A fantasy of sky city cruise liner

A fantasy of sky city cruise liner

Xiaoyan Zhu 

Imagination can be the driving force of social development and speculation can be the avant-garde power for design. My project is based on radical imagining and speculation: a flying sky city cruise liner. The aim of this project is to explore a revolutionary way of traveling in order to optimize the variety of offerings at places of hospitality. My research is divided into two main sections and has been sourced mostly from book reviews and websites. The first section of my research is a study of previous realized cases and speculations of sky city. The information gleaned from my research into various forms of previous sky-flying structures served as inspiration for my own sky cruise liner, e.g. the shape of the exterior of the cruise liner and some areas of the interior. The second section of my research is a study of cruise liners and future hospitality trends. As my cruise liner is, essentially, a hospitality place, I drew most of my information and ideas from the hospitality industry. During this process of research and study, I gradually fitted the design of the cruise liner with “futuristic” characteristics.

This speculative project is of significance to me as I have great interest in hospitality design, so I took this opportunity to further my understanding of the field, including the management of large-scale projects. Moreover, I believe this future-oriented project is a form of design discipline, as when we speculate about the future, we are on the way to creating it.



Technological advances have dramatically impacted our modes of travelling: we went from horses and wagons to automobiles, cruise ships and airplanes. However, except ocean cruise ships are relatively more fun and interesting, other modes are used solely as a means of transportation and offer the passengers little in the way of entertainment and comfort. How will technology continue to change travel? We can’t really know but, it is a wonder, that only two centuries ago, people could not conceive of a flying machine (airplane) and now we travel to space regularly, have space stations orbiting planet Earth and so on. With this project, it is my intention to explore a revolutionary mode of travel: a sky city cruise liner, which has the combined characteristics of an airplane and a cruise ship.

It is capable of flight just like an airplane; it can also dock in designated cities as a cruise ship, allowing passengers to disembark and visit a city over several days and then continue their flying cruise journey. The sky city would provide a totally new way of traveling, a way of rediscovering the marvel of travelling, that would allow people to experience spectacular and exotic landscapes without being incursive or exploitative (or, at least, minimally so).

Taking the above into consideration, it becomes evident that this project demonstrates the dual attributes of practicality and speculation. On the one side it is a practical project, analyzing the expectations of, both, customers and hospitality professionals, places of hospitality and future trends, etc. On the other side, it is also a speculative project; the sky city cruise liner does not seem feasible in the context of our current technology, however, “the fundamental way in which we make sense of the future is, by necessity, to imagine it.”(Dobraszczyk, 2017)


In recent years, due to various environmental problems (including overpopulation and rising sea levels), people have been searching for solutions and alternatives to current standards of living. We have turned our vision toward the oceans, the skies, even outer space. We build higher skyscrapers, we plan to build floating cities, and we even plan to colonize Mars. Floating cities seem quite promising because water has some extent buoyancy. However, when it comes to a sky city, anyone who has a basic understanding of physics, “might quite justifiably regard visions of flying cities as solely belonging to the realm of fantasy.” (Dobraszczyk, 2019) Yet, despite such opinions, we have not ceased to imagine towards sky.

The fantasy of a flying city can be dated to the early nineteenth century. The most outstanding imagining being Le Minerve (Minerva) designed by the Belgian physicist Etienne-Gaspard Robertson (1820); it was to be a permanent habitation in the sky used for global trips that would aid scientific discovery. A colossal ship with a forty-six meter balloon at its centre, which then linked to numerous other structures, including a recreation room, kitchen, theatre, study and living spaces for the “air-marines”. As an interior designer, focusing only on the illustrations, I have already imagined how fantastic it would’ve been to live on such a vessel with its unobstructed views of clouds and stars, and an amazing overlook of the landscape, in an era without airplanes. Even in our time, this experience would still be marvelous.

Today’s travelers deeply value experiences and a sense of place. Increasingly, guests are not content to simply lounge by resort pool, instead, they seek authentic activities that provide a real connection to the destination.” said Tom Roelens, General Manager at the Four Seasons resort in Lanai. (Kanani, 2017)

And this is the motivation behind my project: to explore a whole new travel and living experience, an experience which is about the skies, clouds and unseen remote and exotic scenery. Therefore I designed many areas which provide opportunities to enjoy these experiences in interior, like the big centre area with clear glass floor and the swimming pool with transparent bottom to overlook the ground, the clear glass tube under the cruise liner provides intimate interaction with clouds, the big windows in the public areas and guest rooms all offer the chance to enjoy these experiences.




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