Auckland civil engineer and aquarium design specialist Mike Murphy is going out with a bang. Mike, who has announced plans to retire, has just ﬁnished his last project – the world’s ﬁrst underwater villa called Muraka.
Designed for client Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Muraka has taken almost two years to design, fabricate, ship to site, install and commission. Having already designed two underwater restaurants in the Maldives, Muraka presented new challenges, says Mike.
“It was about good old Kiwi ingenuity. Mechanical, electrical, air conditioning, ﬁre engineering etc all came from New Zealand.” The plumbing and toilet facilities were the obvious challenge and a specially designed sewage tank pumps to the surface.
Hong Hock Engineering transported the 610 tonne structure in three smaller pieces to a large barge moored at the port and then assembled the entire structure on the barge. Mike says that the acrylic window design was key.
For example the lounge has a 135mm thick semi-circular window to give 180° views of the coral reef and the bedroom ceiling is Mike’s popular ﬁve metre wide acrylic arch proﬁle.
To avoid any visible means of support the steel roof over the lounge was designed as a very strong self-supporting cantilever to resist the downward water pressure.
Even the walk-in wardrobe has a window looking out to the ﬁshes. Mike started his business MJ Murphy in 1982 and the company has established a reputation for producing innovative solutions, efﬁciently, with the minimum of staff and overheads and always with a sense of fun, he says.
The company started to specialise in aquarium design in 1985 and has worked on many large public aquarium projects.
This led to the company working on the world’s ﬁrst underwater restaurant Ithaa, at Conrad Rangali, then the largest UWR at Huravalhi Resort.
Mike says that such structures involve a lot of planning including selecting a site that has clear water, lots of ﬁsh, good scenery (corals etc), the right water depth, low to medium tidal range, good seabed soil for piles, sheltered waters protected from storm waves and surges, easy access for construction and good onshore facilities.
The US$50,000 per night price tag to stay at Muraka will put it out of the reach of most, but Mike says there is deﬁnitely a market although admits he’d personally have to mortgage his house to stay there.
Mike says that the underwater villa project has been a great success and was a huge team effort.
He is presently looking to sell his unique company and pass on the skills he has learned over the years and says he has some interested parties that he is in discussions with.
“I am lucky to have been involved in some amazing projects and worked with wonderful people in many countries.
“I leave on a satisfying high, having completed some very special world-ﬁrst projects.
“Although if someone asked me to do a really interesting project for them I might still be tempted to say yes.”
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