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Solar powered yacht – sails and moors for off-grid escape

By Karing Kloosterman
Green Tech and Gadgets

solar powered home yacht can moor like a barge in Amsterdam

A movable home that can plunge its support deep into the water against hurricanes, or be brought on land to live off-grid.

I grew up as a Dutch girl in Canada. Among part of our family’s storytelling and legends was the tale about the Dutch boy who plugged a dyke with his thumb to save his town, the country, the world? from an encroaching sea. The flatlands people of Holland or The Netherlands as you might call them are at home with the idea of climate adverse consequences.

artuk's solar power house boat roams to any city

The houseboat reimagined

The national psyche is built on man against nature or man with nature, and for that the Dutch people have been reasonably doing unreasonable things against climate change and for helping the environment. See our article on the extraordinary city of Rotterdam, the home to one of resident writers, or Boyan Slat, who boldly plans to clean up the seas with his plastic-corralling invention.

fly in with your helicopter to this solar powered house boat

Whatever floats your boat. Call it a yacht, a barge, a houseboat, but it’s not a tiny home.

While Americans might rather escape to Mars with Elon Musk, the Dutch are battening down the hatches and are offering more reasonable approaches to dealing with Mother Nature, or an angry Mother Nature. Consider the Dutch firm who has designed a solar powered yacht that can lower stilts for a more permanent mooring.

Like the modern trailer also known as the #tinyhome or #vanlife, this yacht appeals to a certain eco personality that might also want to settle like the barge dwellers in Amsterdam. It is not your father’s houseboat.

solar power houseboat

Full speed ahead

The solar powered boat is created by the Dutch architecture studio Waterstudio.NL for the yacht maker Arku in Miami, with an option of it becoming an off-grid home.

The craft is 75 feet long, is fully solar-electric, mobile and self elevating. This turn-key vessel is furnished and decorated in style by the acclaimed Brazilian furniture company, Artefacto.

interior design of solar power houseboat yacht

Interior designed to be as fancy as this concept houseboat

The first one is for sale at a cool price of $5,500,000.

iconic looking housboat

Have the captains drooling. This does not look like a houseboat. Transforms into stilted urban getaway at the port.

Arkup is a Miami, US-based company founded in 2016, to pioneer next-generation floating homes. The company rethinks life on water with its fully solar-electric, mobile and self-elevating livable yachts they call “future-proof blue dwellings.”

Weather and future proof, rain harvesting too

These livable yachts feature zero emission and silent electric propulsion which provide mobility and maneuverability. An automated hydraulic lift system, allowing the vessel to put down a stable foundation in up to 20 feet of water, ensures stability and hurricane resilience.

sailing away solar powered yacht into the sunset

Sail away with me. Or anchor for the night?

The livable yacht has four bedrooms in 2,600-square-feet of indoor space, with 4,350-square-feet in total, including its terraces and balconies. To achieve its sustainability objectives, the Arkup design is 100 percent solar-powered and has systems for harvesting and purifying rainwater, for complete independence.

With Covid and potentially other climate change disasters facing us, let’s start saving? The other option might be our collective thumbs in the dyke.

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Будинок-яхта: в Нідерландах розробили віллу, яка зможе ходити морем – фото


Проєкт поки лишається лише в планах
Проєкт поки лишається лише в планах / Dezeen

Нідерландська студія архітектури Waterstudio.NL створила електричну яхту-віллу, яка буде автономною та зможе ходити на воді. 22-метрове судно у вигляді будинку можна буде закріплювати до дна або ж самостійно передислокувати на інше місце.

Віллу назвали Arkup 75, а проєкт планують реалізувати поряд з якимось із перенаселених міст, пише Dezeen.

Основа вілли є гібридною, адже будинок може плавати як звичайна яхта та легко протистояти морю. Але у разі виникнення шторму, приміщення підіймають над водою 12-метрові палі, які кріпляться до дна.

Будівля без проблем триматиметься на морі / Фото Dezeen

Оскільки “Аrkup” плаває, він може справлятись із звичайними хвилями, але коли активуються палі, будинок виштовхується з води,
– розповів архітектор.

Так будівля виглядає у статичному положенні / Фото Dezeen

Разом з гібридним фундаментом, приміщення обладнане електричною системою, що працює на сонячних батареях, а також технологією збору дощової води, що робить будинок автономним.

Сонячний панелі охоплюють весь дах, щоб забезпечити електроенергією систему кондиціонування, приладів, освітлення, та всіх інших операційних систем на борту.

Єдина проблема – відсутність місця для вирощування власних харчів / Фото Dezeen

Arkup 75 розроблений так, щоб нагадувати гладку прямокутну прозору коробку, з якої відкривається вид на океан, а стінки виготовлені зі скловолокна, мають також висувну терасу та великі розсувні вікна.

Так вілла виглядає всередині / Фото Dezeen

Вілла має житлову площу 404 квадратних метри і, теоретично, може перебувати у відкритій воді допоки якась із систем не вийде з ладу або закінчиться електроенергія чи вода.

Мешканці також матимуть терасу на “борту” / Фото Dezeen

Waterstudio.NL designs yacht villa that can be raised out of the water

By Cajsa Carlson
News Break

Dutch architecture studio Waterstudio.NL has created a solar-powered electric yacht-cum-villa with retractable stilts that allow it to be raised fully out of the water to become an off-grid home.

Named Arkup 75, the craft was designed for yacht company Arkup with a hybrid foundation that allows it to float when moving, be semi-supported when alongside a dock or fully raised up from the water.

“The design was inspired by the way flamingos stand in the water,” Waterstudio.NL founder Koen Olthuis told Dezeen. “Only a leg in the water and the body untouchable above the surface.”

Arkup 75 yacht villa by Waterstudio.NL
The yacht villa can be raised entirely out of the water on stilts

When it’s not travelling, the 22-metre long vessel can be anchored by four 12-metre steel spuds, which lower to the bottom at depths of up to 7.6 metres to keep it stable.

“As the Arkup is floating it can handle normal waves, but when the stilts are activated the house pushes itself out of the water,” Olthuis added.

“Now the waves can only hit the stilts, which makes it a hurricane-proof building.”

Arkup 75 yacht villa by Waterstudio.NL
The villa can also sail like a regular yacht

Along with the hybrid foundation, a solar-powered electric system, and a rain-harvesting and purification system make it capable of operating off-grid.

A solar array covers the entire roof to provide electricity for air conditioning, appliances, lighting, propulsion and all other operating systems on board.

Arkup 75 yacht villa by Waterstudio.NL
When raised on stilts it is described as a “hurricane-proof building”

Arkup 75, was designed to resemble a smooth, white frame that presents the ocean view as a picture, with glass-fibre walls, a retractable terrace and large sliding-glass windows.

It has a total living space of 404 square metres, is self-propelled and can, in theory, stay in open water indefinitely as long as there is enough solar power to provide energy.

Arkup 75 yacht villa by Waterstudio.NL
Arkup 75 can be fully lifted out of the water

Olthuis believe the yacht’s off-grid system will come in useful in the future, as he thinks sea-level rise and urban growth will lead coastal cities to develop on the water.

“Not just yachts but especially floating structures will take advantage of the space on water around our cities. These buildings are portable and can react to known and unknown changes in the demands of near future society,” he said.

“Covid is such an unknown change that has suddenly raised the popularity of off-grid, off-shore independent living.”

Arkup 75 yacht villa by Waterstudio.NL
The yacht-cum-villa can operate as an off-grid home

The architect added that Arkup is aiming to use the craft to demonstrate features that can also be applied to larger, high-density floating housing that could be built in the future.

According to Olthuis this is something that Waterstudio.NL has been advocating for almost two decades.

Arkup 75 yacht villa by Waterstudio.NL

“The water is being paved for water-based, high-density developments in cities threatened by sea-level rise and urbanisation,” he said.

“Each project is a small step towards those floating neighbourhoods.”

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Siedlungsbau: Schwimmende Städte

Steigende Meeresspiegel bedrohen weltweit den Lebensraum von Millionen Menschen. Architekten entwerfen daher neue Siedlungen im und sogar unter Wasser – und stoßen dabei auf ganz besondere Herausforderungen.

Seit Jahrzehnten experimentiert der französische Architekt Jacques Rougerie mit schwimmenden Strukturen. Eine seiner bekanntesten Visionen sieht aus wie ein Rochen, der sich an die Meeresoberfläche verirrt hat – eine Stadt auf dem Wasser für 7000 Bewohner. Die Zukunft der Menschheit liegt seiner Überzeugung nach im Ozean mit seinem Potenzial als Lebensraum, Energie- und Nahrungsquelle. In seiner Cité des Mériens sollen Professoren und Studenten über einen langen Zeitraum auf dem Meer leben und dort die Artenvielfalt erkunden – autark. Die schwimmende Universität beherbergt in ihrem Zentrum eine Lagune mit Aquakulturen und einen Hafen für Expeditionsboote sowie Gewächshäuser an ihren Flügelenden.

Im Jahr 2050 werden laut Prognosen der UN 90 Prozent der größten Städte mit Überflutung zu kämpfen haben. Von den 33 heutigen Megacitys mit jeweils mehr als zehn Millionen Einwohnern befinden sich 21 an den Küsten der Weltmeere. Sie sind unmittelbar vom steigenden Meeresspiegel aufgrund des Klimawandels betroffen – und wachsen dennoch unaufhaltsam weiter, wie so viele andere, vornehmlich asiatische Küstenstädte auch.

Um Bauland zu schaffen, wird Sand ins Meer gekippt. Das hat häufig katastrophale Folgen. Wenn der natürliche Küstenschutz – zum Beispiel aus Mangroven und Korallenbänken – zerstört wird, ändert sich die Strömung und mit ihr die ganze Küstenlinie. Dazu kommt ein weiteres Problem: Sand wird knapp. Denn er wird nicht nur zur Aufschüttung von künstlichem Land verwendet, sondern ist auch Bestandteil von Beton, dem gebräuchlichsten Baumaterial. 50 Milliarden Tonnen Bausand werden jährlich verbraucht. Einige Länder Asiens wie Malaysia, Indonesien oder Vietnam haben inzwischen den Export der begehrten Ressource verboten. Die Folge: Sand wird illegal abgebaut und auf dem Schwarzmarkt gehandelt.

“Wir müssen Wasser als neuen Baugrund begreifen.”

Architekten entwickeln nun verstärkt Pläne, die Stadt neu zu erfinden und auf das Wasser auszuweichen. Sogar die Vereinten Nationen können sich schwimmende Metropolen vorstellen. Erst vergangenes Jahr hat UN-Habitat, das Wohn- und Siedlungsprogramm der Vereinten Nationen, in New York einen ersten runden Tisch zu dem Thema veranstaltet, mit Forschern und Experten des MIT Center for Ocean Engineering und Mitgliedern des Explorer Clubs. Die dänischen Architekten von BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group stellten dort Oceanix City vor, eine Blaupause für das Leben auf dem Meer, die sie zusammen mit der Firma Oceanix entworfen haben.

Die schwimmende Stadt ist aus sechseckigen Plattformen von je 20 000 Quadratmetern zusammengesetzt, die für jeweils bis zu 300 Menschen ausgelegt sind. Die Module werden am Meeresboden verankert und miteinander verbunden. So kann die Siedlung wachsen und sich an die Bedürfnisse ihrer Bewohner anpassen. Oceanix City ist als abfallfreies Kreislaufsystem konzipiert, das seine Bewohner mit Energie, Trinkwasser und Nahrung versorgen kann. Kein Gebäude ist höher als sieben Stockwerke. Dadurch bleibt der Schwerpunkt der Inseln niedrig und die Konstruktion kann auch heftigen Stürmen standhalten. Mit anderen Worten: sie kippt nicht, auch nicht bei starkem Wellengang. Sollte sich das Wetter langfristig verschlechtern, ließen sich die Module vom Meeresboden lösen und in ruhigere Gewässer transportieren.

“Wir können uns Lebensräume auf dem Wasser erschließen, ohne Meeresökosysteme zu zerstören”, sagt Marc Collins Chen, Chef von Oceanix. “Die Technik dazu ist vorhanden.” Er bezeichnet das Potenzial des Projekts vor allem in der Erweiterung bestehender Küstenstädte: “Schwimmende Siedlungen könnten die verletzlichsten Bevölkerungsgruppen schützen.”

Um die Baukosten niedrig zu halten, sollen die Oceanix-Module an Land vorgefertigt werden, die Plattformen aus Salzwasser-resistentem Spezialbeton, die Gebäude möglichst aus lokalen nachhaltigen Baumaterialien, etwa aus Bambus. Die einzelnen Module gelangen dann im Schlepptau von Schiffen an ihren Ankerplatz. Und da auf dem Meer “Baugrund” in großer Menge vorhanden ist, könnten auch die Miet- oder Kaufkosten niedrig gehalten werden. Das bedeutet: schnell erschlossener, günstiger Wohnraum, den viele Küstenmetropolen so dringend benötigen.

“Wir müssen Wasser als neuen Baugrund begreifen, der anders funktioniert als das Land”, sagt Koen Olthuis. Vor mehr als 15 Jahren begann der Niederländer, sich mit seinem Büro Waterstudio.NL mit dem Bauen auf dem Wasser zu beschäftigen. Inzwischen hat er verschiedenste Projekte umgesetzt – darunter zahlreiche schwimmende Einfamilienhäuser. Gerade hat er den weltweit ersten schwimmenden Turm mit einer Höhe von 40 Metern präsentiert. Er sieht die Vorteile maritimer Stadtteile in einer dynamischeren und effizienteren Urbanität. Schwimmende Gebäude könnten verschoben und temporär dorthin gebracht werden, wo sie am besten zu nutzen sind. “Eine Stadt könnte zum Beispiel ein Fußballstadion leasen. Warum sollte man viel Geld für den Bau ausgeben? Besser, man mietet es, wie ein Auto”, sagt Olthuis. Solche mobilen und flexiblen “Immobilien” könnten für Investoren interessant sein – und damit den Einstieg in den Bau schwimmender Städte auslösen.

Kleine schwimmende Communities in Küstennähe großer Städte brauchen nicht unbedingt autark zu sein. Große Metropolen auf dem Meer müssten sich allerdings zwingend selbst versorgen können, mit einem eigenen Kreislaufsystem für Strom, Wasser, Abwasser und Müll. Als brauchbare “Standorte” hat das Seasteading Institute in Kalifornien Unterwassergebirge ausgemacht. Eine Wassertiefe von nicht mehr als 250 Metern erleichtere die Verankerung am Meeresboden.

Im Gegensatz dazu macht sich die Ocean Spiral gezielt die Tiefsee zunutze. 500 Meter Durchmesser hat das mit einer Wabenstruktur verstärkte und mit Acrylglas ummantelte Kugelbauwerk für 4000 Bewohner. Der größte Teil liegt wie ein Eisberg unter Wasser. Gigantische Ballastbälle halten die Stadt im Gleichgewicht. Eine spiralförmige Konstruktion verankert sie am Meeresgrund in bis zu 4000 Meter Tiefe. Zur Energiegewinnung wird die Temperaturdifferenz zwischen der kalten Tiefsee und den wärmeren Wasserschichten weiter oben genutzt. Mikroorganismen, die am Meeresgrund leben, sollen Kohlendioxid in Methan, also ebenfalls Energie, umwandeln. Trinkwasser könnte über Umkehrosmose hergestellt werden. Dabei wird der hohe Druck in der Tiefsee zur Entsalzung des Meerwassers genutzt. Unterwasserfarmen in den oberen Meeresregionen versorgen die Bewohner mit Fisch, Krustentieren und Wasserpflanzen. Am Ende der Spirale wird auf dem Meeresgrund nach natürlichen Bodenschätzen gegraben. Was wie eine Utopie anmutet, könnte nach den Plänen der japanischen Baufirma Shimizu bereits in zehn Jahren Wirklichkeit sein.

Künstliche Inseln sind mobil. Was heißt das für die Nationalität ihrer Bewohner?

Einen anderen Ansatz verfolgt Bauingenieur Gianluca Santosuosso. In Teamarbeit mit LESS, dem Laboratory for Eco Sustainable Systems, hat er Hypercay entwickelt, eine im Meer treibende Siedlung, die sich selbst versorgt. Dank seiner beweglichen Wirbelkonstruktion kann sich das Objekt den wechselnden Strömungsverhältnissen natürlich anpassen. Sollte es nötig sein, erzeugen hydraulische Hubkolben genug Antriebskraft, um die Megastruktur wie einen Aal durch enge Passagen, in Häfen oder Buchten navigieren zu können. Das Herz des Projekts ist sein autarkes Versorgungssystem, unter anderem bestehend aus einem “Marine Garden”, wo Tiere und Pflanzen gezogen werden, Müllrecycling zur Erzeugung von Biogas und einer Meerwasser-Entsalzungsanlage. Strom wird aus Sonnen- und Wellenkraft erzeugt.

Ideen für schwimmende Städte gibt es einige. Dennoch wurde noch keine davon in die Realität umgesetzt. Hohe Kosten und Scheu vor dem Risiko dürften eine Rolle spielen. Und womöglich gibt es ein Problem mit der völkerrechtlichen Zuordnung. Denn der Staatsbegriff bezieht sich eindeutig auf das Festland und die Küsten. Das schließt zwar alle Inseln mit ein, jedoch keine freischwimmenden Konstruktionen. Aber ist eine am Meeresboden verankerte Siedlung, die wie Oceanix City an einen anderen Ort verbracht werden kann, nun eine Insel, oder muss sie als mobiles Objekt betrachtet werden? Und was passiert mit der Nationalität ihrer Bewohner bei einem Standortwechsel? Auf Schiffen in internationalen Gewässern wiederum gilt die Rechtsprechung des Landes, unter dessen Flagge sie fahren. Müsste eine freischwimmende Stadt nicht wie ein Schiff behandelt werden? Unter welcher Flagge wäre sie dann unterwegs? Am Seasteading Institute träumt man von politisch autonomen Siedlungen auf See. Das Konzept des Nationalstaats, das Staatlichkeit, Territorium und Volk als untrennbare Elemente sieht, wird infrage gestellt. “Die Welt braucht Orte, wo man experimentieren und neue Gesellschaften aufbauen kann”, heißt es in der Selbstdarstellung.

Die Vereinten Nationen scheinen sich nun jedenfalls ernsthaft mit dem Thema zu beschäftigen. Künftig soll sich ein Expertengremium regelmäßig treffen, um die konkreten nächsten Schritte für Oceanix City zu planen – und die Stadt zum Schwimmen zu bringen.

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Seasteading: il futuro è vivere come un baccello nel mare

By Paola Piacenza
IO Donna

Sono i nuovi pionieri. Ma questa volta la frontiera che vogliono conquistare è liquida e le case, ipertecnologiche ed ecosostenibili, sono su palafitte. Per i seguaci della filosofia nata in America negli anni ’80, un nuovo capitolo si sta per scrivere nelle acque panamensi. Per chi vuole prenotare, meglio pagare in Bitcoin

La desalinizzazione delle acque, il giardino di coralli artificiali, l’alimentazione a pannelli solari e le colture idroponiche sono dettagli. Significativi, ma dettagli. La vera novità nel progetto che sta prendendo forma nelle acque territoriali panamensi a firma Ocean Builders è la visione del mondo (e del mare) che lo nutre.

Essere autosufficienti in mare aperto

All’origine c’era un’idea, e un movimento, nato negli anni ’80, sviluppato nei ’90, ora reso tangibile, chiamato Seasteading, dalla fusione di sea, mare, e homesteading, prendere possesso di una proprietà per viverci in maniera autosufficiente.

Nel rendering, due SeaPod sottocosta.

Finora lo sfruttamento di alcune piattaforme petrolifere o di navi da crociera abbandonate è tutto ciò che ha prodotto. Al più ambizioso dei progetti, la Freedom Ship, una barca lunga un miglio per 50 mila persone che alla fine degli anni ’90 avrebbe dovuto circumnavigare il mondo («Ci stanno ancora lavorando….») aveva preso parte anche il Ceo di Ocean Builders, Grant Romundt che, dall’Idaho, via zoom, racconta a iO Donna a che punto sono i lavori per la costruzione della fabbrica che produrrà i giganteschi “SeaPod”, i baccelli marini, unità di misura dei villaggi su palafitte che stanno per nascere al largo: La pandemia ci ha rallentato, ma non ci siamo mai fermati. La fabbrica ospiterà la più grande stampante 3D dell’America latina, in grado di realizzare un modulo in un week end.

L’acqua e gli architetti olandesi

Il primo prototipo di SeaPod, disegnato dagli ingegneri, era brutto, racconta Grant, che si definisce «un amante dell’acqua e della tecnologia». Perciò è stato coinvolto lo studio di architetti più all’avanguardia quando si tratta di costruire sull’acqua, gli olandesi di Waterstudio. Il loro motto è: “Il futuro sostenibile sta oltre il lungomare”. «Ho incontrato Koen Olthuis di Waterstudio a Singapore, e subito ci siamo messi a disegnare come due bambini». Il risultato sono le strutture che vi mostriamo nei rendering in questa pagina, «degne dei Jetsons», il cartoon di Hanna e Barbera – da noi erano I pronipoti – protagonista una famiglia del futuro. Nessun angolo vivo, tre piani attrezzati issati su un palo in grado di resistere al moto ondoso: «Nella versione da alto mare, i test sono stati fatti su onde di cinque metri, ma per ora lavoriamo sottocosta» spiega Grant.

Il flop thailandese

Così era stato in Thailandia, il capitolo precedente nella storia dei Sea Builders. Ma l’idea che una città galleggiante potesse sorgere al largo di Phuket e che, un giorno, i suoi residenti potessero reclamarne la sovranità aveva spaventato le autorità di Bangkok e l’ingegnere capo del progetto era stato costretto a levare le ancore in grande fretta. «Le novità spaventano» chiosa Grant. «Ma vivere sul mare è un’ambizione che l’uomo ha da sempre, simile a quella che spinse i pionieri verso l’America. Anche questa in fondo è la conquista di una frontiera, il mare è una finestra da spalancare, ricca di opportunità per chi ha spirito imprenditoriale. Potrebbe trattarsi di un cambiamento epocale. E noi, che disponiamo dei mezzi necessari per realizzarlo, siamo gli unici in questo momento a lavorarci».

Il bagno del SeaPod.

Vero, lo storico movimento che oggi fa riferimento al Seasteading Institute, alla nostra richiesta di intervista, nella persona della Development director Carly Jackson, ha risposto così: «Siamo una piccola organizzazione no profit, non intendiamo progettare e costruire sistemi da soli. Il nostro ruolo è stato tradizionalmente quello di ricercatori e non abbiamo ingegneri nel nostro personale». Ocean Builders tra i propri finanziatori, in compenso, ha Rüdiger Koch, un ingegnere aerospaziale tedesco in pensione che, ci spiega Grant, «punta a esplorazioni ancora più radicali»: per Koch le piattaforme di seasteading rappresentano il perfetto trampolino per il progetto di “launch loop”, un cavo per lanciare, letteralmente, oggetti nello spazio.

Alla portata dell’americano medio

I talenti visionari non mancano, ma nemmeno il senso degli affari fa difetto. Il sito dei Sea Builders offre numerose opzioni di acquisto, affitto o multiproprietà (i Bitcoin sono il mezzo di pagamento preferito, «ma accettiamo anche versamenti via Paypal, e puntiamo, dopo i primi tempi, ad abbattere i costi fino a 195 mila dollari per un modulo, un prezzo alla portata dell’americano medio» spiega Grant).

La cucina, con vista, del SeaPod.

Per essere uno cui non manca il senso pratico e che sta scommettendo su un’idea di futuro da film di fantascienza, Grant però esita a delineare il tipo di società che ha in mente per gli abitanti dei SeaPod. «Persone diverse sono attratte dal progetto per ragioni diverse. Alcuni apprezzano l’aspetto libertario (tra i fondatori del movimento c’era Patri Friedman, anarco-capitalista e nipote del premio Nobel per l’economia, Milton Friedman, ndr). Altri vi hanno visto un’opportunità dopo che in alcuni Paesi il lockdown ha rivelato aspetti autoritari». Per ora, sostiene, loro puntano soprattutto allo sfruttamento turistico: «Decidere di vivere sul mare a tempo pieno è un grande passo, meglio andare per gradi». Chi si occuperà di mantenere l’ordine, dare le linee della governance (o almeno il regolamento di condominio), fornire i servizi essenziali è ancora da definire. E se non dovesse funzionare? «Il nostro sarà diverso da un villaggio terrestre dove le case sono piantate nel terreno. Se costruisci sull’acqua ogni aspetto della vita comunitaria si presta alla sperimentazione. Una comunità può organizzare la raccolta dei rifiuti coi droni, un’altra con le barche. Se penso alla vostra Venezia… credo proprio che potremmo darvi una mano».

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What lies beneath: our love affair with living underwater

How the 1960s craze for oceanic exploration changed our relationship with the planet

By Chris Michael
The Guardian

In November 1966, the Gemini 12 spacecraft, carrying two astronauts, splashed down in the Pacific. The four-day mission was a triumph, proving that humans could work in outer space, and even step into the great unknown, albeit tethered to their spacecraft. It catapulted the US ahead of the USSR in the space race.

From then, Nasa’s goal was to beat the Russians to the moon. That meant weeks rather than days in space, in an isolated, claustrophobic environment. There was one perfect way to prepare humans for these conditions: going underwater. The world was gripped. If we could land people on the moon, why not colonise the ocean as well?

Nasa scientists were not the first to dream of marine living. Evidence of submarines and diving bells can be found as far back as the 16th century. The literary grandfather of all things deep, Jules Verne, popularised the idea of a more sophisticated underwater life with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1872, but it was in the 20th century that the fascination really took hold.

In the 1930s, American naturalist William Beebe and engineer Otis Barton collaborated on experimental submersibles called bathyspheres which set records for deep diving and opened up the underwater realm of plants and animals to science. Swiss physicist and oceanographer Auguste Piccard created the bathyscaphe (which used floats rather than surface cables) in 1946, and his son, Jacques, was on the record-breaking voyage to explore the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth, in 1960. Auguste also created the mesoscaphe – the world’s first passenger submarine – in 1964.

Jacques Piccard in the mesoscaphe
 Jacques Piccard in the mesoscaphe, the world’s first passenger submarine, which his father, Auguste Piccard, created in 1964. Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Dr William Beebe with a bathysphere.
 The bathysphere was invented in the 1930s by Dr William Beebe and was used to explore the ocean floor. Photograph: Chris Hunter/Corbis via Getty Images
The craze for living in the depths, rather than merely visiting, started in the 1960s, when Jacques-Yves Cousteau – inventor of scuba, wearer of red woolly hats and inspiration for ze French Narrator in Spongebob – brought the ocean vividly to life for millions around the world through his documentaries about life aboard his vessel Calypso.To Cousteau, the life subaquatic was, above all, for living. “Being French, he made sure his diving never got in the way of mealtimes,” writes author John Crace of Cousteau’s documentaries. “In fact, food and wine take almost equal precedence with the oceans in these films. No one is ever without a pipe or cigarette in their mouth, either. Except underwater, of course.”Cousteau channelled this vision of oceanic life into his underwater habitats, known as Conshelf (Continental Shelf Station). George F Bond, the father of saturation diving and head of the US navy’s Man-in-the-Sea programme, approached Cousteau with funding from the French oil industry: they wanted manned colonies at sea in order to help with future exploration.

Still from The Undersea World of Jaques Cousteau. The 1960s TV show chronicling Cousteau’s undersea explorations aboard the ex-Royal Navy minesweep, The Calypso
 The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, the 1960s TV show chronicling Cousteau’s undersea explorations aboard the ex-Royal Navy minesweeper Calypso. Photograph: ABC Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images
Jacques Cousteau’s 1964 documentary World Without Sun.
 Jacques Cousteau’s 1964 documentary World Without Sun. Photograph: Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock
Together, Bond and Cousteau built three Conshelfs. The first, in 1962, was suspended 10 metres under the water off the coast of Marseilles, but Conshelf II was a starfish-shaped “underwater village” that sat on the seabed proper, 30 metres down in the Red Sea off Sudan. It contained all the accoutrements of la vie louche, including television and radio. Cousteau used it as a base to explore the ocean in his yellow submarine, descending to 300 metres to capture the deepest footage yet recorded.His team spent 30 days beneath the waves, and in the process changed humanity’s relationship with the ocean by proving that “saturation diving” could allow people to spend long periods underwater. By diving to a certain depth, divers saturate their bodies with the inert gases in air. This allows them to exist at the extreme pressure of the ocean floor. It typically involves breathing a mix of helium and oxygen, to avoid the possibility of the bends and nitrogen narcosis.Conshelf sparked a craze. Sealab, Hydrolab, Edalhab, Helgoland, Galathee, Aquabulle, Hippocampe – more than 60 underwater habitats were dotted across the seabeds in the late 60s and early 70s from the Baltic to the Gulf of Mexico.

American aquanaut Berry L Cannon inside Sealab II
 American aquanaut Berry L Cannon inside Sealab II, developed by the US navy during the 1960s. Photograph: Abbus Archive Images/Alamy
The Cousteaus and their crew
 The Cousteaus and their crew relax after work on Conshelf II, in the Shaab Rumi reef in the Red Sea. Photograph: Robert B Goodman/National Geographic Creative
The craze even inspired two British teenagers, Colin Irwin and John Heath, to raise £1,000 to build Glaucus in 1965, which was little more than a cylindrical steel tank weighed down by old railway ties. “We all thought at the time, ‘This is the future’,” Irwin told the BBC on Glaucus’s 50th anniversary. “We may not populate the moon, but we’re going to have villages all over the continental shelf, and we thought it’s about time the British did the same thing.” They dropped it in the waters of Plymouth Sound and spent a week inside.It is the Nasa missions, however, that remain the most iconic of the 60s underwater living experiments. This is in large part due to the marine biologist Sylvia Earle, one of the most famous explorers of her generation. In 1969, Earle made history with Mission 6, when she and an all-female team of scientists spent two weeks on Nasa’s habitat Tektite (named after meteor remnants on the seabed). This Virgin Islands research facility was for studying aquatic life – marine science, engineering and construction underwater – and small-crew psychology in extreme conditions. The research was for the Apollo missions and the moon landing was just months away.Built by General Electric, Earle and her team would enter Tektite through what she calls an “underwater door” – emerging as if from a swimming pool into the deep-sea two-up, two-down apartment. It was dry, climate-controlled and comfortable, with carpets, bunks and a hot freshwater shower to wash off the salt. It even had a microwave.“Nasa had a team of psychologists watching to get insight into behaviour of living in isolation,” says Earle today. “We were there as guinea pigs: our research was on the oceans, their research was on us.”But Tektite wasn’t just a research station – it was a vision of stylish underwater living. With their scientific gear and Charlie’s Angels wetsuits in their Bond-villain lair, Earle and her team caused a media sensation.

“They called us the aquababes, the aquanaughties, all sorts of things,” Earle recalls with a snort. “We speculated what they would say about the astronauts if they were seen the same way – would they be the astrohunks?”

Habitats such as Glaucus, Conshelf and Tektite were built as tributes to humankind’s abilities, but their true achievement was to spark an entirely different understanding of marine animals. “Back then we could only explore using nets, and just saw dead bodies – not living creatures. Having the continuous interaction allowed us to get to know individual animals,” Earle says. “[In underwater habitats] we could stay, the way you look at bears or birds: we were there for the long haul, 24 hours a day or night. It was possible to see how a little group of damselfish reacted when a predator tried to swipe their eggs, for example.

Peggy Lucas with team leader Dr Sylvia Earle
 Engineer Peggy Lucas and team leader Dr Sylvia Earle in Nasa’s Tektite habitat in the Virgin Islands. Photograph: Bettmann Archive
Artist’s cutaway view of the Tektite II habitat.
 Cutaway model of Nasa’s Tektite II habitat. Photograph: NOAA Central Library Historical Fisheries Collection
Dr Sylvia Earle diving.
 Dr Sylvia Earle diving off Magic Point, New South Wales, Australia, with a Port Jackson shark in 2004. Photograph: The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media via Getty Images
“You look at a school of fish and they all look alike, but when you really look at them – well, it’s like a bunch of people getting on the New York subway: a fish would say they all look the same, but we know they’re different. Getting to appreciate the individuality of creatures other than humans was a breakthrough for me – it reinforces that you can’t just lump them all together.”But, in 1973, the world was shaken when Opec declared an oil embargo. Energy prices in the west skyrocketed. At first, the oil shock fuelled even wilder fantasies of a watery future, straight out of science fiction. Architects and designers imagined whole cities underwater, fed by hydropower stations, with deep-sea mining using freight submarines.Much like living in space, though, it’s extremely difficult to live underwater. Aquanauts spending months in saturation suffered intense pressures on their body tissues – their brains, nervous systems. There were also interpersonal problems. As the marine biologist Helen Scales notes in her 2014 radio documentary The Life Sub-Aquatic:“If you’ve ever lived in a house with anyone, the first thing you do is storm out if you have a quarrel. You’re not going to do that [underwater].”Advances in robotics changed the game. Much of the research being done by Earle and her colleagues could be more efficiently performed by humans operating devices remotely from the surface. By the end of the 70s, the US government pulled back on its efforts. The moon missions were over. So, it seemed, were the ocean habitats.A few people refused to let the dream die. One was Australian Lloyd Godson. His habitat, BioSub, experimented with sustainability. Fuelled by solar panels, it featured a support system adapted from work by American high school students, with algae removing the CO2 from his exhalations and creating oxygen. In 2007 he moved in. It worked – sort of. “By day 12 I was lethargic, getting really irritated with people asking questions,” he told the BBC. “My wife told me to call it a day.”

In 2010 Godson spent 14 days underwater at the Legoland aquarium in Germany and used a fixed bicycle to set a world record for generating electricity underwater.

The SeaOrbiter designed by French architect Jacques Rougerie
 The SeaOrbiter, designed by French architect Jacques Rougerie. Photograph: Jacques Rougerie
Better funded is the French architect Jacques Rougerie, who has built a career designing underwater habitats and environments. “I had the pleasure of going on Cousteau’s Calypso, participating in expeditions, talking to the crew – and what he created was a fascination for underwater living,” Rougerie says from his office in Paris. “The early explorers opened the chamber of the possible for humanity. When you are underwater you feel like you’re in a new dimension – floating in space, like an astronaut.”Citing Leonardo da Vinci as an inspiration, Rougerie designs sea museums, underwater laboratories and habitats, and his foundation hosts an annual competition for students to conceive of underwater villages. Rougerie himself has twice lived for long periods underwater, and both times he didn’t want to return to land. “Sadness invades you,” he says. “I was happy to come back and see family, but the first thing you think of is the next experience.”Rougerie’s ultimate goal remains that old 1960s dream: a proper underwater village, housing up to 250 people. In his vision, these aquanaut settlers would live in osmosis with the ocean, in a self-sufficient, autonomous community running on renewable marine energy such as tidal power, wave sensors and ocean thermals.Perhaps most ambitious of all is SeaOrbiter, Rougerie’s take on the International Space Station for the ocean. It looks like a floating seahorse: two-thirds of its 51 metres are submerged, with panoramic windows, the lower section acting to stabilise a huge sail-shaped portion above water.“The goal, above all, is to help the climate and biodiversity by exploring across the grand currents of the ocean,” he says. “To float 24/7 on a permanent structure, a combination of men and robots with a scientific purpose.”

Despite Rougerie’s claims that he has secured Chinese investment, SeaOrbiter appears no closer to pushing off.

Indeed, after all the projects of the past 50 years, only one permanent underwater habitat remains on the entire planet: Aquarius Reef Base, a research station run by Florida International University and which sits 20 metres down on the seabed off the Florida Keys.

Fabien Cousteau waves from inside Aquarius Reef Base, a laboratory 63 feet below the surface in the waters off Key Largo, Florida in 2014
 Fabien Cousteau waves from inside Aquarius Reef Base, an ocean-floor laboratory off Key Largo, Florida in 2014. Photograph: Wilfredo Lee/AP
Aquarius plays host to a stream of people – scientists, film-makers, astronauts, even Jacques Cousteau’s grandson Fabien – who want to experience time underwater. As part of Nasa’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations (Neemo), the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, famous for singing David Bowie songs aboard the International Space Station in 2013, used Aquarius to train.But Aquarius is still just a small research station, with room for just six people. In the 21st century, underwater “living” has become almost exclusively the preserve of hotels and resorts that sell “experiences” to guests via underwater glass ceilings and fish windows. The world’s largest underwater restaurant opened in Norway in 2019. Submerged hotels in the Maldives, Fiji, Dubai and Singapore use elevators to take guests below the waterline, and feature amenities such as Poseidon’s undersea chapel (“for a wedding ceremony or vow renewal truly unlike any other”), and are a lot more comfortable than Tektite ever was.Instead, the architects and scientists who still look to aquatic habitation spend most of their time thinking not about underwater cities, but floating ones. Long the refuge of the poorest city dwellers, such as the vast Makoko floating slum of homes on stilts in Lagos, houses on water have become newly popular as waterfront property prices – and sea levels – have risen across the world.So far, most of this effort to colonise the water has gone into land reclamation projects, such as the Odaiba island in Tokyo, or South Korea’s Songdo “smart city”. Architects in Dubai even tried to create a scale model of the entire Earth off its coast. However, reclamation is expensive, and requires constant maintenance to keep the ocean from reclaiming the space. Japan’s Kansai airport is sinking.

Under in Lindesnes, Norway, is the world’s largest underwater restaurant
 Under in Lindesnes, Norway, is the world’s largest underwater restaurant. Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images
Exterior view of Under
 Exterior view of Under: the restaurant is 5.5 metres beneath the sea. Photograph: Tor Erik Schrøder/AP
Architect Koen Olthuis thinks it’s more natural for cities to spread by floating. His firm Waterstudio builds floating buildings, mainly in the Netherlands, to help cities be more resilient. Recently, Olthuis started adding submerged levels to his structures. “In Holland the licences for dwellings on the water are small, but they say nothing about living underwater.”The goal is partly ecological, Olthuis says. “Ten years ago, it was about proving that a structure did not have a negative effect – but now it’s about also having a positive effect.” He points to the “rigs to reefs” principle where abandoned oil rigs have been transformed into habitats for ocean life. Waterstudio’s Sea Tree builds on that concept: it’s a platform that attracts birds, bees, fish and water plants into a single dense floating structure that can be moved between cities. He says the first Sea Trees have been commissioned by a Chinese developer in Kunming, who was asked to create a tourist attraction after a dam permanently altered the landscape.The Bjarke Ingels Group last year revealed a concept for a buoyant municipality called Oceanix City – a modular system of floating islands clustered in multiples of six to form a kind of archipelago. Meanwhile, the Seasteading Institute, founded by PayPal’s Peter Thiel and the grandson of the economist Milton Friedman, continues to pursue its libertarian goal of floating communities living outside the boundaries of national law. The Chinese construction giant CCCC has a design similar to Oceanix City, while the architect Vincent Callebaut has imagined a city called Lilypad with a series of oceanic skyscrapers that would house 50,000 people.“I see blue cities,” says Olthuis. “Not floating cities. Just a city growing over water, taking advantage of the floating structures but in the same pattern as on land – a kind of Venice but floating, that can be used in New York, Miami … any city that’s threatened by water.”

An artists’ rendering of the Sea Tree project – a structure to attract fish and other wildlife to an area.
 An artist’s rendering of the Sea Tree project by Dutch architects Waterstudio. Photograph: Waterstudio
OceanixCity – a modular system of floating islands clustered to form an archipelago. Concept by Bjarke Ingels Group
 Oceanix City – a proposed modular system of floating islands form an archipelago. Photograph: BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group
Aerial view of Oceanix City
 An aerial view of Oceanix City. Photograph: BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group

The craze for deep-sea living wasn’t entirely folly, though. Rougerie says that time beneath the waves changes our outlook on the planet, helping inspire the environmental movement. It’s why continues to sponsor the competition to design underwater cities. “The biggest threat to our ocean is man: pollution, chemical and plastic. But I’m convinced that the young have a conscience and they’ll do everything in their power – they’re totally committed and willing to find a solution.”

Sylvia Earle, too, believes that man’s understanding of the universe has been changed by underwater exploration. “In the last 50 years,” she says, “two major things have happened: the expansion of our technology into the skies above – which has given us great insights into the blue speck in the universe that we couldn’t understand any other way – and going deep in the ocean, which has also changed everything.

“It has taught us that life exists everywhere, even in the greatest depths; that most of life is in the oceans; and that oceans govern climate. Perhaps because we’re so terrestrially biased, air-breathing creatures that we are, it has taken us until now to realise that everything we care about is anchored in the ocean.

“It’s the ocean that drives planetary systems – and we have done more harm to our life-support system in the last 50 years than we have in all previous human history,” she says. “If we fail the ocean, nothing else matters.”

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By Material District

Dutch architectural studio Waterstudio designed a 40 metre tall floating tower made of CLT for the city of Rotterdam (NL).

CLT, which stands for Cross Laminated Timber, is a sustainable up and coming material in architecture. Wood is a renewable resource, and by turning it into CLT, even wood that is less suitable for construction, like softwoods, can be turned into buildings. This way, lighter constructions can be built than with for instance steel or concrete, making it especially suitable for floating architecture.

The design of the tower is compared to a sheet of paper that is pushed together so that a tower appears. The white sheet is floating above the water on a transparent layer with vegetation. It is hold in place by a wooden structure of V-shaped columns. The tower is pushed up asymmetric from the deck, which creates an opening in the middle of the building. This opening functions as an atrium on the lower level, to provide light and a spacious feeling.

The foundation of the building consists of three concrete barges, The tower itself will be constructed in three parts on a wharf and assembled on site.

The main function of the tower is to accommodate offices. However, the ground floor forms a mix-use public layer, just above the water level. It is designed as a public green park.

Located in the harbour of Rotterdam, the FloatingTimberTower uses as little energy as possible. The building runs on solar power and reuses heat produced by the structure itself or extracted from the surrounding water.

Architect: Koen Olthuis – Waterstudio.NL
Concept developer: VORM


Arkup#1 Miami

By Antony Funell
ABC Australia

La casa galleggiante di lusso autosufficiente

L’ultima frontiera del lusso abitativo a Miami

Arkup#1 Miami è una vera e propria houseboat lunga 22,9m, si sviluppa su 2 piani e comprende 404 mq di superficie coperta.

La progettazione è frutto del lavoro tra lo studio americano Arkup e l’architetto olandese Koen Olthuis con un team di oltre 20 specialisti provenienti da 5 Paesi diversi ed è stata commissionata dall’amore del proprietario per gli yacht ed il mare.

Arkup#1 Miami: la casa galleggiante di lusso autosufficiente

La sua caratteristica più interessante rispetto ad altre case galleggianti sono i suoi 4 pilastri idraulici telescopici che possono essere dispiegati ad una profondità di 6m per stabilizzare l’abitazione e sollevarla dal fondale al di sopra della linea di galleggiamento, al fine di evitare onde e ridurre la manutenzione dello scafo.

Arkup#1 Miami: la casa galleggiante di lusso autosufficiente

I progettisti hanno anche certificato che è classificata per resistere ad uragani di categoria 4 fino a 250 mph (250 km/h). Nell’Arkup#1 troviamo anche pannelli solari da 36 kW e batterie fino a 1.000 kWh sufficienti ad alimentarla autonomamente.

L’acqua piovana viene raccolta dal tetto e purificata per renderla potabile ed è dotata di ogni comfort: internet, tv e radio. La casa è azionata da una coppia di propulsori azimut elettrici da 100 kW (134 CV), che le consentono di raggiungere sino a 7 nodi di velocità (13 km/h), senza l’utilizzo di carburanti.

Arkup#1 Miami: la casa galleggiante di lusso autosufficiente

La casa è molto luminosa e perfettamente climatizzata, si sviluppa su una pianta rettangolare regolare cinta da ampie vetrate. Al piano terra: salotto, zona pranzo, cucina, bagno e la terrazza esterna di ben 77 mq con angolo cucina ed area relax.

Arkup#1 Miami: la casa galleggiante di lusso autosufficiente

Al piano superiore, ci sono 4 camere da letto, ognuna con bagno privato. Gli interni sono caratterizzati da linee pulite ed un’estetica minimalista in cui domina il bianco. I mobili sono progettati su misura e realizzati con materiali sostenibili.

Questo gioiellino è ora in vendita per 5,5 milioni di dollari!

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Pływająca wieża z drewna

By Sztuka Architektury
ABC Australia


Pracownia Waterstudio stworzyła projekt architektoniczny wysokiego na 40 metrów budynku z drewna. Nie byłoby w tym może nic niezwykłego, gdyby nie fakt, że w zamierzeniu architektów ów budynek ma… pływać po wodzie.


Projekt architektoniczny Floating Timber Tower
Projekt architektoniczny Floating Timber Tower

Nietypowa architektura z drewna

Pływająca wieża z drewna – to budynek biurowy, zaprojektowany dla bardzo konkretnej lokalizacji. Autorzy projektu architektonicznego widzą go pływającego po zatokach i kanałach Rotterdamu. Drewniany budynek powstał we współpracy z gotową sfinansować jego budowę firmą deweloperską oraz z pracownią inżynieryjną  Hercules Floating Concrete, zajmującą się tworzeniem konstrukcji dla pływających obiektów architektonicznych.

Projekt architektoniczny Floating Timber Tower
Projekt architektoniczny Floating Timber Tower
Mimo że w Holandii pływające domy nie są niczym niezwykłym – wszak kraj ów jest wyjątkowo bogato wyposażony w rzeki, kanały i różnego rodzaju akweny – wysoki aż na 40 metrów drewniany budynek, który także miałby zostać zbudowany na wodzie okazał się wyjątkowo oryginalnym pomysłem. Tym bardziej ekscytującym, że w swoim projekcie architektonicznym autorzy uwzględnili nie tylko powierzchnie biurowe, ale i taras widokowy, restaurację oraz nawet zieloną przestrzeń publiczną!

Projekt architektoniczny Floating Timber Tower
Projekt architektoniczny Floating Timber Tower

Zobacz bardzo oryginalny projekt architektoniczny

Autorzy tego projektu architektonicznego, pracownia Waterstudio, pływającą wieżę chcą zbudować z drewna klejonego krzyżowo (cross-laminated timber, CLT). Są przekonani, że to materiał przyszłości – ekologiczny, wytrzymały, elastyczny, uniwersalny i w pełni bezpieczny. Ma także tę zaletę, że jest bardzo lekki – dlatego właśnie doskonale nadaje się także do budowania z niego obiektów pływających.

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Informativ: Gut Wohnen im Klimawandel

By Marie-luise Braun

Elegant wohnen auf dem Wasser: Wie diese Häuser der Siedlung Schoonship in den Niederlanden, werden weltweit schwimmende Siedlungen geplant, um dem steigenden Meeresspiegel zu trotzen. Foto: Raum Film
Elegant wohnen auf dem Wasser: Wie diese Häuser der Siedlung Schoonship in den Niederlanden, werden weltweit schwimmende Siedlungen geplant, um dem steigenden Meeresspiegel zu trotzen. Foto: Raum Film

Osnabrück . Wie Menschen trotz des Klimawandels gut leben und Hochwassern trotzen können, zeigt Matthias Widter in seinem Film “Erde unter Wasser – Wohnen im Klima-Chaos”.

Aktuelle Forschungsberichte zeigen es: Die Erwärmung der Erde durch den Klimawandel geht schneller voran, als gedacht. Wie gut, dass Experten bereits an Möglichkeiten arbeiten, mit den Folgen leben zu können. So ist das beispielsweise in der Architektur, zeigt Matthias Widter in seiner informativen Dokumentation auf. In ihr stellt er nicht nur Projekte weltweit vor, sondern lässt den Klimaforscher Mojib Latif die Folgen des Klimawandels für die Städte veranschaulichen.

Hamburg beispielsweise liegt nur 100 Kilometer von der Küste entfernt. Steigt der Meeresspiegel durch die Erderwärmung an, kann es in der Metropole wesentlich häufiger zu Hochwassern kommen.

Für Koen Olthuis liegt die Lösung auf der Hand: „Wenn das Wasser kommt, lebt es sich am besten auf dem Wasser“, sagt der niederländische Architekten und Industrie-Designer, der unter anderem an einem Pilotprojekt in Amsterdams Norden beteiligt war. Hier schwimmt eine neue Siedlung auf dem Wasser. Auch andernorts werden solche Wohnmöglichkeiten angedacht, die zudem sehr flexibel sind: Dadurch, dass die Häuser schwimmen, können sie nicht nur an anderen Orten anlegen, sondern auch ganze Siedlungen flexibel an sich ändernde gesellschaftliche Bedürfnisse angepasst werden.

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