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Posted by: Priti Jha

The Floating Houses of Amsterdam

Floating houses appear to be something so unusual. But interestingly enough it is the only solution in Netherlands where 2/3rd of the population lives below sea level. Sea levels rise and they are left with less land to build on.

Architect Koen Olthus, who designs floating houses and office spaces says, “We think that sustainability on the water can work even better than sustainability on land.” That is definitely true in the case of Netherlands. IJburg is a famous neighborhood in Amsterdam that has been built on artificial islands over the IJmeer Lake. Steigereiland aka Jetty Island is the first island in the island chain of IJburg. Waterbuurt is a compact urban district in the west with a density of 60 homes per hectare. These can be accessed from the jetties. Besides these, there are also homes along the dike. This neighborhood of IJburg is supposed to have 18,000 homes for 45,000 residents, schools, shops and centers for leisure.

Now, this unique settlement over water is very different from building over land. Living on water not only includes taking care of the views, the movement of boats, individuality and space requirements but also social and recreational aspects like feeding swans from the kitchen and ice skating around the house. The layout by Marlies Rohmer Architects & Urbanists used for the water dwellings is detached and informal. The distances between dwellings and the orientation in altered in order to achieve varying views. There is some space left between each floating home to create that feeling of individuality and also to give a good ambience.

The homes along the dike are supported on pylons. The floating houses homes on the other hand have concrete “tubs” that are submerged in water to half a storey. The construction over that is of lightweight steel covered with glazing and plastic paneling. Views and privacy may be decided by the user. The raised ground floor has the kitchen and the dining spaces. An open terrace deck, main living spaces, sunrooms, verandah, etc. become the cantilevered upper floor. The width of each unit does not exceed 6.5 meters as they are pulled through canal locks from the shipyard where they are built. They are then anchored to the lake bed on steel poles so that they don’t drift away with the flow of water. This is a basic design but there are several types available like one tub, two tub and three social rental dwellings attached to a tub. These tubs are fixed to the posts of the jetty and painted in bright red and are numbered too. The possibilities of layouts are plenty. Waterbuurt is a great example to study the community living in movable settlements.

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