As space becomes scarcer and more expensive across the major cities of the world, people wanting to create spacious and comfortable urban living spaces are thinking outside the boxlaterally to break out of the shoebox city-centre apartment mould. In recent years, there’s been a surge in popularity of interest in homes that float on rivers or in harbours, and far from the old-fashioned image of cramped canal barges or motorboats, these homes are rapidly becoming larger, more luxurious and more attractive in their design. This blog looks at the most innovative examples of dream homes on the water.
One country that’s always been keen to embrace new ideas for housing is the Netherlands: a place high on population density but low on space, largely due to the rivers, canals and drainage waterways that criss-cross its pan-flat landscape. Projects like Waterwoningen, a few miles to the east of Amsterdam, are helping to solve that problem with modern, stylish living that will eventually form part of an entire floating town.
Waterwoningen, Steigereiland IJburg, the Netherlands
This complex of glass-dominated townhouses sits on stilts to keep them well clear of the water level, with the houses allowing residents to feel closer to nature without losing any of the convenience of modern living. The design looks crisp, simple and effective, and reflects the calmer lifestyle that many people who move towards water-based living are seduced by.
Architects have increasingly come to realise that once a sturdy, buoyant base to sit on the water has been established, then there are practically no limits to what stands above it. This has led to some elaborate bespoke designs as couples and families commission the homes they’ve always wanted, with the Fennell Residence in the US city of Portland standing out as one of the most beautiful.
Fennell Residence, Portland, Oregon, USA
The owners specifically requested that they didn’t want “minimalist white box-style architecture”, and instead they got a flowing structure of red cedar in the shape of a water drop, looking far softer and more inviting than many of its contemporaries. A curved glass wall on one side gives the residents a view out into the harbour beyond, while a comfortable and homely layout more commonly found in traditional housing means they can enjoy the best of both land and sea.
Floating Seahorse Villas
The floating homes built to date generally sit entirely above the waterline on a buoyant pontoon, mainly because they’re moored next to dry land. However, designers are starting to take these homes out into open water and explore the world that lies beneath the surface.
Floating Seahorse Villa, Dubai
Currently a prototype sat alone while the entire set of 40 is completed, the three-storey Floating Seahorse Villas tethered off the coast of Dubai are intended as holiday homes for high-endaffluent customers wanting to stand outa unique experience in the money-drenchedwealthy world of the UAE. The lowest level of the building features two ensuite bedrooms immersed entirely below the surface, with the panoramic glass windows giving residents unique views of the marine environment around them. Above, the combination of glass, wood and metal for the lion’s share of the furnishings creates a crisp, modern and luxurious feel that’s infused with maritime traditions.
In the future, this idea of levels being submerged below the surface may well be taken even further with houses being almost entirely submerged beneath the water line. It’s an idea that Austrian architect Daniel Andersson investigated with his holiday home concept ‘Icebergs’, so-called because real icebergs on average carry 90% of their size underwater.
Andersson’s idea features a sun-deck and entrance dock on the top of the largely wooden structure, with steps descending to the living areas below. The use of natural materials, allied to the tiny above-water profile of the structure, would mean that it would barely intrudes on the beautiful scenery of the Aland Islands in Finland where the concept was designed for. And for the visitor, the sun-deck would give an incredible feeling of being marooned on a miniscule desert island – but with all mod-cons to hand at the same time.
This is an area of design where innovation will gather pace in years to come. Advances in technology and increasing diversity in people’s attitudes to their living arrangements means that there will be more and more room for creativity. And hopefully, the proliferation of more developments like this around the world will make interesting, eye-catching homes like these affordable and accessible to the wider public in years to come.
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