Sekai Kan 2049: the dystopian future of Tokyo underwater

Japan 2049. The worst forecasts have come true. The rise in sea level caused by climate change has submerged many cities around the world under water. Among them, Tokyo, the most populated on the planet.

In the Japanese capital, the rising sea level suffered in recent decades has especially affected neighborhoods such as Koto and Edowaga, becoming the greatest challenge that the population has faced in recent times. Although not the only one. To this we must add the high levels of pollution suffered by the city, the high temperatures abroad or the lack of space due to the increase in population or climatic migration, among many others.

Faced with such a panorama, is it possible to generate functional spaces for the city? Integrate sustainable measures to find solutions? In short, could the rise of the sea be used as something positive?

These are some of the questions from which Sekai Khanthe final degree project of Angela CountInterior Design student at FDI Madrid.

Conde chose Tokyo as the setting for his dystopian future due to its high population density and its aging population. Exposure to certain natural disasters on the island and the ambitious plan Tokyo 0 emissions devised by local authorities are other reasons.

With all these ingredients, the student has conceived a future Tokyo in which space problems are pressing, with an increasing number of citizens senior, who, for the most part, live alone: ​​«This makes me think that, in the future, people will seek to live with more people, but not with their family, friends or partner, but rather sharing spaces with strangers, forming a community. This is summed up in a Japanese concept called wawhich translates as a peaceful unity within a social group in which the members prefer a harmonious community over their personal interests».

With this, plus the problem of rising sea levels, the challenge was to find spaces to accommodate these new communities. count investigated the most innovative and futuristic architectural proposals in the real world. But he also looked for inspiration in cinema, series and literature.

In many of these dystopian films and novels, says Conde, our possible futures are presented in spaces that are often cold “and one could almost say sculptural. So my question was how to design the spaces of the cities, generating innovative solutions that could help improve those possible versions of our future». Warmer, more welcoming and also more affordable spaces.

And, of course, sustainable. Not in vain, the end-of-degree projects of the Design School IED Madrid must be created based on the common framework of the 17 Goals for Sustainable Development of United Nations. In this edition, moreover, we must add the values ​​of the New European Bauhaus (NEB): beauty, inclusion and participation.


Based on all these premises, Conde devised Sekai Khanwhose meaning is vision of the world in Japanese. A city structured on seven levels: «The first is the metro, which would go underground; then the marsh, created by rising sea levels; the pillars and the elevators, which would connect the city with the old Tokyo subway network and with which the marsh could also be accessed; the connections; the structural beams and finally, the buildings and the bridges, the latter will act as streets».

Regarding the food program, the student investigated the crops and other activities that the population would need to survive and classified them into three groups. In the first place, the cultivation of different types of bamboo that could be used both for food and for packaging or even as material for the construction of buildings.

“The second group would be the cultivation of superfoods; are those that cover the recommended daily needs. Some of the superfoods that could be grown in Tokyo are bimi, a type of vegetable; matcha, a type of green tea; yuzu, a cross between grapefruit, lime and tangerine; natto, a legume, etc.”

The third leg would be beekeeping. «Currently, in the Ginza district of Tokyo, there are beehives and the flowers necessary for pollination on some of its rooftops. Given that the entrance to these buildings would be flooded, their roofs could be reused to generate a large beekeeping network and thus also help promote the species of bees.

Aquatic plants would also be of vital importance in this future: «mainly, two local species would be cultivated: wakame, a kind of algae that can be harvested all year round, without the use of fertilizers or pesticides; and the Kahi-Nam, a tiny aquatic plant that contains three times more nutrients than any other vegetable. And finally, fish farming and poultry farming. Japan has the world’s most advanced techniques in fish farming. As for poultry, Japan is the third largest producer of eggs in the world.


When planning the spaces of the city, Conde distinguished in a first phase between housing and community spaces.

The first would be divided, in turn, into three types, depending on the number of members of the family/community. All of them would be dressed with several layers of skins: «From outside to inside, there would be the biodigital structure, some bamboo fasteners, installations of different types, LED strips for lighting, another layer of biodigital structure, bamboo floors, and the branches of the trees , also made of bamboo, which would serve as an aid to the general structure of the house».

Elements that try to alleviate some of the problems of living in Japan, including humidity, exacerbated by rising waters. Also light pollution, already present in most cities on the planet.

Among the spaces of these new homes, Conde specifically thought of one of them: the bathroom. In her desire to maintain the balance between modernity and tradition that characterizes Japanese culture, the student has been inspired by the onsentraditional Japanese baths so that, more than simple toilets, these spaces are true spas homemade.

As for the community spaces, these, like the houses, have several layers and are divided into different cubicles, each one in charge of offering a service: urban gardens, shops, pharmacies, gym, hospitals…

Regarding the connections, Conde distinguishes three essential ones: the bridges, which will serve as streets under which the treatment machines, tanks, etc., will be installed, as well as parking areas for shared use aircraft. The second is the viewpoint of the marsh, located underwater and where you can admire the new landscape. And finally, the subwayan infrastructure that, according to the designer, would be tried to preserve as it is now as far as possible.

Conde has taken into account the environmental impact that his project would have, for which he has studied the climatic conditions of Japan. To minimize the risks of possible new catastrophes, she proposes different sustainable solutions, including the use of different renewable energy sources (tidal, wave, geothermal energy,…), the use of materials and programs such as the creation of algae farms , hotels for insects, biophilic spaces…


Ángela Conde’s nod to Japanese culture is evident from the presentation of the project. From memory, written like a manga comic that reads from right to left and top to bottom, and contained in frames komato the illustrations, renders either the video anime aesthetic.

The designer refers to a phrase from K. K. Barrettfilm production designer Her, whom he met while preparing the project and found particularly inspiring:

“I think sometimes when people think about the future, they obsess over things that will change instead of things that will stay the same. When thinking about the future, people always think about technology and what technology is, rather than the human experience with technology.”

«I found it very inspiring and I think it reflects quite well what I wanted to convey with my design. Sekai Khan he’s not looking for a future where we all have robot butlers or a city full of holograms and panels. Sekai Kan is a living city, constantly growing and changing. So you could say that Sekai Kan is, in one sentence, an embrace of culture and tradition with innovation.”

Sekai Kan 2049: the dystopian future of Tokyo underwater