Heroes

See 8 photos of the floating house that could save lives someday.

The world's sea levels are rising, so this architect built a floating house.

See 8 photos of the floating house that could save lives someday.

News flash: Our sea levels are rising at an unprecedented rate, and low-lying cities are already ankle-deep in the effects.

Case in point: Venice, Italy.


Photo by Chris Chabot/Flickr.

While levees and drainage channels may help in the short term, a long-term solution will likely involve some major changes to our habitats.

Thankfully, there are architects like Matthew Butcher who have been thinking about this issue for years.

Unlike other architects, most of whom are looking for ways to combat rising sea levels, Butcher has taken a different approach: working with the rising seas.

He believes that adapting to our changing environment is perhaps the only way we’ll survive.

That's why he built a floating house.

Photo by Brotherton-Lock, used with permission.

Pretty cool, right? Here’s how he came up with the idea:

“For the last 10 years, I have been exploring architectures that might exist within a flood-prone environment. At the core of this is an exploration around the relationship our buildings form to the environment and how they negotiate the differential between an inside and outside condition,” Butcher told Upworthy.

Butcher is a professor at the University College London's Bartlett School of Architecture and co-founder of the architecture practice Post-Works.

He’s been exploring architectural concepts on paper that respond to flooding landscapes for years, but thanks to a commission from Radical Essex, a year-long architecture program, one of his text-based projects became a reality.

This is what his floating house idea originally looked like in its infancy:

Photo via Matthew Butcher, used with permission.

And here's a more advanced version:

Photo via Matthew Butcher, used with permission.

Since April 18, 2016, locals have seen the Flood House, as it was appropriately christened, bobbing along in the Thames Estuary.

While the design is quite modern, Butcher took a great deal of his inspiration from the surrounding water-based community.

“The house references the fishing huts, concrete bunkers, the marine infrastructures and the industrial structures along the East Essex coastline. I have come to understand these structures as a kind of Estuary Vernacular, of which I have tried to make the Flood House respond,” he told Upworthy.

Photo via Brotherton-Lock, used with permission.

But don’t let the fancy exterior fool you. Inside, the house is stark.

That, too, is purposeful. The interior is basically a shelter from the elements, and nothing more. The house is not meant to help us live the comfortable lives to which we’ve become accustomed, but rather to survive if continuous flooding forces us to become completely nomadic.

And you thought "Waterworld" was just a movie.

Photo via Brotherton-Lock, used with permission.

“Life in the Flood House would have to be very simple, almost primitive. There is no access to electricity or running water,” Butcher explained.

And yes, these utilities might be implemented if this prototype were to ever become a real, functional house. But for now, Butcher said, it’s simply meant to demonstrate how architecture could cater more to an environment that’s literally ebbing and flowing.

The house does, however, possess one fancy ornament.

It's a weather vane with the word "Level" written on it, commissioned for the house by artist Ruth Ewan.

Photo via Brotherton-Lock, used with permission.

According to a press release, the title of the work was taken from a speech by the 14th-century priest and political activist John Ball and refers to the concept of social equality as well as the rise and fall of the tides.

Butcher hopes the Flood House will help other architects realize that the way they're currently building isn't about working with our surroundings, but against them.

“We continue to construct buildings to be these things that are at great cost to the environment. We seal our houses up from the weather, heating and cooling them mechanically," Butcher said.

"This puts massive pressure on natural resources used in supplying the energy for these operations. The Flood House instead presents the idea of a nomadic architecture that is subservient to the environment in which it exists. It rises and falls with the tide and travels with the currents.”

He says this isn't meant to be seen as a solution, but rather a warning that it could be our future if we don’t start reevaluating the way we live and adapt.

Photo via Brotherton-Lock, used with permission.

Rising sea levels are our reality now.

So considerable changes in how we interact with the seas must be made as we sail further into the uncharted waters of the 21st century.

Photo via Brotherton-Lock, used with permission.

Thanks to innovative thinkers like Butcher, constructive conversations about how we'll survive are already underway.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less