Architecture firm BIG has just announced plans to completely terraform Azerbaijan's Zira Island, making this heavily-polluted region of the Caspian Sea (top) into an eco-resort (bottom). Can the island really be saved?

Dutch architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) envisions this luxury resort as a recreation of seven famous mountains on mainland Azerbaijan, which is why the buildings are going to be built in these natural-looking shapes. According to Fast Company magazine, which profiled the development:

The plan's eco-credentials are clearly set-out by BIG: By utilizing "the wind, the sun and the waste the Island will produce the same amount of energy as it consumes." Heat pumps connected to the sea will heat or cool the buildings, along with solar water heating units. Photovoltaic panels will generate electricity, as will an off-shore wind-farm. Run-off water and waste water will be recycled in a processing plant, and solid sewage waste will be treated to convert it into topsoil fertilizer.


Azerbaijan is an oil-rich region, and local refineries have been dumping waste into the Caspian Sea for years. The area is also filled with waste from coastal cities, which dump from their sewers into Baku Bay, near Zira Island. Abandoned ships, which you can see here off the coast of Zira, litter the Bay. Other ships dump their waste into the Bay too. Several years ago, the Baku Bay region began a cleanup process, hoping to make the Bay swimmable and fishable again.

Perhaps those pits, holes, and abandoned buildings you see in the satellite photo of Zira above can be turned into this gleaming resort with no carbon footprint. Certainly the idea of making it carbon-neutral fits with the region's efforts to clean up what is still a heavily-polluted area. The question is whether tourists will want to come and enjoy the Caspian Sea resort if the water and mainland are still plagued by pollution. Who wants to swim in water that's full of sewage? I'd like to see plans for cleaning up the Caspian Sea, and helping local cities manage their sewage, to go along with this plan to create a gleaming island for the rich. Just a thought.