Manar Moursi: The Possibility of Islands



Surrounded by the ocean, Japan as an island, has always honored the blessing of the sea. The ocean is the bearer of bounties, but the sea is also the generator of catastrophes. In recent years, with rising sea levels, the ocean has betrayed the Japanese with tsunamis that have swallowed entire towns. Although the ocean has often played a catastrophic role, looking back, one finds an almost continuous thread of artificial island projects. From Edo times to today, each tells a different story of the city’s relationship with the sea. 

The Possibility of Islands: A scenario for post-tsunami Tokyo visualizes archipelagos of plastic-crate islands in the flooded post-Tsunami city of Tokyo. The proposed islands are projected to be nomadic, mobile and responsive and are the result of imagining a competitive system of flexible DIY networks of mini-islands structured and governed according to agreements among their inhabitants as proposed by the Seasteading Institute. The proposal examines the ubiquitous plastic crate in particular as a readily available material that can be configured to create inexpensive floating modular habitats and reefs. Here, Tokyo is imagined to extend into the water and the water to enter into the city. Instead of proposing a solution to ‘build faster and harder to keep the water out’, this design proposition seeks to merge Tokyo with the water, transforming the hard boundary into a continuum. The new floating neighborhoods accommodate housing and reef. The proposed archipelagos of artificial islands could reduce the impact of storm-induced wave energy therefore improving the ecology of estuarine environments.


Manar Moursi’s work spans the fields of architecture, urbanism, design and art. A graduate from the University of Virginia, Manar obtained a fellowship to complete a dual Masters degree in Architecture and Urban Policy from Princeton University in 2008. In 2011 Manar founded Studio Meem an interdisciplinary design studio based in Cairo. The studio’s mission is to experiment with constructive systems that involve sustainable use of natural, social and economic resources. Studio Meem’s first constructed architectural project was the architectural design of a disaster relief center in Istanbul with architect Omar Rabie. It was among the top eight projects shortlisted for the ThyssenKrupp Elevator Architecture Award. The Studio’s product line Off the Gireed, inspired by everyday street objects in Cairo, was awarded a Red Dot Design Award and a Good Design award in 2011. Manar received the ArcVision Women in Architecture Award in 2014. Her writings on urban issues have appeared in Thresholds, Lunch, Magaz and Al Masry El Yowm.