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"A penny for your thoughts"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Flood Fighting Architectures


The Dutch have fought their marshy surroundings with clever engineering since the country’s inception, and we’ve seen some impressive “floating architecture” from DuraVermeer and WaterStudio. Now that global warming is fanning the flame: melting ice-caps and raising sea levels, more and more Dutch designers are getting into amphibious architecture. Builder Hans van de Beek’s amphibious houses are an obvious yet genius solution to rising water levels. He explains; “They are pretty much just regular houses, the only difference is that when the water rises, they rise.”


With floods and hurricanes on the brain, we always take note of houses that can float if waters start rising…Flexibility in the face of disaster can be a saving grace. This Bucky-esque dwelling is shaped like a soccer (aka…FOOT)ball.

The Japanese-designed Barier’s spherical form is constructed with hexagonal panels; but beyond the basic shape, the owner has a multitude of options in terms of color, size, and relationship to the ground.


As we approach the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, you may notice we’re running a little theme on Inhabitat: flood-resistant design and architecture. In the months following Katrina, one of the most interesting design solutions we found for dealing with rising water levels was the amphibious architecture of Dutch firm Waterstudio. Architect Koen Olthius specializes in a unique technology that allows land-based buildings to detach from the ground and float under rising water conditions. Olthius’ claim to fame is that he focuses exclusively on aqueous design - design for building in, on and at the water - in a country where water dominates the landscape.


Leave it to the Dutch to come up with “amphibious houses” - a concept that makes sense in a landscape where solid ground is yearly sinking. Residents and planners are looking into the future with concern over flooding and heavy rain, an issue that will be compounded by rising water levels from global warming.

In response to this problem, the field of maritime architecture is gaining momentum. One notable architect, Koen Olthuis, has created some astoundingly beautiful water dwellings. What differentiates these from standard houseboats is a patented technology which allows the foundation of the construction to be transformed into a float. A foam core is encased in concrete, with steel cables securing it against the pull of potential currents.

Olthius’ company is looking not only at individual residences, but at creating maritime settlements, which is easily done, since his designs are linkable, “like LEGO blocks.” In the bottom image, one such settlement is pictured from an aerial perpective, giving a sense of the layout of these swimming developments.

The reassurance offered to residents in knowing that their homes will respond to rising water by floating on the surface is invaluable. Such technologies will obviously be relevant and necessary in many other parts of the world as demands for space drive people towards the coast, and climate change creates unpredictable scenarios for those who take up residence there.

INTERVIEW: Koen Olthuis of

How many houses and buildings have you actually built? I see a lot of CAD images of projects in the works, but not a lot of photos.

We’ve built I think 24 houses now. But most of them — I think around 20 — are just modern houseboats. They are a little fancier than a normal house, but still they are houseboats.

I think we’ve built four really architectural, beautiful, unique buildings, and then we have 27 or 28 projects currently in the works, like the floating mosque in Dubai, like the floating boulevard in Antwerp, like the Health Village in Aruba.

Floating mosque in Dubai
Floating boulevard in Antwerp in Belgium

Health Village in Aruba.(Aruba is a 33-kilometre (21 mi)-long island of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea, 27 km (17 mi) north of the Paraguaná Peninsula, Falcón State, Venezuela. A country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. SOURCE)

The thing about our technique of working with the water is that the buildings and the floating foundations require very little maintenance. With these floating house techniques, waterproof houses, apartments, everything, you can just go on top of the normal structure of the polders and keep the original landscape in the same way as it is. Source
Floating and rotating hotel tower, Dubai, UAE by Waterstudio

Domes "flood" design building

Read More at Surviving The Flood

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