Malaysia is building three artificial islands off the coast of Penang all centred around sustainability, biodiversity and livability, complete with autonomous public transport networks, lots of green spaces and radical design projects.

Each island is shaped in the form of a lilypad and will be composed of mixed-use districts that can house up to 18,000 residents each, as well as beaches, urban wetlands, public parks, forests, cultural quarters, technology hubs and a 25-kilometer-long waterfront. It's a car-free environment where each district is connected by a land, water and air-based autonomous public transport networks, as well as cycle lanes and elevated boardwalks for pedestrians. The islands will be powered by renewable energy, while the buildings will be constructed from bamboo and Malaysian timber, as well as recycled materials.

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The islands will take the form of lilypads ©BIG

A web of ecological corridors will connect forest reserves to coastal beaches and in residential and business areas, animals and aquatic life will be provided with safe passage — free from human interference — through continuous canopy and waterways that run through and around the islands. 

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Waterways will facilitate self-driving boats and provide safe passage for aquatic life ©BIG

The land reclamation project is being developed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) for Penang State Government, in partnership with Ramboll and local architects Hijias. According to designers, the goal is to create a socially- and economically-inclusive development, while protecting the region's rich biodiversity and natural habitats. "If Penang is defined by its rich cultural diversity and its abundant biodiversity we'd like to envision the South Penang Islands as an archipelago where the two can co-exist in a human-made ecosystem, expanding and enhancing one another," said Bjarke Ingels. 

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Long stretches of public beaches will circle the islands©BIG

It's not yet clear when BiodiverCity will be up and running but the project is part of the Penang2030 vision, a government-led initiative which is focused on enhancing Malaysia's liveability, economy, and environment through sustainable projects and development.

"Our masterplan proposal, BiodiverCity, supports the Penang2030 vision with a clear focus on livability, on stimulating a socially- and economically-inclusive development, and on environmental sustainability for future generations," said BIG. "BiodiverCity will be a new sustainable global destination where cultural, ecological and economic growth is secured and where people and nature coexist in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet at the southern shore of Penang Island."

To learn more about BiodiverCity, see here.

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