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Architecture, urban planning and research in, on and next to water
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Oceans of opportunity

from Cladbook2017
Issue 3.2016
PhotoCredits: Waterstudio

Koen Olthuis has been touting the benefits of floating cities for years – and now people are starting to take notice

A number of high-profile projects have recently brought attention to Koen Olthuis’s approach to living on water. Those include the floating Citadel apartment block in the Netherlands and important large-scale leisure projects such as luxury private islands in Dubai, floating hotels and resorts in the Maldives and a snowflake-shaped hotel off Norway. The potential for floating architecture, Olthuis says, goes far beyond one-off developments: it’s an urban planning tool.
“For the past 15 years, I’ve been designing these floating structures,” says Olthuis, who established his design firm Waterstudio in 2003. “When I started, all the other architects thought I was crazy, but now this approach is starting to be adopted by developers. We’re also talking to governments around the world about how floating developments can upgrade and improve their cities.” The big picture in all this, according to Olthuis, is that extending cities beyond the waterfront and indeed further out to sea reduces the pressure on overpopulated urban areas – where 70 per cent of people will live by 2050 – and offers flexible solutions for problems thrown up by rising sea levels and climate change.

How do floating structures work at a city level?
Governments worldwide are looking at how floating developments can improve their cities. I propose a system of modular floating developments – floating urban components that add a particular function to the existing grid of a city. With this system, any question a city asks can be answered immediately. If a city needs parking, bring in floating parking. If it has green issues, bring in floating parks and Sea Trees [Waterstudio’s offshore green structures]. The system is responsive to the needs of dynamic urban communities.

Is floating architecture the way forward for urban living?
It’s project to product. You’ll be able to order buildings in, and sell or lease buildings you don’t want or need. We’ve only explored a fraction of the possibilities, but in the next 10 to 15 years, more and more architecture will start to explore the possibilities of floating developments and it will grow from something that’s a fringe architecture to something that’s mainstream. The stupid thing is that we live in dynamic communities and yet we build static structures. With rapidly changing social structures and technologies, we need flexible cities. I’m not saying we have to build floating cities, but that every city that is next to the water should have at least 5 per cent of its buildings on the water. That would create flexibility.
It’s not the only way, but it’s something that is inevitable. It’s about rethinking and finding solutions for major problems.

What other advantages are there?
We believe green is good but blue is better. Water provides many tools to make more durable and sustainable cities. You have water cooling for the buildings, you have flexibility, you have buildings that rise and fall with the water level, you don’t have to demolish a building that’s no longer needed because you can repurpose it or even sell it. People, developers and politicians are starting to see that this is something that brings in money and solves problems. It’s a feasible way to build better cities.

What do you mean by flexibility?
I don’t mean that you’ll be able to take your house and move to another city or another neighbourhood. I mean flexibility on a larger scale, where cities and urban planners are able to move a complete neighbourhood half a mile or bring in temporary floating functions – like stadiums – and use them for one or two years before they leave for another city. This large-scale flexibility makes sense. Take the Olympic Games. It’s so strange that every four years we build so many hotels and stadiums and only use them for a few weeks. Imagine if as a city you could just lease these floating functions from a developer. Cities who don’t have as much money as London or Rio or Beijing could also host these types of events because it would cost much less money.

Is it something you can foresee happening in the near future ?
Yes, maybe not with stadiums – because we can put them up easily – but with the hotel business, certainly. Qatar has the World Cup in 2022 and they need 35,000 hotel rooms for that event. But if they built 35,000 hotel rooms, within 10 years they’d be empty. So they’re thinking about using cruise ships. As the harbour facility is not big enough, they’re also thinking about the idea of fl oating harbours, or fl oating cruise terminals – something that can facilitate these cruise ships for a few weeks, and then a: er that you can bring the fl oating harbours to another location.

Can you tell us about Amillarah Private Islands?
Yes. With OQYANA Real Estate Company and developers Dutch Docklands, 33 private islands are being built as part of The World Islands project in Dubai. The islands are being sold by Christie’s International Real Estate, with a starting price of US$10m. It’s a really high-end project. The fl oating islands look like tropical islands covered in trees, but in fact they’re more like superyachts. They’re built in Holland and then moved to the location in Dubai and anchored there. They are self-su5cient with their own electricity and their own water. Within the next 10 years there’ll be more development around them, so we’re making it look like its own archipelago. If you fly over, it looks like a series of green islands. OQYANA has a masterplan around Amillarah that includes shops, hotels and all kinds of leisure architecture. This is just the first step of the development, but the beauty of this floating architecture is that it moves very fast. Once you’ve built the islands you can just tow them in and connect them to the boKom, either with cables or telescopic piles and they’re ready. Compare that to the manmade islands at The World. There’s still very liKle built there. It’s di5cult to get labour there, di5cult to build the right foundations and there’s no electricity or water, so developers don’t know how to build there without losing money.

Have any been sold?
Not yet. We’ll have an island there, like a show home, from December this year (2016). With the history of the property market in Dubai, it’s beKer to have the first islands  there so people can have a look and understand what it’s all about, especially at the prices people pay in this type of market. I should add that if I only ever build floating islands for the rich then I’m doing something wrong. The start of this story for me was to create a new tool for cities that are facing urbanisation, overpopulation and climate change – and also for cities that need to brand themselves to aKract inhabitants. As well as being able to answer these big, fast-changing urban problems, these floating structures bring a certain character and appeal to a city – a USP.

Why does your concept appeal to resort or hotel developers?
On water, leisure architecture, including resorts and hotels, has the possibility to change. You can adapt and create functions that are not only moveable but also transformative through time, for instance, through the seasons. With seasonal structures you can open up the buildings in the summer, make buildings more dense or more spread out. You can add functions or take them away. To me, it’s one big playing field and we’re trying to work out what it means for the future of leisure architecture and real estate, not just how these things will look, but the economic eUects too.

What kind of economic benefits might there be?
A project we started working on a few years ago was a floating hotel and conference centre for the Maldives – the Greenstar. As well as answering fast-changing urban problems, floating structures bring a certain character to a city – a USP The star-shaped hotel has five legs, each with 80 rooms inside, but instead of building five legs, we build six. One of these legs will stay in a harbour in India. In five or seven years time, when the hotel needs refurbishing, you bring the sixth leg to the hotel and connect it, sending the others one by one to be renovated. The hotel doesn’t need to shut down, and the work can be carried out where it’s easy and cost-eBective to get the materials and labour to do it.

What other projects are you working on?
We’re working in the Middle East, in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman, exploring the potential of ecotourism. We’re looking at building satellite resorts for land-sited hotels, that float out at sea where there are coral reefs or mangroves. Floating resorts don’t leave any scars on the environment – they’re scarless developments, which can even have a positive eBect on the environment. For example, we work with marine engineers and environmentalists to help build floating structures that aKract underwater life. In places like Dubai, it’s so hot that it’s very
diLcult to create the right environment for fish and marine life, but the shade of these floating islands can provide a starting point for new marine ecosystems. We’re also working with master developer Dutch Docklands and the Maldivean government on the ongoing Five Lagoons Ocean Flower resort and residences. Finally, we’re looking at developing cities that face troubles with the environment, density and infrastructure – and seeing how water can be part of that solution.

What are the challenges?
Progress on Norway’s Krystall Hotel is slow because of laws that prevent building on the shoreline. Regulations and laws can be a hurdle, and may need to be changed to adapt to floating architecture. But, we are slowly moving to a marketplace where these floating developments are accepted. There’s a bright future for this technology.

Slum Schools
Waterstudio has been pioneering the concept of floating facilities that can be moored at waterside slum communities anywhere in the world. City Apps are floating developments based on a standard sea-freight container. City Apps can be established in water where there is scarcity of space and can be used to upgrade sanitation, housing and communication installations. The first City App, a floating school, is being built for a slum in Dhaka. “One billion people live in slums worldwide and half of them are close to the water. We can use City Apps to instantly improve the quality of life there,” says Olthuis. Because governments see these as temporary solutions, it’s much easier to get permission to do this than to build a facility on land.


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Stjernearkitekter vil bygge flytende luksushotell i Tromsø

By Nordnytt



Tromsø kommune har i dag signert en intensjonsavtale med selskapet Dutch Docklands om å bygge et flytende hotell utenfor byen.

Avtalen betyr at kommunen stiller seg positiv til at det femstjerners luksushotellet skal bygges i Tromsø.

Det nederlandske selskapet Dutch Docklands har planer om å bruke 500 millioner kroner på luksushotellet, som skal utformes som en flytende iskrystall, og inneholde 86 rom.

– Vi planlegger å bygge det mest luksuriøse hotellet i den nordlige delen av verden. Det vil bli et unikt femstjerners hotell som vil gi gjestene en opplevelse med nordlyset, men også andre aspekter av Norge og av denne delen av verden, sier Paul van de Camp administrerende direktør i Dutch Docklands.

Selskapet er eksperter på flytende konstruksjoner, og har tidligere blant annet bygget luksushotell på Maldivene.

For pengesterke gjester

Han sier at Tromsø ble valgt på grunn av historien sin, men også på grunn av at byen allerede har utbygd infrastruktur når det kommer til turisme.

– Er det et marked for et slikt hotell?

– Det vil bli et lite hotell, men i den øvre enden av skalaen. Det betyr at romprisene vil bli høyere enn det som allerede finnes på markedet i Tromsø. Vi retter oss mot folk som er villig til å betale for et visst komfortnivå og for å få opplevelser i nordlige strøk. Det er et enormt globalt marked for dette, sier van de Camp.

Nå skal selskapet samarbeide med kommunen om å få på plass de nødvendige tillatelsen, og finne ut hvor det flytende hotellet skal ligge.

Hvor og hvordan det skal bygges er ennå ikke avklart.

– Vi ønsker vanligvis å få gjort mest mulig av dette lokalt. Vi vet at norske håndverkere er kjent for å holde en høy standard, akkurat som nederlandske. Det viktigste for oss er kvaliteten på arbeidet, og får vi dette til lokalt, så støtter vi det, sier van de Camp.

Kommunen positiv

– Vi har skrevet under på en avtale om at vi er positive til at dette hotellet kommer til Tromsø kommune for å etablere seg her. Vi kan bistå med kartmateriale, og når de har funnet fram til hvor de vil at hotellet skal ligge, så kan vi ha et oppstartsmøte, sier Britt Hege Alvarstein byråd for byutvikling i Tromsø kommune.

Hun sier at kommunen nå driver med en revidering av kommuneplanen og en kystsoneplan for Tromsø.

– Vi har ikke tatt høyde for at vi skal ha et flytende hotell i kommunen, så det må vi nå ta høyde for, sier Alvarstein.

Plan- og bygningsloven, reguleringsplaner og ikke minst skipsleden i Tromsø blir førende for hvor hotellet kan ligge, men det blir trolig i en av fjordene rundt byen.


– Selskapet har sagt at de ønsker at hotellet skal ligge rundt en times reise unna flyplassen, sier Alvarstein.

Hun peker på at selskapet bak hotellet har en miljøprofil og blant annet samarbeide med UNESCO for å ta vare på miljøet rundt og under der de bygger, så de lager minst mulig fotavtrykk i naturen.

– Det er spennende teknologi som tas i bruk, og ets pennende prosjekt på alle områder, sier Alvarstein.

– Er det ikke allerede nok hotellrom i Tromsø?

– Vi så både under sjakk-OL og Arctic Race at det ikke var rom å oppdrive, så kommunen har ennå behov for flere hotellrom. Men dette er jo et marked som kommer utenom det vanlige. Det vil være med på å forsterke det eksisterende tilbudet i byen, mener Alvarstein.

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You’ll get a chilly reception! Plans revealed for floating snowflake hotel in Norway that offers the perfect view of the Northern Lights

MailOnline, Sarah Gordon, July 2014

If you want to get the best view of Aurora Borealis, it is best to be as far away from light pollution as possible.

So this new floating hotel could be the perfect answer for holidaymakers who want to spend their evenings looking skyward for a glimpse of the glorious Northern Lights.

Rather appropriately, the new luxury hotel will be shaped like a snowflake and will be based in the fjords near the Norwegian town of Tromso, which sits within the Arctic Circle – one of the best places to spot the celestial phenomenon.

Known as the Krystall hotel, the unusual property is being developed by company Dutch Docklands, which specialises in floating structures and will be the first floating hotel in Europe.

Work will begin next year and the 86-room hotel should be ready to open to visitors in 2017.

The five-star offering will boast a spa and wellness centre and is designed to be completely self-supporting and self-sustainable.

Dutch Docklands explained: ‘The design is based on an ice crystal which blends-in naturally with the “winter environment” between the most beautiful fjords.’

The property will be built on a concrete base and will be tethered to the fjords, but will still be free to move between six and 10 feet either side of its epicentre.

However, guests should be unaware of the small changes in position, according to the designers.

The hotel has been branded a ‘scarless development’ by Waterstudio, a design company working alongside Dutch Docklands, as it will have minimal impact on its surroundings and could be removed in the future without any problem.

It has not been confirmed how much it will cost to develop the hotel, but Koen Olthius from Waterstudio said it is likely to be 15 per cent more than building a normal hotel, due to the floating foundation.

Dutch Docklands is also planning to open another floating property in the Maldives, called Ocean Flower.

And Italian designer Michele Puzzolante has proposed the development of another floating hotel in the Maldives and there are plans afoot to build an entire city that sits on the surface of the water, including museums and a theme park in China.

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Koen Olthuis’s Floating Krystall Hotel to Sparkle off the Coast of Norway

Inhabitat, Beverley Mitchell, August 2014

Koen Olthuis and Dutch Docklands have announced a new project: a five-star floating hotel off the coast of Norway named the Krystall. Reminiscent of their Maldives development the Greenstar, this cold-climate sister project will take the form of a six-pointed ice crystal. As with Dutch Docklands’ other floating structures the development will be low-impact, and it’s designed to “blend in with the ‘winter environment’ between the most beautiful fjords.”

The Krystall will float offshore from the northern city of Tromso, located within the Arctic Circle. Designed to be completely self-supporting and self-sustainable, the hotel will have a diameter of 120 meters, and facilities will include 86 guest rooms, conference rooms, and spa and wellness facilities. It’s also billed as a perfect spot for viewing the Northern Lights due to its glass roof.

The five-star luxury and spectacular nature of the project is aimed at attracting wealthy visitors from Japan, Russia and Europe. As Olthuis told CNN, “In the hotel, you’ll float through hallways lined with cool, futuristic blue shapes, recline by a fireplace faced in transparent bricks resembling ice blocks and sleep in rooms tricked out in minimalist, winter-themed designs.” But true to Olthuis’s green principles, the design is not just about the aesthetics. To be built in dry dock and then positioned in place, the hotel will not leave a lasting footprint on its location. “That’s the only way to bring a hotel to such a precious and beautiful marine environment,” he says.

Floating structures are a pragmatic design concern for the development company, as they ameliorate the risks to coastal properties associated with rising sea levels. As Olthuis explains, “We live in a dynamic world where static buildings do not bring us the needed flexibility. Building on water brings us new space for expansion, safety against floods and flexibility to adjust developments without demolition whenever needed.” The hotel is set to open in December 2016.

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