Aquanaut Fabien Cousteau and the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center (FCOLC) have conceived Proteus, the world’s largest underwater lab. The project is designed by Swiss designer Yves Béhar and fuseproject.
The modern underwater habitat seeks to offer scientists and academics an essential research lab and a platform to give rise to disruptive scientific breakthroughs in areas such as medicine, genetics, sustainable energy, and food cultivation.
At 372 m2 (4000 sf), Proteus will be three or four times the size of any previously built submarine habitats, accommodating up to 12 people at once. Attached to the ocean floor by legs designed to adapt to the variable terrain, the design is based on the concept of a spiral. A series of modular pods are attached to the main body and will accommodate a variety of uses such as laboratories, sleeping quarters, bathrooms, medical bays, life support systems, and storage. The largest pod contains a moon pool allowing submersibles to dock. These pods can be attached or detached to adapt to the specific needs of the users over time, fuseproject said on its website.
The two levels of Proteus are connected by a spiral ramp to encourage physical activity and movement for the inhabitants. The ramp connects the main spaces within Proteus which are designed to feel inviting and comfortable, an approach which is a departure from most facilities of this nature which typically forego comfort and a sense of home in favour of cold utility. These common spaces include a living room, kitchen, dining, and work areas. Proteus will also have the first underwater greenhouse so residents can grow fresh plant food to solve the challenge of not being able to cook with open flames, fuseproject said.
Two of the other biggest challenges of staying underwater for longer spans of time are the social isolation and lack of natural light. Proteus’ central spaces will provide physical comfort, social connection, and professional collaboration. Additionally, the station will be designed to gather as much light as possible from windows, on the top, and around the sides of the structure.