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Competition seeks ideas to transform nuclear sub

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July 2, 2014

Matterbetter is seeking ideas for new uses of the Russian Typhoon nuclear submarine

Matterbetter is seeking ideas for new uses of the Russian Typhoon nuclear submarine

Reappropriating structures or spaces for new uses is a common occurrence. Sydney's Goods Line and Battersea Power Station are both the focus of such projects. Now, architectural firm Matterbetter is asking for submissions to reimagine perhaps the most unusual thing yet: a Russian nuclear submarine.

Matterbetter explains that the Typhoon Class submarine joined the Soviet fleet in 1980 during the Cold War and is still the largest nuclear submarine ever built. At 175 x 23 m (574 x 75 ft), it is comparable in size to Norman Foster's Gherkin building in London.

The three remaining Typhoon subs are approaching the end of their working lives and are due to be retired in the coming years. With dismantling costs of US$10 million each, however, Typhoon designer the Rubin Design Bureau is looking for alternative uses for the submarines.

The stated goals of Matterbett's "The Submarine" competition are to explore the architectural potential of and possibilities for the re-use of the Typhoon, to provide freedom of design decision-making to participants, to generate professional discussion, to create a database of submissions, to inspire and stimulate the imagination of the design community, and to make the world a better place.

Ideas for use of the sub can involve it being located anywhere that is accessible by open water, or on land within 200 m (656 ft) of such a location. There are no restrictions as to what the new purpose may be. Submissions are to be judged on aesthetics and originality, the relationship between old and new, the use of technology, materials used, functionality, the realization of the sub's potential and the clarity and comprehensibility of the overall design.

Matterbetter advises that there are four levels of potential that can be achieved in reappropriating the Typhoon. Making use of its "full underwater potential" will see the sub deployed at a depth of up to 500 m (1,640 ft), "basic underwater potential" will see it deployed at up to 90 m (295 ft), "overwater only" will see it remaining at the surface of the water and, as previously mentioned, deployment on land is also possible. It is generally advised that submissions should try to retain the nuclear reactor, which can be used to generate electricity should participants desire.

The Submarine competition will be judged by a panel of architects and designers from organizations that include TU Delft, SOM and OMA. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd-place contestants will receive prize money of €3,000 (US$4,100), €2,000 ($2,730) and €1,000 ($1,370) respectively, with prizes also being awarded for seven honorable mentions, three editors' choices and the top 50 shortlisted entries.

The closing date for submissions to The Submarine is August 30th, with the results of the competition due on September 15th.

Source: Matterbetter

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds.   All articles by Stu Robarts
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10 Comments

Hmm, quite a challenge.

I think people would really need to see the interiors and schematics. Any real sub I've seen the inside of is incredibly cramped and claustrophobic.

yrag
2nd July, 2014 @ 03:27 pm PDT

I agree with YRAG - Even after removing the weapons systems and associated storage there would not be that much passenger capacity.

What is the minimun crew needed to even run the thing?

Crew members would often multi-task to allow for some rotation, but a large number would be mandatory.

Sailors are trained or coerced to take tight spaces in submarines but tourists for example need a little room as well as good outside viewing to enjoy the experience

Gut them and place them in parks to 'gawk' at might be the only solution!

The Skud
2nd July, 2014 @ 07:30 pm PDT

Sell it to Australia? Looks like it would cost only 1% of what we usually pay for these things, with 2 added benefits (never before seen in our navy subs): it would be on time, and it would actually work.

christopher
2nd July, 2014 @ 10:39 pm PDT

All kudos to them trying to crowd-source a really, really, major disposal cost- I'd be surprised if $10m USD came close to the cost per boat in any currency other than roubles. Perhaps they intend to employ Chernobyl survivors for the tricky bits.

Interesting that the task implies architecture and public exposition. And the attempt to link these old warhorses to buildings of great architectural significance. Good luck TU Delft, if anyone can carry it off you can.

No. Russia is trying to foist onto someone else the responsibility to dispose of three poorly designed, poorly engineered, poorly built monstrosities. A nation state that spans 8 time zones cannot afford to keep these in service, and it cannot afford to invade Ukraine if the military has to pay to dismantle stuff like this.

I suspect there are ways to keep these old warhorses in productive use as underwater tugs for bulk cargo, if they can find ports to accept the risk of them ceasing to function on their doorstep. The running costs would be modest if you kept only the 10% of crew that contribute to running between ports and if they came with a full fuel load on delivery.

But someone is still going to have to decommission them sometime.

If I was a complete cynic I would buy them for (some negative millions of dollars), run them hard and then either sink them where they failed or break them in Bangladesh as if they were just cargo ships.

Please, don't let a commercial enterprise buy them, because there's no guarantee that is not exactly what will happen. Russia needs to be held to account to dispose of these hulks responsibly. And once they have gone outside Russian state control there will be no way to achieve that.

Someone, please tell me there is an International Convention we can use to stop Russia privatising this ecological disaster!

spicedreams
3rd July, 2014 @ 02:28 am PDT

From the way this proposal reads I'm fairly sure this will not be used as a ocean going vessel anymore. They sound as if the plan is decomissioning it and allowing the sub to be used as a stationary fixture.

VirtualGathis
3rd July, 2014 @ 06:52 am PDT

A 1%er could buy it, bury it underground and use it as a shelter come the revolution.

JAT
3rd July, 2014 @ 09:42 am PDT

Spicedreams is more than just a little bit correct here. The Baltic sea floor and parts of the Arctic circle floor are littered with bits of crappy Soviet nuclear engineering. There is no reason to believe that the Russian State is one bit more competent here than some of these same individuals and the preceding institutions were when they called themselves "Soviets". Literally, this leopards spots are not likely to change. Even if the nuclear engine room can be adequately deconstructed and cleaned who is going to pay enough to keep these ships submerged? What kind of business activity other than trafficking drugs can pay to keep these ships in service?

Even the U.S.Navy is scrapping major aircraft carriers because there is no viable civilian use for them.

StWils
3rd July, 2014 @ 10:26 am PDT

Fukushima, 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl and who knows how many such accidents have happened on nuke ships and subs we don't know about. However, since this sub has a reactor, we may as well put it to use powering a town before it gets dumped somewhere, hopefully safely, if there can be such a thing with nuclear waste. Of course, the problem will be that if successfully provides energy to towns, more small reactors are likely to be built.

ezeflyer
3rd July, 2014 @ 11:06 am PDT

Office in a submarine.



Marco McClean
3rd July, 2014 @ 12:17 pm PDT

Put it ashore in southern California and use it to power a water desalination plant.

Gregg Eshelman
3rd July, 2014 @ 08:27 pm PDT
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