Floating architecture

Jeroen Apers, Monday, March 18, 2013

The Dutch not only like to live near water – think of the famous canal houses – but also on it. A spectacular example is the De Omval houseboat in Amsterdam, designed by the young architects of +31 architects. With its rounded corners and glass facade it is a futuristic residence. On the inside, the house is split-level, creating an open passage from the roof terrace to the bedroom on the ground floor. And the view over the water almost makes you forget that you’re in the middle of a busy town.

New housing estate IJburg boasts the largest floating neighbourhood in the world, the Waterbuurt. IJburg is an area just outside of Amsterdam, built on islands of raised sand and comprising the Waterbuurt, which consists of 150 floating homes. Some of these homes were designed by the occupants, others by architects Marlies Rohmer. The remarkable thing is that you can’t instantly see if they are normal houses or houseboats.

On the river Maas in Rotterdam, a floating pavilion was built that almost looks as if someone dropped a large box of washing powder in the water. The structure was designed by Public Domain Architects and Delta Sync and consists of three sphere-shaped constructions that are linked together. It is intended as a pilot for innovative, sustainable and floating construction techniques and is used as an exhibition centre on these themes. To save on weight, the structure has foil windows rather than glass and in the evenings, when it is lit with LED lights, it offers a particularly peculiar sight.

I am personally also drawn to the water and as such am involved in two houseboat projects with a view to living and working on one. The Schoonschip project is looking at establishing a houseboat community for 30 houseboats. We are currently investigating how we can use the water to create the most sustainable living conditions. And next year, the land next to it will see the start of the De Ceuvel project. We’re going to build a garden on this polluted and abandoned former wharf, with various plants and grasses purifying the soil. It’s called phytoremediation. Former house boats will serve as alternative work space in this ‘forbidden garden’ and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to working in this oasis of grass, plants and trees.