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Architecture, urban planning and research in, on and next to water
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Portrait:, The Netherlands


Archi-News, February 2015

Facing the city planning and climate changing challenges, the Dutch office chooses to work principally towards flexible strategies and large scale floating architecture projects proposing sustainable solutions.

In the Netherlands, one quarter of the country being under sea level, the architects are considering the ways to rethink the built environment. Koen Olthuis (*1971) is one of them. Founder of Waterstudio, he studied architecture and industrial design at the Delft Technology University. As per his words, we treat our cities as if they were static and we don’t stop erecting fixed urban elements, which after 50 years become obsolete and useless. But the to-morrow’s city is dynamic, hybrid, flexible and environment friendly, a moving town, which reinvents itself constantly. The architect’s work is more precise in order to especially respond to the pressing needs of climatic changes. Koen Olthuis proposes to live on the water, with the water. The first town created in this spirit is under construction between The Hague and Rotterdam. Called « The New Water », this 1200 house urban development takes place in the polder zone, intentionally filled with water after a few centuries of artificial draining.
Strict rules limit the volume authorized above sea level. This constraint gives life to a rather sophisticated design and to interesting spatial solutions, particularly a naturally lighted basement, large glass surfaces, parts with wood and a white Corian® curved frame running along the façade. First one of the 6 buildings foreseen in this project, Citadel is also, with its 60 luxury apartments, the first floating building in Europe. Easy to reach from the side by a floating road, the building is composed of 180 modular elements, placed on concrete foundations. The norms are identical to those of a house on dry land. Another element of the New Water project’s first part: the Waterfront villa has a concrete base with a boathouse and a swimming pool. Three U-shaped volumes enable to optimize the viewpoints at each level. Corian® is used as the main covering material.
Waterstudio develops a revolutionary concept for the cruise ships terminal. A sculptural triangular floating construction (700 x 700 m) situated outside the bank, disposes of more than 160 000sqm of conference halls, cinemas, shopping areas, spas, restaurants, hotels, etc. The triangular ring raises at one place to create a smaller interior harbour. Covered with aluminium panels and partly with photovoltaic cells, the structure anchors itself to the seabed by cables with shock absorbers, enabling a vertical flexibility, whilst ensuring horizontal stability. Modern, light and transparent, the De Hoef villa shows in a concrete way that floating architecture has now reached the same level as its land counterpart. Realized with a steel frame, the construction is an amphibian structure, floating on water but surrounded by land on three sides. The choice of this type of structure results from the fact that « normal » houses are not allowed in this peat landscape.
With the project See Tree, Waterstudio proposes a new concept for the high-density urban green points. With many layers of trees, this floating structure, unattainable for man, uses the petrol offshore platforms’ technology. It would be the first 100% floating object designed and built for flora and fauna.

At the other end of the world, Koen Olthuis undertakes a huge project: design a floating town in the Maldives. The masterplan proposes a solution to the dramatic situation created by the rising sea level. These floating developments, especially, have a real positive impact on the poor communities living near the coast. The architect reminds that the most exposed cities are Mumbai, Dhaka and Calcutta because of their huge populations threatened by the water level increase. In these cities, millions of people live in dense slums along the water and are vulnerable to floods especially during the rainy season. “With the City Apps, based on standard maritime containers, we want to use the technical knowledge coming from our floating projects for the wealthy people.” They can be compared to Smartphone with applications adapted to different needs, such as a special programme for slums. In view of their flexibility and small size, the City Apps use the space available on water and are very convenient to be used as residences or schools, for instance.

The objective is to reach 10 000 containers in 5 years, rented in the whole world. “The importance given to slums has opened new opportunities and has put me in touch with many interesting and influential people who understand the necessity for the architects to use their influence and creativity to change the lives of millions of human beings, underlines also Koen Olthuis”.
His approach to improve the coastal towns throughout the world with these floating urban components is a real challenge. « It is just as if we had discovered a small part of the water potential to make the cities more resilient, sure and flexible. I believe that our projects and those of many architects, who use the floating technology as a tool, will open new norms for the cities ».

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Koen Olthuis, Hong Kong design week

By Today’s living


The business of Design Week (BODW), organized by the Hong Kong Design Centre, has been a key event for the local design community since 2002. BODW 2014 saw the arrival of leading designers from Sweden and all over the world,, carrying with them invaluable insights from the fields of architecture, fashion, technology and culture. Today’s Living talked with six of the design heavyweights present at this year’s event, namely Anna Hessle, Erik Nissen Johanson, Koen Olthuis, Lisa Lindstrom, Thomas Eriksson and Marcus Engman. In this issue, we introduce you to three of these interior and architectural leaders, all of whom are masters of their industry.



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Ankie Stam: Met drijvende city apps kunnen we functies aan de grote steden toevoegen

By Nicole Verstrepen
Kmo Insider




In de media wordt de Nederlandse architect en industrieel ontwerper Koen Olthuis wel eens de ‘Drijvende’ in plaats van de ‘Vliegende Hollander’ genoemd. Hij specialiseerde zich in wat hij ‘City Apps’ noemt, drijvende componenten die je als het ware in en uit de stad kan pluggen al naargelang de behoefte. Olthuis gebruikt het water of de rivier in de stad als bouwgrond voor nieuwe functies. “Zo bied ik wereldwijd mogelijkheden om flexibel om te springen met klimaatveranderingen en urbanisatie”, stelt hij. Op kmo-connected diende hij zich te laten vervangen door zijn medewerkster Ankie Stam omdat hij zelf in Dubai was voor de bespreking van een nieuw project. Ja, zijn projecten zijn erg leuk voor mensen die centen hebben, maar ze bieden ook uitkomst voor ‘s werelds arme sloppenwijken.

Met de presentatie toonde Ankie Stam hoe we onze steden kunnen verbeteren.
Ankie Stam: “Woningen bouwen die vijftig tot zeventig jaar moeten meegaan is een statische gedachte. Vandaag verandert onze wereld veel sneller. Er zijn sociale veranderingen, met gezinnen die snel van samenstelling veranderen en veel eenoudergezinnen, maar ook politieke veranderingen met het vallen van de Berlijnse muur bijvoorbeeld, wat een impact heeft gehad op de stad. Maar de veranderingen die op dit moment de grootste druk leggen op onze steden zijn de klimaatveranderingen en de urbanisatie. Het is nodig dat steden zich aanpassen en flexibeler worden.”

Volgens Koen Olthuis is het fout om te denken dat de stad volgebouwd is.
Ankie Stam: “Honderd jaar geleden dachten we ook dat de stad vol was tot Otis de lift uitvond. In een keer konden we in de lucht bouwen. In de lucht kunnen wij vandaag geen ruimte meer vinden, maar wel in het water. De grote wereldsteden bestaan voor een groot gedeelte uit water. Met funderingen van piepschuim en beton kunnen we grote platformen maken, hele stadsdelen of, city apps, zoals bijvoorbeeld een drijvende parkeertoren. Deze drijvende functies kan je in en uit de stad pluggen al naargelang de behoefte.”

De deelnemers aan kmo-connected kregen vervolgens verschillende ontwerpen van Koen Olthuis en zijn architectenbedrijf te zien.

Een cruiseterminal voor Dubai
Voor Dubai heeft Koen Olthuis een cruiseterminal ontworpen.
Ankie Stam: “We hadden de cruiseterminal eerst getekend op 300x300x300 meter, maar toen we bij onze klant kwamen, stonden we na vijf minuten terug buiten. Of we hem op 700x700x700 meter konden ontwerpen. Dit vormde voor de ingenieurs geen probleem, integendeel, want hoe groter je iets maakt op water, hoe stabieler het wordt. Dubai heeft veel kust, meer geen plek waar cruiseschepen kunnen aanmeren. We hebben via de punt een binnenhaven gecreëerd, waarin kleine schepen liggen die de mensen van de cruiseschepen aan land brengen.”

Een internetschooltje voor de sloppenwijk
Koen Olthuis heeft ook city apps bedacht voor sloppenwijken.
Ankie Stam: “Deze city apps, die gebaseerd zijn op standaard zeecontainers, kunnen een belangrijke meerwaarde voor sloppenwijken betekenen als dokterspost, gemeenschapskeuken, internetschooltje,… Vaak zijn sloppenwijken zeer dicht bevolkt en is er geen ruimte over, maar wanneer een sloppenwijk langs een stroom of rivier ligt, bieden de city apps mogelijkheden. Zo hebben we een internetschooltje ontwerpen waar via tablets en schermen leerkrachten vanop afstand les kunnen geven. Deze city apps hebben een fundering bestaande uit gebruikte PET-flessen, ondersteund door een stalen framework. Ze worden in Nederland gebouwd en vervolgens naar de sloppenwijk getransporteerd.”

Drijvend hotel en conferentiecentrum Greenstar,
In januari 2014 tekende Koen Olthuis Greenstar, een drijvend hotel met 800 kamers en conferentiecentrum voor tot 2000 deelnemers op de Malediven.
Ankie Stam: “Hotels hebben over het algemeen om de vijf jaar een opknapbeurt nodig. Dit hotel bestaat uit vijf ‘benen’, maar we creëerden een zesde, zodat er steeds een reserve-exemplaar in het draaidok ligt. Wanneer een poot moet opgeknapt worden, wordt die weggehaald en naar het draaidok gebracht en kan de reservepoot ingeplugd worden zodat het hotel steeds op volle kracht kan werken. Zo één poot kan je vergelijken met een cruiseschip. Een mooi voorbeeld van plug and play.”

Het Greenstar Hotel en Conferentiecentrum ontwierp Koen Olthuis in opdracht van Dutch Docklands, wereldleider in drijvende floating concepten en infrastructuur (FLOAT = Flexible Land On Aquatic Territory). Dutch Docklands is met de regering van de Malediven een joint-venture aangegaan voor een ambitieus masterplan met meer dan 800 hectares aan drijvende projecten, waaronder het Greenstar hotel, 43 drijvende privé-eilandjes in archipelvorm, een drijvend golfterrein waarbij je in tunnels onder water van de ene hole naar de andere wandelt,…

Wat vond u van deze spreker?

Nick Veldeman, Waagnatie Expo & Events
“Ik vond het een fantastische uiteenzetting. Ik heb mij voorgenomen om Koen Olthuis te contacteren, want ik heb al heel lang een idee om iets drijvends op de Schelde te doen en Waterstudio is de firma die dat gaat kunnen realiseren.”

Virginie Frémat, CMS DeBacker
“Het was ongelooflijk om te zien wat er allemaal mogelijk is op architecturaal vlak. Ik had mij nooit kunnen inbeelden dat zulke City Apps bestonden, en blijkbaar worden ze effectief al uitgewerkt. Zeker in die sloppenwijken is dat maatschappelijk gezien schitterend.”

Andrea Sitteur, PostsNL België
“De uiteenzetting was fantastisch en heel inspirerend. Of ik zelf zou investeren in een woning op het water? Voor die sloppenwijken zou ik wel willen doneren, maar puur voor mezelf en de fun? Neen, ik ben niet zo’n fan van water.”

Toby Wauters, Ritmo Interim
“Er is in Antwerpen weinig plaats voor gezinnen. We zouden misschien op de Schelde ook zoiets kunnen doen. De luxueuze toepassingen lijken mij nice to have, maar voor de sloppenwijken, zijn het oplossingen waarbij je met relatief weinig budget veel mensen kan helpen.”

Karel Geerts, Herber Watson N.V.
“Land winnen op het water is voor een stuk de corebusiness van Nederland. De projecten in Dubai draaien om geld en prestige, maar voor de oplossingen voor de sloppenwijken moet ook geld zijn. Waar gaat dat vandaan komen? Het is in elk geval mooi.”

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Floating solutions for upgrading wet-slums

By Berry Gersonius

Innovations for water and development


Among the many challenges caused by the rise of global urban population is the accompanied growth of slum population. Around one billion people live in slums – most of them being close to open water. Being most vulnerable to floods, they are least attractive for upgrading investments. Neglected by civil authorities and confounded by a lack of space and money along with vulnerability, these already precarious slums are pushed into a negative spiral.

Using a bottom-up approach, the Floating City Apps Foundation, aims to upgrade waterfront slums with small scale instant solutions. Comparable to adjusting a smart phone with apps according to changing needs, the infrastructure in a slum can be adjusted by adding functions with City Apps.

These apps are floating developments built using a standard sea-freight container. The container is assembled in the Netherlands and shipped to the wet-slum where it is placed on a locally constructed floating foundation. Because of their flexibility and small size they are suitable for installing and upgrading facilities for sanitation, housing, communication etc. They can be added to a slum using the available space on water.


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Sea Trees , a beautiful way to save the cities

By Ana Swanson
The Washington Post


In many of the world’s fast-growing cities, there isn’t enough room for people to live, let alone wildlife. Our friends beneath us in the food chain are becoming increasingly marginalized—world wildlife populations have decreased by about half over the last 40 years alone. Now, there’s a plan to give urban homes back to wildlife. But these homes aren’t quite urban. They’re, essentially, giant floating trees.

The underwater portion of a “Sea Tree.” (Waterstudio)

Waterstudio, a Dutch architectural firm that specializes in designing floating structures, wants to erect “Sea Trees” in major cities. The structures are multi-tiered, tree-shaped habitats that float near urban areas and could provide sanctuary for birds, bees, bats and small aquatic creatures that might not be cut out for city living in the 21st century.

Based on the technology in oil storage towers, the trees have multiple platforms for accommodating wildlife. The underwater portion can house fish and other sea creatures and even provide an artificial coral reef in climates that will allow it.

Koen Olthius, Waterstudio’s founder, told Fast Company that the concept is ready to be implemented as soon as possible. “Our favorite locations would be Mumbai or New York,” he said. “Both have such a high price on land that it makes the construction of new park zones on land not feasible.”

According to Waterstudio, the design would cost approximately 1 million euros ($1.23 million) to build. The idea, of course, may never actually come to fruition, but it looks like a clever and innovative way for cities to give refuge to animals that badly need it

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La torre acquatica che ospita la biodiversità

By Giulia Mattioli
La Stampa


Sea Tree. Un progetto innovativo per preservare la flora e la fauna selvatiche sfruttando le grandi aree marine e lacustri

Navigare sul sito web di Waterstudioè un notevole viaggio della mente: i loro progetti architettonici, alcuni davvero visionari, si legano indissolubilmente all’elemento acquatico. Case galleggianti, palazzi sottomarini, strutture che funzionano dentro e fuori dall’acqua: se lo scenario del film ‘Waterworld’ si realizzasse veramente, loro saprebbero come adattarvisi. Il confine tra terra e mareper Waterstudio non è un limite, ma una nuova frontiera da esplorare, anche in coscienza del cambiamento climatico e dell’espansione degli agglomerati urbani.

Tra i progetti più audaci e affascinanti dello studio di architettura olandese c’è Sea Tree®, una sorta di palazzo galleggiante che svetta sull’acqua, adibito a giardino dove trovano ospitalità diverse specie animali. Non è un progetto per gli umani, ma per la flora e la fauna costantemente minacciati dall’espansione urbanistica, i cui habitat vengono ristretti e alterati di anno in anno in favore delle necessità della modernizzazione. Conservare la fauna selvatica di ogni territorio è fondamentale, ma l’espansione delle città non ne tiene particolarmente conto, ed ecco che i laghi, i fiumi, i mari potrebbero diventare il luogo dove preservare uccelli, insetti, pipistrelli e piccoli mammiferi.

Sea Tree è un grattacielo di biodiversità, che si può collocare benissimo accanto ad un’area urbana, ma nei suoi bacini idrici, in modo da rimanere isolato e protetto dall’avanzata del cemento. Si tratta di una struttura in acciaio, galleggiante, composta di strati di vegetazione, giardini verticali che provvedono alla sussistenza delle specie animali, che includono dei piani sommersi per piccole creaturine acquatiche e, se la latitudine lo permette, per barriere coralline artificiali, habitat a loro volta per centinaia di esseri viventi. Naturalmente in base alla posizione, alla profondità delle acque, alle mareggiate, alle correnti, alle temperature ogni Sea Tree avrebbe altezze e caratteristiche differenti.

Dal punto di vista della tecnica, Sea Tree si basa su una progettazione molto simile a quella delle piattaforme petrolifere offshore, e proprio alle grandi compagnie si rivolgono i membri di Waterstudio per caldeggiare la realizzazione di un ‘condominio’ marittimo per animali. Oltre alle loro torri di stoccaggio e le loro piattaforme, perché non donare alla natura e alla comunità un Sea Tree, fosse anche solo per dimostrare un po’ di buona volontà nel rendere il mondo che tanto sfruttano un posto migliore? Un progetto forse visionario ma assolutamente innovativo per far luce sulla necessità di proteggere la flora e la fauna selvatica di ogni angolo del Pianeta dove vi sia sufficiente acqua per realizzarlo. E considerata la grande esperienza che ingegneri, architetti, tecnici olandesi hanno nel confrontarsi con l’acqua e con i territori dove terra e mare si fondono, a cui si aggiunge il fatto che le torri per lo stoccaggio del petrolio in mare già esistono, i progettisti di Sea Tree hanno ‘semplicemente’ adattato, modificato le tecnologie già esistenti per fare un favore alla natura.


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