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I have an organization that I want to have some kind of HQ without being in a country.

I was reminded of Sealand (Thanks Joel), those platforms off the coast of the UK.

I want something similar, basically a really tall tower in the Atlantic, out in the deep sea.

It obviously can't touch the bottom, but oil platforms just float out there don't they?

How tall/big could a tower get? Is it at all feasible?

I'd like for the this to be as close to reality as possible. It is happening a bit in the future and let's assume they have plenty of money to throw at this. There might even be technologies used for this that are things we've seen in development that might be in use in 10-30 years from now.

The building should support about a thousand people I'd say. It should have some science labs, tech labs, living accommodations, and so on. The organization is a scientific one. They do a lot of research. Imagine Tesla/SpaceX/Cern. A scientific paradise free from borders. They make money because they've been providing technology to the world. Money is no issue as long as its realistic.

Jurisdiction is irrelevant in this question. There are many examples of "new" countries starting up or groups outside laws and so on. The only thing that matters if you want to be independent is that you can defend yourself. In the case of this society they easily can defend themselves and set their own rules without anyone being able to successfully intervene without an unnecessarily large show of force.

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you be a little more specific on your requirements? How many people, are they living there as well or just offices, any families? Or do you just want a good-sized tower and the specs to go with it. What do you want, because how tall/big can be nearly limitless with limitless money. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Oct 16 '15 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ It is called Sealand (or rather the Principality of Sealand) $\endgroup$ – Joel Boulet Oct 16 '15 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ even if a floating object is in international waters, it still does need to be registered within a juridiction. If a ship is built in brazil, it will be registered as a brazilian ship and brazilian laws will apply onboard, the same if it was built in russia, china etc... $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Oct 16 '15 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ usually ships are built somewhere and registered somewhere else, but the usual interpretation is that a ship in international waters is under constant jurisdiction of the country with it was registered. $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Oct 16 '15 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ Read the story about Texas Tower #4. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Oct 17 '15 at 3:33
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Specifications

Existing floating rigs and fixed platform rigs hold about the same weight; the heaviest today being the floating Hibernia. It can hold 58,000 tons while in operation. With depths in international waters, a floating platform is recommended.

A plain office tower that is 10 stories high would weigh in at about 800 tons for foundation and an additional 100 tons per floor (I was an urban planner - these are high-level numbers, though) coming to 1,800 tons, well within Hibernia's capacity for weight (not structural integrity). So let's up the ante.

20 Stories will get you 1,600 ton foundation and 2,000 tons for floors. You're now at 3,600 tons. You can further the math.

But the weight is not the issue. The height is. After about four floors, you're going to start getting massive issues with wind and waves. With a top-heavy floating tower, you will be bobbing around all over the place.

So instead, I would recommend you flatten out your tower, and have a very wide, four story building, with extra floating 'legs' in the water. Not very sexy, I know. A four story building, weighing 58,000 tons would take up about 360m (1/4mi) x 360m square, allowing for utilities and transportation equipment. This is a nice, large block of space. We consider 350m to be 'walking distance,' for access to facilities in urban planning. You have a four story indoor city.

Bonus, you have a lot of space on the roof for gardens and solar power generation.

Legality

The location should be in international waters. While this does not grant you immunity from the law (any illegal action can be prosecuted by any country in international waters, although flag countries' law usually is what it's based on), it does allow some autonomy.

Location

Storms are very rough in the Atlantic, so I would recommend you place it just outside Portugal's jurisdiction around the Azores, for some shelter, and access to nearby facilities (air strip), resources (port to bring food in), and emergency evacuations.

Autonomy

I'm guessing nobody will really bother you, but you'll have to do a lot if you intend to establish your own country and be legitimized by other states.

EDIT:

So you want a little bit higher?

I think you could have stability at 20 storeys now that I've done a little math. A similar 20-story structure could be 280m x 280m, and I think that would be flat enough to hold still in the winds off the Azores. Edge the sides off and onto the top to make a short-fat pyramid, and you can get greater height. /Edit

What can this hold?

I don't know what your breakdown of uses are, but either structure size can hold a healthy breakdown (inlcuding the utility, hallways, etc.)of:

  • 200 apartments at 85m2 average (tight fit for two scientists or support staff each)
  • 5,000m2 of retail/restaurant
  • 10,000m2 of office/visiting educational spaces/convention areas
  • 10,000m2 of lab
  • 3,000m2 of clinic, etc.
  • 5,000m2 of major utility/paths between wards/recreational facilities
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    $\begingroup$ To be honest, if you like to benefit from easy access to civilization why pick the Azores over, say, Silicon Valley? Uhm, well is this not one of the proposals that sound much like Musk? $\endgroup$ – Ghanima Oct 16 '15 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Ghanima - I got the impression the OP wanted to be as close to the middle of the Atlantic. I suppose it could be off the shore of Bermuda, but then it would be susceptible to frequent hurricanes. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Oct 16 '15 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ you're right that's what the OP specifically asked for. $\endgroup$ – Ghanima Oct 16 '15 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ @oxide7 - The building footprint for the 10-storey was about 70m x 70m (10 floors). I'm going to edit my question, because I think I can manage another slightly-more-sexy structure once I do the math. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Oct 16 '15 at 19:24
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    $\begingroup$ Hmm, I'd be tempted to go down as well as up, office windows looking out into the depths of the ocean etc. That would help with stability and give you more floors. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Oct 16 '15 at 19:59
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The problem with your requirements is that powerful countries make the rules. If your fictional organization is add odds with, say, the United States government, they won't accept that the structure qualifies as a 'sovereign nation' and that's it.

That being said, I think you were thinking of Sealand. The wikipedia article talks about the legal problem. Sealand is close to the UK, so the situation will be slightly different in the middle of the Atlantic. Check the Seasteading article, too.

The next question is the technical one.

  • For a credible claim to being an island and not a ship, your structure needs to rest on the ocean floor. That sounds like a fixed platform rig, perhaps with rock-filled concrete structures. They can go deep enough today that they might be feasible in the Atlantic 30 years from now.
  • A semi-submersible rig might be cheaper and possibly even safer, but it looks like a ship.
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  • $\begingroup$ This is a powerful organization. They might be at odds with some countries some times, but they are neutral. Most countries (US included) are run by powerful corporations as is. They don't need to be officially recognized as a country by anyone to operate. This isn't really the question at hand. I have most of the background for that developed already. How big and tall can a Submersible Rig get? That would be fine. This allows mobility which could come in handy in the story. $\endgroup$ – oxide7 Oct 16 '15 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunder_Horse_PDQ. For 30 years in the future, you could easily double or triple the size. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Oct 17 '15 at 6:54
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There's a ridge that runs along the mid Atlantic. In the north it rises up and becomes Iceland. It also rises out of the water at the Azores. There's an area known as the Atlantis Massif where the ridge rises to within 3,000 feet of the surface. While it might be expecting too much to build a tower with a 3,000 foot basement, you might have a system of massive anchors and cables to anchor your tower. With the cables attached to huge winches in the basement of the tower, maybe the tower could be kept steady even through a category 5 hurricane or a nightmare rogue wave.

Feasibility would depend on your finances and the available technology. My guess is that the technology is here, but you're going to need a really fat wallet.

Finally, even in the open sea, there is law, known as maritime law, or Admiralty Law. You might find your sweet tower being demolished as a hazard to navigation. Maybe the whole thing could be winched down to the sea floor when approached by unfriendlies.

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    $\begingroup$ It's also noteworthy that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is seismologically active and the epicenter of many earthquakes. Which is of course the reason why it rises above the neighboring sea floor. Just build thy tower accordingly. $\endgroup$ – Ghanima Oct 16 '15 at 19:01
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I will second the notion of avoiding towers.

Beyond that, though--look at the existing work along these lines. A quick Google turns up:

http://www.seasteading.org/floating-city-project/

although I have also seen proposals for hexagons.

Basically, you build your city on tiles that consist of big concrete bins turned upside-down. If you want to be able to protect your place against breaking waves the outer layer or two of tiles consists simply of barriers with no habitation on them.

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