skip to Main Content
Architecture, urban planning and research in, on and next to water
+31 70 39 44 234     info@waterstudio.nl

The Floating Dutchman

By Kerstin Schweighöfer
FUTURE PERFECT
December 2015

 

Koen Olthuis | © Architect Koen Olthuis, Waterstudio.NL

The Citadel is a floating apartment complex near Naaldwijk, Netherlands. | © Architect Koen Olthuis, Waterstudio.NL

 

THE FLOATING DUTCHMAN

In the tradition of his water-taming nation, Dutchman Koen Olthuis designs floating islands to dwell and live on – not least because climate change calls for new solutions in architecture.

A vacation doesn’t get more wonderful than this: a white sandy beach, a green-blue, glistening sea and an exotic underwater world to thrill any snorkeling enthusiast. All you have to do to explore it is jump into the Indian Ocean from your personal jetty, because the elegant vacation villa where you’re staying is floating on the water. In a Maldivian lagoon, this dream is currently becoming a reality as the construction of 185 floating vacation homes is currently underway. They’re arranged in the shape of a giant flower on the water. Hence the name of the project: Ocean Flower.

It was designed by Koen Olthuis, a Dutch architect who is considered a pioneer of what is called Aqua Architecture: “I build exclusively on the water,” says the 44-year-old with a strawberry-blonde mop of curly hair. His buildings are made to withstand floods and climate change because everything Olthuis designs can adapt to the level of the sea. It is not by accident that his office in Rijswijk near The Hague bears the name waterstudio.nl.

Bracing for climate change, without leaving a trace

In order to make such bold projects as the Ocean Flower a reality, Olthuis partnered with a fellow Dutchman, project developer Paul van de Camp, to found the company Dutch Docklands. It buys water properties all over the world to use them as building sites. This opens up completely new perspectives – not only for densely populated cities or countries where building sites are in short supply and hence, expensive: “It also helps residents protect themselves from the consequences of climate change.”

There is a reason Dutch Docklands launched its first project in the Maldives. It’s not just to cater to the recreational interests of spoiled tourists: The 300,000 inhabitants of the island nation will soon literally be up to their necks in water, because 80 percent of the Maldives are located barely a metre above sea level. The government had already announced plans to buy to land elsewhere in order to survive. Until Olthuis and van de Camp assured them that this was quite unnecessary: “We made the President of the Maldives understand that climate refugees can be pioneers of climate management,” said Olthuis. They understood immediately.

The Ocean Flower is just the beginning: Four more lagoons with floating vacation lodges are to follow, as well as a floating conference centre and one of the world’s most spectacular golf courses that will spread over several man-made islands to be connected by underwater glass tunnels.

And all this can be done without leaving a trace in nature or inflicting any damage, for Dutch Docklands is committed to what it calls the scarless approach: “Our units can float anywhere on the water for 200 years, yet if the area is needed for some other purpose, they can just be hauled away,” Olthuis explains. They will be gone without a trace.

The Dutch know how to live with the water

It isn’t surprising that the pioneers of Aqua Architecture are Dutch: Like no other people, the nation at the mouth of the Rhine River has spent centuries learning to tame the water or to keep it in check with dikes, dams and levees. As the proverb goes: “God created the world – and the Dutch the Netherlands.”

Whether it is in New Orleans or in Bangladesh: The expertise of Dutch hydraulic engineers and architects is in high demand throughout the world – today more so than ever, thanks to climate change, which brings swelling rivers, rising sea levels and more catastrophic floods around the globe.

The Dutch have long recognized that building ever higher dams won’t be enough. Therefore, the former nemesis is instead given more space: Polders are being flooded, retention basins are being built, tributaries being carved out and filled-up canals dug free again.

The old seafaring nation now has even less residential land available. Yet the Dutch discovered that the flooded polders and artificial water basins offer more benefits than just a controlled channeling of excess water.

Trend and challenge of generation climate change

As a consequence, aqua living has since become a trend in the Netherlands; all over the country, people reside in what is called waterwoningen. Their foundation consists of a concrete tub filled with Styrofoam, which is considered unsinkable. To keep them in place, they are moored to poles with rings so they can easily adapt to rising sea levels. Electricity and water lines are connected via hoses and cables.

Olthuis has designed countless waterwoningen: transparent villas sitting elegantly on the water, such as in Aalsmeer, Zwolle, Leiden or Amsterdam, which received an entire floating neighborhood in 2012, the steigereiland. In Antwerp, Olthuis designed a floating boulevard on the Scheldt, in Paris he created a restaurant on the Seine. And in a polder between The Hague and Delft, he wants to build de Citadel, Europe’s first floating apartment complex on a foundation of 140 by 90 metres. “Technologically speaking, all of this is easy to do,” he stresses.

The technology developed and patented by Olthuis virtually eliminates size limits on foundations for waterwoningen. In other words, the foundation can be a platform large enough to accommodate entire blocks of houses, complete with yards and parking garages: “The larger an object, the more stable it is on the water,” the architect explains.

Olthuis is therefore convinced: The city of the future consists of floating platforms that can be moved around like floes of ice. “It will evolve one step at a time,” the bold Dutchman predicts: The next fifteen years will see churches, schools and sports fields move out onto the water, then in 50 years, we will have platforms as large as 200 by 200 metres, with houses, roads and parks – until a century from now, the city of the future will be a reality: a flexible delta-metropolis of floating elements. For Olthuis, this new type of urban design, this new flexibility is “the great challenge for the architects of the climate change generation.”

Click here for the source website

Click here for the pdf

Podcast: Maldives’ Floating City?

The Seasteading Institute, Joe Quirk, Nov 2015

Interview of Joe Quirk from the Seasteading Institute with Koen Olthuis about  Maldives’ floating cities.

Podcast: Maldives’ Floating City? Koen Olthuis of Waterstudio

Podcast: Play in new window

What if a nation sinking below sea level became the innovation hub for floating cities?
What if you could float the infrastructure of Holland to the slums of Bangladesh?
What if the future of floating cities is in 3D printed technology?

Dutch architect Koen Olthuis is the co-author of Float! Building on Water to Combat Urban Congestion and Climate Change with David Keuning. Koen founded Waterstudio which designs many components of floating cities, including schools, golf courses, hotels, and even stadiums, and he co-founded Dutch Docklands which plans gorgeous projects for the Maldives.  In 2007, Koen was chosen at Time Magazine‘s “most influential people of the year,” and the French magazine Terra Eco chose Koen in 2011 as one of the 100 greenest persons who will change the the world.

Koen Olthuis initiated a project to transform shipping containers into Floating City Apps to upgrade living conditions in coastal slums by providing “plug-and-play” schools, kitchens, health centers, internet cafes, and water purification units.

Should seasteads establish political independence first, and then change the world? Or should floating cities set humanitarian examples, win hearts and minds, and then seek independence? Koen and I discuss the strategies and agree to partner on a shared goal.

I hope you enjoy this discussion as much as I did. And if you subscribe to podcasts on iTunes, you can find this podcast and all of our other podcasts on our iTunes page.

Joe Quirk

Click here to read the website

Why Blue is Better

Annelie Rozeboom
Hi Europe
October.2015

 

Architect Koen Olthuis draws on a roll of paper while explaining why we should be building our cities on the water and how he is planning to help the poor with his ideas. “As an architect, you can design towers, but every child can do that in their Minecraft game. Plus none of the towers we build now will be there in 300 years’ time. What I want to leave behind at the end of my career are concepts and ideas, the main idea is that we need to push our cities unto the water.”
Green is good, blue is better is the motto of this Dutch architect. “Our cities don’t change fast enough. We build houses and building and expect them to be used for ever, but our society changes every ten years. If parts of our cities float, we are much more flexible. The center of Amsterdam will always be the same, but the neighborhoods around it change all the time. If buildings float, you can just pull them away and put them somewhere else,” Olthuis told Hi-Europe.


Pict: selimaksan

Working with the Water

One-half of the Netherlands is flood-prone and about one-quarter is below sea level, so it’s no wonder the Dutch spend their time developing ways to incorporate water into their style of living. The philosophy is shifting from fighting the water to living with it, or rather, on it. Instead of trying to claw back more land from the sea, developers are exploring the cost-efficiency of building homes that rise and fall with the tides. “We need to start working with the water in a more intelligent way,” Olthuis says.

This relatively new amphibious architecture is attracting interest from around the world, with floating and amphibious homes and schools now being designed for flood plains everywhere. Amphibious architecture is for both dry and wet conditions, so the houses stay dry and on the ground during normal times and then when the water arrives, they can float up.


Pict: Architect Koen Olthuis – Waterstudio.NL

Waterstudio

Olthuis wants to do much more than build a few villas. His architectural bureau Waterstudio.NL has designed complete apartment complexes, which could accommodate hundreds of people. And that is just one project. There is also a 33-meter-tall trees that can float. “Our cities have become sick environments. Green has been pushed away, but bees and other insects need quiet places. Our sea tree is like a cut-up park, which floats at a safe distance from the shore. Nature will take over on the platform and create its own ecosystem.”

Olthuis is also planning to help people in the slums of the world, which are often located on flood plains. “Worldwide you see that the most vulnerable people are being pushed into the water,” he says. This coming month he will send a floating school to Dakar – it’s a container that floats on empty plastic bottles. “The way to upgrade a slum is by installing facilities like schools and internet cafés, or easily movable small buildings that slum entrepreneurs can use. We have designed a kind of toolbox, which have 20 functions inside. This way, the entrepreneurs can choose what it is they need.”
Olthuis exports his concepts all around the globe, including to the flood zones of Hainan Island. “They have land there that they can’t use, but they will if they take our technology.” He also sells floating islands to Dubai. “Making artificial islands out of sand doesn’t work. In Dubai they built some, but they are too far away from the coast, and there is no electricity or drinking water. We are now going to put floating islands in between.”


Pict: Architect Koen Olthuis – Waterstudio.NL

Fight Against the Sea

The Dutch are famous for their age-old fight against the sea, and they have the best flood management technologies in the world. In the beginning, the people in this low country put their homes on artificial hills called terpen, but they soon started building dikes. Popular in the middle ages were wierdijken, earth dikes with a protective layer of seaweed. Later dikes had a vertical screen of timbers backed by an earth bank, but these were replaced by stones after the timber was eaten by shipworms. When the polder windmill was invented in the 15th century, it meant that land could also be drained.

The dikes around the rivers were maintained by the famers who lived next to them. Special water board directors would come to check every three years. This changed radically after a devastating North Sea flood in 1953, which resulted in 1,800 deaths. The government adopted a “never again” attitude, and built dams all around the country, guarding all main river estuaries and sea inlets. According to computer simulations, today’s defenses in the Netherlands are supposed to withstand the kind of flood so severe that it would occur only once in 10,000 years.
“We have pretty much won the fight against the sea,” architect Olthuis says. “The problem now is rainwater. Holland has 3500 low-lying polders enclosed by dykes that function as sponges – they soak up excessive rain water. However, more and more of this land is now used for housing. These are ideal places to build amphibious houses.”


Pict: Architect Koen Olthuis – Waterstudio.NL

Rising Sea Levels

Dutch scientists predict a rise in sea levels of up to 110cm by the year 2100. “We can make the dikes higher, that’s not a problem at all. Technically, all that is possible. The problem with a high dike is that when it breaks, more water will come in,” he says.

There is also growing pressure on existing land. The Dutch government estimates that 500,000 new homes will be needed in the next two decades. Most of the land suitable for conventional building has already been used up, so Dutch architects are encouraged to experiment with new solutions. “The palace in the center of Amsterdam was built on 13.654 wooden poles. It’s the densest forest in the Netherlands. There was real innovation in those times. We are built on places where there shouldn’t be land at all. It’s not about giving up, it’s about continuing to grow,” says Olthuis.

Koen Olthuis

Click here for the source website

Floating City Apps: A Lifeline for Slums

By Carol Matlack
Bloomberg Businessweek
September.2015

 

Dutch architecture firm Waterstudio uses shipping containers to build structures that benefit people living in flood-ravaged shantytowns.

Firm: Waterstudio
Location: Rijswijk, Netherlands
Total Cost: $28,000

More than 600 million people worldwide live in shantytowns that suffer chronic flooding. Because these settlements are often illegal, entrepreneurs and community groups can’t get the building permits, insurance, and bank loans to open grocery stores, health clinics, and other essential establishments.
Dutch architect Koen Olthuis thinks he has a solution: His Floating City Apps are structures built from shipping containers that can be docked alongside waterfront slums. The first, set to be deployed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, this fall, will be outfitted with 20 computer workstations. It will be used as a classroom in the daytime and as an Internet café in the evening. Unesco and local non-profit are subsidizing construction. Because the units are vessels, they will qualify for insurance and private financing, which may also make them attractive options for local business.
Olthuis’s firm, Waterstudio, specializes in waterborne architecture and building floating resort in Maldives. He wants to put some of that know-how to work for the benefit of the poor. “The architecture is simple”, he says. “But you need to have a business model”.

This demonstration unit in the Netherlands is outfitted as an education and communications center, with 20 touchscreen workstations.

SOURCE: FLOATING CITY APPS

Click here for the source website

Click here for the pdf

These Floating Sea Trees Could Bring Wildlife Back to Big Cities

By Tailor Hill
Takepart
August.2015

The offshore structures would provide habitat for animals, birds, and fish.

Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

In the world’s biggest cities, it’s hard enough for humans to find a little elbow room—now think about carving out habitat for wildlife in places like Manhattan.

Dutch architect Koen Olthuis thinks he has the design that can extend urban sprawl into city waterways—but instead of floating high-rises offshore, he envisions wildlife oases within city limits.

Called Sea Trees, the steel structures are based on existing offshore oil platforms. Anchored to the ocean or river floor, Sea Tree pillars would extend above and below the water surface, providing “layered” habitats—almost like the floors of a skyscraper—for flora and fauna.

“Oil companies have used these floating storage towers for years, we only gave them a new shape and function,” Olthuis said in a statement.

Olthuis, head architect at Waterstudio, thinks Sea Trees could bring animals back to areas taken over by humans, helping to stem falling wildlife populations.

“It is becoming evermore difficult to allot an appropriate amount of land for the conservation of wildlife habitats within city limits,” said Olthuis. “Sea Tree would provide the ideal environment for a multitude of species, not to mention a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.”

Rivers, oceans, lakes, and harbors could all be potential locations for Sea Trees, giving a home to birds, bats, and bees above the waterline while providing habitat for fish, crustaceans, and even coral reefs below the surface.

Waterstudio imagines a forest of Sea Trees built off the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfront; it could provide living spaces for wildlife along some of the most expensive stretches of real estate in the United States.

Olthuis designed Sea Trees to be inaccessible to humans.

“Water is, of course, a perfect way to keep people away,” Olthuis said. “In the end, it has become a vertical hangout for wildlife.”

While the concept is still in the development phase, Waterstudio thinks Sea Trees could be built today because much of the technology exists. The architecture firm estimates each Sea Tree would cost about $1.2 million, depending on the water depth and construction materials used.

“Large oil companies will have the opportunity to give back by using their own intellectual property and resources to donate Sea Trees to a community in need, showing their concern and interest in preserving the distressed wildlife,” Olthuis said.

Click here for the source website

Click here to view the article in pdf

Holländskt flyt mot stigande havsnivåer

By Sebastian van Baalen
Syre
August.2015

 

Sebastian van Baalen – 2 år sedan
Han kallas den flytande holländaren och har utsetts till en av världens viktigaste tänkare av the Times. Koen Olthuis är en nederländsk arkitekt som propagerar för att holländarna måste lära sig att leva med stigande havsnivåer. Men hans
idéer har implikationer långt bortom Nederländerna.

Med hjälp av cityappar vill arkitekterna på Waterstudio tillgodose grundläggande behov i världens vattennära slumområden. Foto: Sebastian van Baalen

Nederländerna är ett av världens lägst liggande länder med omkring 20 procent av landets yta under havsnivå och ytterligare 30 procent i riskzonen för omfattande översvämningar. Men trots århundraden av erfarenhet av att bygga vallar, kanaler och pumpstationer menar arkitekten Koen Olthuis att framtiden ligger på vattnet. Han har patent på flytande husgrunder och de senaste tolv åren har han ritat över 100 flytande hus i Nederländerna.

– Lösningen fanns i familjen hela tiden, förklarar han medievant. Min mammas familj jobbade inom skeppsindustrin och min pappas familj var arkitekter. Jag har helt enkelt tagit det bästa av två världar.

Enligt Koen Olthuis är flytande byggnader lösningen på flera olika problem; stigande havsnivåer, platsbrist i storstadsområden och behovet av dynamiska städer. – Städer är inte perfekta, de är korkade. Världen förändras ständigt men städerna är statiska och kan inte anpassas snabbt nog. Genom att bygga på vattnet kan man göra staden dynamisk, funktioner kan distribueras dit de behövs, när de behövs.

Lyxbostäder och konstgjorda öar signerade Koen Olthuis finns bland annat i Dubai och på Maldiverna. I Nederländerna, ett land där platsbristen är akut, har Koen Olthuis idéer resulterat i flytande bostadsområden. I sin bok Float! propagerar han för att användningen av flytande husgrunder kan möjliggöra så kallad depolderisering i Nederländerna, det vill säga att grundvattennivån tillåts stiga i torrlagda områden. Men det var när han uppmärksammade problemet med slumområden som han insåg konceptets fulla potential.

Flytande cityappar

Enligt FN förväntas omkring två miljarder människor leva i slumområden år 2030. Dessa bosättningar är ofta semitemporära då invånarna ständigt hotas med avhysning eftersom de formellt varken äger marken eller sina bostäder, något som försvårar utvecklingen av samhällsfunktioner i dessa områden. Men detta vill Koen Olthuis ändra på med hjälp av flytande cityappar.

– Många av världens slumområden ligger vid eller på vatten. Men när vi gjorde en studie i Bangladesh nämnde sluminvånarna förvånansvärt nog inte översvämningar som det främsta problemet – det var bristen på samhällsfunktioner. Och då är vattnet lösningen!

Precis som man laddar ner appar till sin smarta telefon för att ge den funktioner som saknas menar Koen Olthuis att man kan lägga till samhällsfunktioner i vattennära slumområden. Tillsammans med ett team av unga ingenjörer och arkitekter på sitt företag Waterstudio i Haag har han utvecklat flytande containers som huserar skolor, internetkaféer, sjukhus och sanitetsanläggningar, alla drivna av solpaneler. Dessa kan fraktas till slumområdena till havs. Jiya Benni jobbar med projektet.

– I de flesta slumområden saknas de juridiska förutsättningarna för att utveckla infrastrukturen. Fördelen med dynamiska cityappar är att de inte kräver bygglov. Skulle förutsättningarna förändras kan apparna helt enkelt bogseras bort.

Den första containern är nu på väg att placeras i Dhaka i Bangladesh. Men flytande cityappar ska främst ses som ett socialt företag enligt Jiya Benni.
– Varje cityapp har en affärsidé. Tanken är att lokala entreprenörer i slumstäderna kan hyra en city app på lång sikt och betala av kostnaden över tid. När appen har spelat ut sin roll i ett visst område kan den helt enkelt flyttas vidare. Lite som ett mikrolån.

Samtidigt erkänner Koen Olthuis att kostnaden för cityapparna än så länge är för hög.

– En flytande skola kostar för närvarande 45 000 dollar. Vi måste minska priset till 18 000 dollar för att det ska bli ekonomiskt hållbart.

Marinbiologer har bland annat påpekat att flytande byggnader kan störa de marina ekosystemen. Men Jiya Benni ser inte det som ett problem. – Jämfört med att torrlägga land är flytande byggnader definitivt mer miljövänliga. Visst kan konstruktionerna påverka mängden ljus som når botten, men det går att lösa med kreativ design. Vi samarbetar med oceanografen Jean-Michel Cousteau för att utveckla våra cityappar till naturliga ekosystem för fiskar.

Vatten som möjlighet Koen Olthuis framstår lika mycket som visionär som arkitekt. I hans visioner ingår flytande grönområden, flytande flygplatser och mobila och flytande flyktingläger.

Men vad är science fiction och vad är verkligen möjligt?
Faktum är att flytande städer har existerat sedan länge och stora slumområden ligger i dag på vattnet. Ett exempel är slummen Makoko i Nigera som är hem åt tiotusentals människor. Liknande samhällen återfinns i Hong Kong och Vietnam. Investeringar i sådana områden är ofta riskfyllda då infrastruktur riskerar att förstöras vid översvämningar. Även rikare länder har insett såväl nyttan som det estetiska med flytande byggnader; Seoul har en flytande ö på Hanfloden, Rotterdam ett mobilt konferens- och utställningskomplex på Nieuwe Maasfloden och Bristol en flytande plantträdgård. Men för Koen Olthuis handlar det om att förändra hur vi förstår staden.

– Mitt budskap är att vatten inte enbart är ett hot, utan också en möjlighet. Jag hoppas att det vi gör, mina idéer, kan spridas och locka människor att tro på idén. Min vision är att förbättra städer i hela världen.

Click here for the website

Click here for the pdf

Back To Top
Search