solved the entire Mid-Atlantic Gap problem if they'd actually gone and built it (assuming the Allies captured it intact).
  • Last Sentinel (2023) takes place on a tiny sea fort on a Flooded Future World.
  • Star Wars:
    • The populace of the water-world Mon Calamari live in giant floating cities. One half is above water for the Mon Cals and air-breathing visitors, one half is underwater and flooded for the Quarren.
    • There's Tipoca City on the water world Kamino, where the clone soldiers are produced and trained.
  • In Waterworld, since all known land has been covered by water most people live in "atolls" made from scrap metal. As well as traders who live on boats and the "smokers" who are based on the Exxon Valdez.

  • The Asterisk War: Rikka, the series' main setting, is an artificial island-city based on a crater-lake in North Kanto.
  • David Brin's novel Existence has artificial islands popping up as sea levels rise. However, most of them are resorts for the super-rich or havens for questionably legal biotech experiments. China has a "shoresteading" program for desperate people to try and make the upper levels of flooded mansions in what used to be Shanghai liveable.
  • The Atrium in Grimoire's Soul is a city located at the geographical center of Lystrata that floats in the ocean separating Kesterline from the countries of the eastern continent's westernmost shores.
  • Gordon R. Dickson's Home From the Shore.
  • Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash has "Rife's Raft", a gigantic, cobbled-together collection of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean inhabited by huge numbers of refugees, mostly from Asia.
  • David Drake's The Lord of the Isles series includes a vignette in the first book in which Sharina, Nonus, and some useless nobles spend a few days on the Houseboats of the Sea People. They spend their entire lives at sea and live in large structures crafted largely from whale.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four repeatedly mentions military installations called "floating fortresses" that are apparently under construction, which dwarf the ordinary battleships that were their inspiration — but never explains what they are. Considering the setting, they may not even exist.
  • In Raiders of Gor we meet the Caste of Rencers, who live in a delta connecting a great river and the sea, gathering rencenote  for trade. They live in small villages built on floating rafts of rence. As the rence rots away underwater they weave new layers on top.
  • The Skeezers in Glinda of Oz live in a city suspended over the middle of a lake. In times of danger, they can magically submerge the entire city for protection, turning it into an Underwater City.
  • The Scar: The pirate city of Armada is built of thousands of ships, large and small, of every conceivable design roped together en masse.
  • Saturns Race takes place on an island grown from accreted sea chemicals ('seament').
  • Thule from Arctic Rising is a collection of ships and oil platforms attached to the last few bits of Arctic sea ice. Later, several of them decide to go their own way.
  • In Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark, between the second the third novels (roughly a 150-year gap), a new nation has sprung up on Earth called the Pacific Aquatoria, made up of privately-owned floating islands. Sergey Valdez, the protagonist of the third novel, is from one such island, owned by the Valdez family, but mortgaged to the bank due to the high costs of living at sea.
  • In The Hobbit, Esgaroth, or Lake-Town, is built on a series of wooden platforms in the middle of the Long Lake, ostensibly as protection from the local fire-breathing dragon.
  • In Magic 2.0, the Sunken City of Atlantis is a gleaming reflective bowl that stands on pillars in the Mediterranean. It's explained that "sunken" does not mean Underwater City in this case but more of an architectural style, like in a "sunken apartment". The outer shell of the city is pure solid diamond created on a molecular level with a macro (similar to a Matter Replicator but with programming code). Inside, the city has buildings all over the sloping walls with one-way windows through the "floor". Floating Platforms (also diamond) provide transportation across the city. Plumbing is handled by teleporting waste into orbit, resulting in a lot of shooting stars. The city is ruled by a triumvirate: the President (the sole elected post), Brit the Elder (the builder of the city), and Brit the Younger (Brit the Elder's younger self). Atlantis is a haven for female time travelers and the largest time traveler colony, as most of history wasn't very kind to women with magic.
  • The Arc of a Scythe features the Island of the Enduring Heart, also known as Endura. It functions as headquarters for the World Scythe Council, a historical attraction for tourists, and a refuge for the family members of Scythes. Scythe Goddard sinks it at the end of the second book.
  • Jules Verne's A Floating City, a huge cruise ship.
  • Books of the Raksura: One such city is built on the back of a gigantic leviathan that roams the surface of a shallow sea, seemingly at random. By all accounts, the local Magocracy founded it to show off, then hid that they were controlling the leviathan's movements in order to enforce their rule over the locals.
  • Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth novel Cachalot features high-tech floating towns on an Ocean World.
  • In The Witchlands, the seat of the Marstoki Empire is the Floating Palace, which is, as the name implies, an entire building complex built off-shore.
  • Qaanaaq in Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller, where the events of the novel take place. There's also mention of a flotilla of US navy ships that is all that's left of the United States federal government.
  • Listoel in the Greg Mandel trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton; a flotilla of former oil tankers and ore carriers converted into cyber-factory ships powered by thermal-exchange generators, operating outside Britain's territorial waters to create consumer goods to be smuggled into a Communist-controlled Britain. Now that government has fallen most of the cyber-factory ships are docked in British harbours prior to being transferred onshore, but Event Horizon keep Listoel going to supply energy to Britain and as a base for their more hardline operations.
  • Laszlo Hadron and the Wargod's Tomb: Terratropolis, the capital city of Earth and the Solar Commonwealth, sits in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140 turns the titular city into one, in a Flooded Future World.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cyberpunk: MetaKey, an artificial island owned and operated by MetaCorp and the brainchild of Joseph Meta. The city is a libertarian paradise where the only illegal thing is endangering the city itself and has become a haven for all kinds of dealings the megas don't want people to find out about.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In Mystara, one module features a floating city built on giant wooden platforms, kept above water by an enchanted idol that makes everything linked to it unsinkable.
  • Pandemic Legacy Season 2: You operating from a number of floating "havens".
  • Pathfinder: The Taotake live on the seas in nomadic fleets of thousands of ships, which often grow large enough to serve as floating, moving cities in their own right. Many of their component boats are large enough to house full-sized mansions or to bear covering of earth in which orchards and food crops are grown.
  • RuneQuest: The Waertagi are legendary for their mind-bogglingly immense city ships made from the bodies of True Dragons. These ships are often more than a mile long and a quarter-mile wide, and can support as many as five thousand inhabitants. Atop and within the dragon's body is the Waertagi city.
  • Shadowrun: Proteus Corp built a number of "arkoblocks" (floating arcologies) off the coast of Japan.
  • Transhuman Space: The supplement Under Pressure mentions "drifters", people who've dropped out of society by purchasing old cargo ships and converting them into small or medium-sized habitats. Cities on the Edge has a section about the floating island industry in the Maldives, made out of seacrete and artificial coral. Most of these islands are just big enough for a single dwelling, but there are larger ones, and the smaller ones sometimes congregate into temporary cities, as do drifter vessels. It's generally assumed by land-dwellers that these cities are Wretched Hives.
  • Traveller: In The Traveller Adventure, the planet Heguz is an Ocean Planet. It has had two colonies, both set up on large floating bases. Both colonies mysteriously disappeared without a trace.

    Video Games 
  • Flotsam: A successful settlement eventually becomes a very ramshackle version of this, as salvaged wood, plastic and metal are used to create a network of floating walkways, homes, workshops and storage areas centered around the game's starting boat.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri:
    • A major gameplay element, as any faction can create sea-based settlements as well as the standard land-based ones, in contrast to the Civilization series where only land-based cities are permitted. The Nautilus Pirates faction starts the game with such a settlement and can create an ocean empire faster than the others. If a land base has a Pressure Dome building, it will no longer be destroyed during flooding thanks to global warming. Instead, it will turn into a sea base. Any sea base can become a land base if the water level drops (e.g. global cooling).
    • The Rising Tide expansion pack for its Spiritual Successor, Civilization: Beyond Earth, also allows players to build cities on ocean tiles. Ocean cities work very differently from land-based cities, with increased production rates for naval units and certain buildings, while facing other challenges, such as Kraken attacks and obstructive Hydra-coral growths. A new Sponsor, the very British/Scandinavian-flavoured North Sea Alliance, gives a number of bonuses to oceanic cities. According to the fluff, the founder of NSA is famous for pioneering the concept back on Earth with the so-called ARCs, one of which he personally piloted to an island nation in danger of flooding and handed it over to the locals, earning himself international fame. Aquatic cities cannot expand borders by accumulating culture (buying hexes with cash still works) but can build a recurring project that moves the city one hex upon completion, which expands borders. There is even an achievement for crushing an enemy unit with a city (difficult to do, since everyone can see the warning "arrow" coming from the city towards a particular tile). This way, aquatic cities can act as mobile bases for an invasion and an impromptu aircraft carrier.
  • Frequent in Real-Time Strategy games that involve naval combat where the ship-building structures are constructed directly at sea.
  • Brink! is set aboard The Ark, an experimental floating colony designed to be completely self-sufficient.
  • In Illusion of Gaia, the town of Watermia is built on rafts floating in a river.
  • The Mechanical Age in Myst once was this, according to Atrus' account. The city, surrounded by three tall hills, sank when pirates destroyed its foundations, but he installed a fortress on top of it for the survivors to fight back with.
  • Knights of the Old Republic has the planet of Manaan with the native water-breathing Selkath, which is covered entirely with water except for Ahto City, which is built on the surface of the ocean to accommodate visitors.
  • Final Fantasy X:
    • Lulu tells the story of a city that was once built entirely atop a river, only to sink after its supports collapsed. Wakka condemns those who built it as only doing so for the sake of defying nature, and according to Yevon's teachings, such hubris is the reason Sin exists.
    • Yevon's capital city Bevelle is also built atop the water, something Wakka doesn't seem to acknowledge, foreshadowing the revelation of Yevon's true face.
  • Final Fantasy XIV features the city-state of Limsa Lominsa, which is built into the numerous sea stacks off the coast of the isle of Vylbrand. Appropriately, Limsa Lominsa is a former Not-So-Safe Harbor turned Port Town run by former pirates, and plays host to the world's strongest navy.
  • Quantum Protocol: The artwork of the city, Astra Prime, indicates that it's an island, but in the penultimate dungeon, it's revealed that the island is being balanced by a machine so it doesn't tip over, indicating that the island is artificial.
  • Red Alert 3:
    • The Black Tortoise (and other Floating Island Fortresses), which is so big you can build an entire base on it.
    • It's also possible to make a floating base (and one Uprising map features nothing but water and unbuildable rocks), as every structure save the tank factory can be built on water.
  • Shadow Master have the level on Planet Ocella, an ocean-covered world where the level is set on the Shadow Master's floating outpost.
  • Syndicate (2012) has the city of La Ballena, which is owned by the Caymen Global syndicate.
  • Tears to Tiara 2 has Tartetos, an Advanced Ancient Acropolis that combines aspects of Atlantis and Tenochtitlan.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Sun and Moon:
      • Aether Paradise is an artificial island where the Aether Foundation is headquartered and where most of its members live. Its intended purpose is a conservation area for endangered Pokémon, so it was built this way to be far away from any other human civilization and structured and controlled exactly how the Aether Foundation needs it to be. Said remoteness, however, also allowed them to perform experimentation on Pokémon, brainwashing sessions, and dangerous Ultra Space wormholes in total secrecy under the leadership of Lusamine.
      • Seafolk Village is a floating settlement next to the sparsely inhabited Poni Island. It has multiple planks that allow ships to dock.
    • Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire has Pacifidlog Town, a small town on floating platforms connected by gangplanks above a Corsola colony.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has the city of Vivec, named after its eponymous God-King, off the southern coast of Vvardenfell. It consists of nine "cantons", tiered artificial islands connected by a maze bridges. It is the largest city in the game as well as headquarters of the Tribunal Temple whose Ordinators serve as city guards.

  • Gifts of Wandering Ice: Ancient civilization was very fond of floating cities. Each of them had an impressive underwater part, just like an iceberg, and their hexagonal platforms could connect with each other forming temporary honeycomb-like archipelagos.
  • Homestuck: There are a number of these (although we only see the one) in the future of Alpha Timeline Earth after the Condesce floods the planet, where Roxy and the timeline's Exile population live. Unlike the shiny high-tech version of this trope you usually see in science fiction, these are ugly blocks of prefab housing stated to be basically floating slums, since the well-being of her subjects isn't terribly high on the Condesce's list of priorities.
  • The Kenny Chronicles: Tarnekis, genetically engineered human-animal hybrids, are largely forced to live on converted cruise ships. The sequel series, Ferrets vs. Lemmings, takes place on an artificial island.
  • Schlock Mercenary: The capital of the United Nations of Sol is Dom Atlantis, a megalopolis of some four billion situated in the North Atlantic.
  • S.S.D.D.: The Britannia is a massive ship built on an iceberg that England's wealthy fled to when the Anarchists took over.

    Western Animation 
  • In Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, the Remains of New York became a floating city called The City In the Sea.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In the first season, the Fire Nation has a Tailor-Made Prison for earthbenders: a giant offshore platform built entirely out of metal (metalbending wouldn't be discovered for another season). One of the reasons The Last Airbender is so reviled is that it replaces the platform with a quarry, making the earthbenders' plight less "nothing to help us escape" and more "we can't be bothered to escape". The third season episode "The Painted Lady" features the Fire Nation fishing village of Jang Hui, which is made of wood and floats on a river.
  • The Legend of Korra has a similar situation with Ghazan's prison, out at sea and made entirely of wood (Ghazan isn't a metalbender, but they're known to exist by then) and without a speck of dirt anywhere. As we find out during his escape, Ghazan is a lavabender, and just having a few pebbles on hand is enough for him to create a buzzsaw out of lava.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack has Stormalong Harbor, a rickety island made of wooden planks and piles driven into the seafloor. The harbor is divided into "Upper" (where the rich live) and "Lower" (where the rest live) Stormalong. Despite being basically a huge harbor people live on, it has a functional plumbing system along with a trolley and enough support to hold up entire manors for the rich (the richest man in Stormalong has a massive one with a lawn, gardens, and fountains).

    Real Life 
  • Neft Daşları in the Caspian Sea, the world's first offshore oil platform that grew into a city constructed on top of ships that had been sunk to form a foundation, drilling platforms, and connecting bridges.
  • Certain groups such as The Seasteading Institute and Project Blueseed intend to do this in real life.
  • The unrecognized micronation Sealand is based on one of the Maunsell Sea Forts built during WWII.
  • Frequently seen in nations with sea access and not enough space for new buildings (Japan, Singapore, etc.) as well as countries with an influx of wealthy tourists and investors (Dubai, Bahrain...). In fact, several airports (such as Kansai International in Osaka) have been built in harbors by using landfill (as in, the kind made from rocks and dirt, not the kind made from garbage) to create artificial islands big enough to operate major airports on. One major challenge in designing these airports is that the weight of the airport itself (buildings, planes, equipment, and of course miles of thick paved runway surfaces) causes the island to sink further into the water.
  • Venice, although it's not in open sea, is probably the best-known example we have today.
  • Tenochtitlan, capital city of the Aztec civilization, was mostly built of "floating gardens" constructed around islands in a large lake. The lake was later drained and what's left of the city is located in the middle of modern-day Mexico City.
  • Hulks are repurposed ships' hulls that function as a small-scale version of this trope. With their sails or engines removed, they're not going anywhere, allowing them to be used for many different purposes like storage or incarceration.
  • Casinos sometimes skirt state or municipal gambling prohibitions by operating on rivers that run between jurisdictions. As keeping a "riverboat" casino in one place is cheaper for utilities and fuel, such operations often remain permanently berthed, or even fixed in place by underwater struts or foundations.