Project: The dragon in the sea
Island area: 12m2
Gross floor area: 50-150m2
Volume: 3200m3
Client: Government of Japan
Structural Engineering: Bollinger + Grohmann

The eroding island Okinotori-shima is situated in Japan’s southernmost territory, in the South Pacific Ocean. At high-tide two rocks, three and five meters wide, are all that remains of the island. Without these rocks the Japanese territory would end with Iwo-Jima and the country would loose 400 000 km2 of its territorial waters and, thus, the rights to fish and minerals located there. Each typhoon dimishes the rocks’ protruding surface area, which is why the Japanese government is willing to spend 250 million Dollars to protect the island. It’s crucial that no part of the supporting structure touches the island, as that would render it an artificial island with no rights to an exclusive economic zone.

The dragon in the sea is the choreography of an annual ritual. Orientated on its volcanic origin, rock material from its interior is smelted onto its peak to replace the loss from erosion. This will save the island from legal issues of territoriality for approximately 600 years. A scientist, a machinist and a registrar travel to Okinotori-shima by ship. They survey the island, calculate last year’s erosion loss, excavate rock material, smelter and deposit it on the peak of the island. The symbolic act that follows constitutes the “inhabitation” of the island. They fish, trade the catch among themselves, cook and have dinner together. Everything needed is stored inside the rock. Power and air are provided by their ship anchored besides the atoll. The island is entered through an airlock 3m below sea level. Above sea level nothing indicates the existence of the machinery and equipment.





  • [:en]Okinotori-shima 20°25' N 136°05' E [:de]Okinotori-shima 20°25' N 136°05' EOkinotori-shima 20°25' N 136°05' E
  • EEZ: exclusive economic zone
  • rock in sediment
  • rock in sediment
  • United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
  • transfusion of authentic material
  • embedded in an anual ritual
  • formation
  • section 1:50
  • section + plan 1:50
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