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Planet E – Floating Cities

Sea levels are rising due to climate change. Many coastal cities are at growing risk of flooding. Architects are trying to react to this development with new ideas, such as floating cities. Architect Koen Olthuis of Waterstudio is constructing a floating city in the Maldives, sustainably cooled with sea water.

A floating city in the Maldives begins to take shape



Acity is rising from the waters of the Indian Ocean. In a turquoise lagoon, just 10 minutes by boat from Male, the Maldivian capital, a floating city, big enough to house 20,000 people, is being constructed.
Designed in a pattern similar to brain coral, the city will consist of 5,000 floating units including houses, restaurants, shops and schools, with canals running in between. The first units will be unveiled this month, with residents starting to move in early 2024, and the whole city is due to be completed by 2027.
The project — a joint venture between property developer Dutch Docklands and the Government of the Maldives — is not meant as a wild experiment or a futuristic vision: it’s being built as a practical solution to the harsh reality of sea-level rise.
An archipelago of 1,190 low-lying islands, the Maldives is one of the world’s most vulnerable nations to climate change. Eighty percent of its land area is less than one meter above sea level, and with levels projected to rise up to a meter by the end of the century, almost the entire country could be submerged.
A rendering of the Maldives floating city shows how the colorful buildings will be linked up by a network of canals. Credit: Koen Olthuis,
But if a city floats, it could rise with the sea. This is “new hope” for the more than half a million people of the Maldives, said Koen Olthuis, founder of Waterstudio, the architecture firm that designed the city. “It can prove that there is affordable housing, large communities, and normal towns on the water that are also safe. They (Maldivians) will go from climate refugees to climate innovators,” he told CNN.

Hub of floating architecture

Born and bred in the Netherlands — where about a third of the land sits below sea level — Olthuis has been close to water his whole life. His mother’s side of the family were shipbuilders and his father comes from a line of architects and engineers, so it seemed only natural to combine the two, he said. In 2003, Olthuis founded Waterstudio, an architecture firm dedicated entirely to building on water.
At that time signs of climate change were present, but it wasn’t considered a big enough issue that you could build a company around it, he said. The biggest problem then was space: cities were expanding, but suitable land for new urban development was running out.
Want to future-proof your home from rising sea levels? Make it float
However in recent years, climate change has become “a catalyst,” driving floating architecture towards the mainstream, he said. Over the last two decades, Waterstudio has designed more than 300 floating homes, offices, schools and health care centers around the world.
The Netherlands has become a center for the movement, home to floating parks, a floating dairy farm, and a floating office building, which serves as the headquarters for the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), an organization focused on scaling climate adaptation solutions.
Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of GCA, sees floating architecture as both a practical and economically smart solution for rising sea levels.

The Global Center on Adaptation head office is anchored in the Nieuwe Maas River in Rotterdam.

The Global Center on Adaptation head office is anchored in the Nieuwe Maas River in Rotterdam. Credit: Marcel IJzerman
“The cost of not adapting to these flood risks is extraordinary,” he told CNN. “We have a choice to make: we either delay and pay, or we plan and prosper. Floating offices and floating buildings are part of this planning against the climate of the future.”
Last year, flooding cost the global economy more than $82 billion, according to reinsurance agency Swiss Re, and as climate change triggers more extreme weather, costs are expected to rise. One report from the World Resources Institute predicts that by 2030, urban property worth more than $700 billion will be impacted annually by coastal and riverine flooding.
But despite momentum in recent years, floating architecture still has a long way to go in terms of scale and affordability, said Verkooijen. “That’s the next step in this journey: how can we scale up, and at the same time, how can we speed up? There’s an urgency for scale and speed.”

A normal city, just afloat

The Maldives project aims to achieve both, constructing a city for 20,000 people in less than five years. Other plans for floating cities have been launched, such as Oceanix City in Busan, South Korea, and a series of floating islands on the Baltic Sea developed by Dutch company Blue21, but none compete with this scale and timeframe.
Waterstudio’s city is designed to attract local people with its rainbow-colored homes, wide balconies and seafront views. Residents will get around on boats, or they can walk, cycle or drive electric scooters or buggies along the sandy streets.

The capital of the Maldives is hugely overcrowded, with no room to expand besides into the sea.

The capital of the Maldives is hugely overcrowded, with no room to expand besides into the sea. Credit: Carl Court/Getty Images AsiaPac
It offers space that is hard to come by in the capital — Male is one of the most densely-populated cities in the world, with more than 200,000 people squeezed into an area of around eight square kilometers. And prices are competitive with those in the Hulhumalé (a manmade island built nearby to ease overcrowding) — starting at $150,000 for a studio or $250,000 for a family home, said Olthuis.
The modular units are constructed in a local shipyard, then towed to the floating city. Once in position, they are attached to a large underwater concrete hull, which is screwed to the seabed on telescopic steel stilts that let it gently fluctuate with the waves. Coral reefs that surround the city help to provide a natural wave breaker, stabilizing it and preventing inhabitants from feeling seasick.
Olthuis said that the potential environmental impact of the structure was rigorously assessed by local coral experts and approved by government authorities before construction began. To support marine life, artificial coral banks made from glass foam are connected to the underside of the city, which he said help stimulate coral to grow naturally.

Residents can get around the city by boat, and it's only around a 10-minute ride to the capital and international airport.

Residents can get around the city by boat, and it’s only around a 10-minute ride to the capital and international airport. Credit: Waterstudio.NL/Dutch Docklands
The aim is for the city to be self-sufficient and have all the same functions as one on land. There will be electricity, powered predominantly by solar generated on site, and sewage will be treated locally and repurposed as manure for plants. As an alternative to air conditioning, the city will use deep water sea cooling, which involves pumping cold water from the deep sea into the lagoon, helping to save energy.
By developing a fully functioning floating city in the Maldives, Olthuis hopes this type of architecture will be propelled to the next level. It will no longer be “freak architecture” found in luxurious locations commissioned by the super-rich, but an answer to climate change and urbanization, that’s both practical and affordable, he said.
“If I, as an architect, want to make a difference, we have to scale up,” he said.
By Nell Lewis & Milly Chan
CNN style

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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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Rotterdam ospiterà il primo grattacielo galleggiante al mondo in legno

By Tommaso Tautonico


Voici à quoi pourraient ressembler les villes écolos de demain

By l’édition du soir

Alors que nos mégalopoles saturent, l’urbanisme du futur passera nécessairement par une dimension plus écologique : dès à présent, les architectes imaginent des réalisations ambitionnant de répondre aux enjeux climatiques actuels. Tour d’horizon des prototypes les plus spectaculaires.
Les « Mountain Towers », implantées rue de Rivoli, dans le 1er arrondissement. (Illustration : Vincent Callebaut Architectures)

Dans le prolongement du Plan climat air énergie de Paris, la municipalité a fait pencher l’architecte belge Vincent Callebaut sur un prototype de ce à quoi pourrait ressembler la capitale française en 2050.

Il a imaginé huit immeubles à placer dans différents arrondissements parisiens afin de lutter contre le phénomène d’îlot de chaleur urbain, tout en augmentant la densité de la ville. Tours dépolluantes, façades en algues, jardins potagers ou ferme verticale composent ces bâtiments futuristes.

Stockolm Royal Seaport (Suède)

Des locataires ont déjà emménagé dans cet écoquartier qui devrait être opérationnel en 2030. (Illustration : Stockholm Royal Seaport)

Contrairement à beaucoup d’autres qui risquent de ne jamais sortir de terre, le Stockholm Royal Seaport dépasse les simples projections. Initié en 2009, cet écoquartier devrait accueillir 10 000 nouveaux logements d’ici 2030. Il prendra place sur une superficie de 236 hectares où se trouvait une ancienne usine à gaz, au nord de la ville.

Un budget de 60 milliards de couronnes suédoises (un peu plus de 9 milliards d’euros) doit lui permettre de voir le jour. Parmi les points forts, un système de gestion des déchets lié à un réseau de récupération sous-terrain les acheminant vers une unité de traitement. Une innovation qui évite la pollution occasionnée par le passage des camions bennes, et reconvertit l’énergie générée par le passage des déchets pour chauffer les bâtiments.

Smart City Forest (Mexique)

L’eau serait distribuée par un système de canaux de navigation dans la Smart City Forest. (Illustration : Stefano Boeri Architetti / The Big Picture)

557 hectares pour accueillir 130 000 habitants : pour le compte d’un groupe immobilier mexicain, le cabinet d’architecture Stefano Boeri Architetti a imaginé Smart Forest City, une ville implantée sur un site actuellement utilisé comme carrière de sable pour les hôtels, près de Cancun.

Avec ses toits et ses façades recouverts de végétaux, elle parviendrait à un « équilibre parfait entre la quantité d’espaces verts et l’empreinte du bâtiment » et absorberait 116 000 tonnes de dioxyde de carbone par an. Entourée d’un anneau de panneaux solaires et de champs agricoles irrigués via une conduite maritime sous-marine, la ville serait caractérisée par « une économie circulaire complète », explique le cabinet d’architecture sur son site.

SeaTree (Pays-Bas)

Cette structure entièrement végétalisée serait exclusivement dédiée à la faune et à la flore. (Illustration : Waterstudio)

C’est en bordure des grandes villes, en milieu marin, que pourrait être implantée cette structure, entièrement végétalisée et imaginée par le cabinet Waterstudio. Objectif : offrir un habitat supplémentaire à la biodiversité, aussi bien dans l’eau qu’en dehors, afin d’avoir un effet positif sur l’environnement de la ville à proximité en captant ses émissions de carbone.

Réservé aux animaux, à qui il offrirait un refuge, cet « arbre marin » serait amarré au fond de la mer avec un système de câble. L’équivalent d’un grand parc urbain y a été divisé en plusieurs parties, placées verticalement les unes sur les autres.

DragonFly à New York (États-Unis)

Les habitants de DragonFly cultiveraient eux-mêmes en partie les potagers présents sur le bâtiment. (Illustration : Vincent Callebaut Architectures)

Comme pour Paris 2050, c’est l’architecte belge Vincent Callebaut qui a pensé ce prototype futuriste au cœur de New York, entre l’île de Manhattan et le Queens. En forme d’aile de libellule, ces deux tours de 575 mètres de hauts formeraient une gigantesque ferme urbaine. Aux côtés de logements, bureaux et laboratoires de recherches, se trouveraient des potagers urbains et des champs bio. De nombreux systèmes écologiques, allant du recyclage des eaux usées à l’utilisation d’énergies renouvelables, seraient intégrés.

« Afin d’éviter l’asphyxie de la planète et de nourrir ses 9 milliards d’habitants d’ici 2050, il s’agit de réinventer le schéma énergétique traditionnel entre ville et campagne », avance l’architecte dans la présentation du prototype.

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Incredible sustainable floating villa has everything you need – but it comes at a price

By Mirror reporter

The Arkup is a glamorous way to live a life at sea – as long as you can afford it.

Imagine living inside a fully sustainable floating villa – pretty cool right?

Take that and move it to the middle of nowhere and you’ll get the Arkup.

The Arkup is a floating yacht that uses 119 solar panels on its roof to store electricity.

Stored in 182 kilowatt battery packs, it can then be used for air conditioning, appliances and manning the vessel for up to 3 days on a full charge.

It can also collect 4000 gallons of rainwater and filter it for everyday use.

In the event of adverse weather , the floating yacht can lift itself out of the water by 18 feet at the press of the button.

Hydraulic spuds built into the four pillars anchor the villa in place and category 4 hurricane resistant windows can withstand winds up to 155mph.

The solar power villa fetches a high price

It’s even suitable for hurricanes

Think you could settle for a life at sea? Then you better start saving as the Arkup comes at a price.

Starting at £4.27 million unfurnished, the Arkup is supposedly the first of its kind: A luxury floating villa with all amenities included and there are no bills.

There is a total of 4350 square feet of living space across two floors with four beds and four and a half bathrooms.

On portside there is a retractable deck that can be used as extra floorspace when the villa is docked and slides into the hull when the Arkup is seaborne.

Just around to the stern, there is a lifting platform that can take passengers down to the water for a dip. There is also an outdoor shower equipped so you can wash off.

Inside what would be the “galley” is the main living space with shared kitchen and living room area. The kitchen comes fully equipped and even comes with a wine fridge.

Just opposite, a full size living room extends out over the view with full surround sound and large flat screen TV.

The living room offers amazing views

The master bedroom comes with its own bathtub

Around the corner from the kitchen is a separate bathroom and laundry area with double washing machines for large loads.

There is also an area for crew members that comes equipped with its own bathroom and foldout bunkbeds.

Up the stairs on the upper floor there are 3 bedrooms.

One guest bedroom has its own private terrace and double sinked bathroom.

All bedrooms boast incredible views through their floor to ceiling windows on the portside of the villa and the master bedroom even has a bathtub installed in the corner.

There is also a master bathroom with two walk in showers, of course.

To find out more about the Arkup you can visit their website.

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How floating architecture could help save cities from rising seas

By Kate Baggaley



From New York to Shanghai, coastal cities around the world are at risk from rising sea levels and unpredictable storm surges. But rather than simply building higher seawalls to hold back floodwaters, many builders and urban planners are turning to floating and amphibious architecture — and finding ways to adapt buildings to this new reality.

Some new buildings, including a number of homes in Amsterdam, are designed to float permanently on shorelines and waterways. Others feature special foundations that let them rest on solid ground or float on water when necessary. Projects range from simple retrofits for individual homes in flood zones to the construction of entire floating neighborhoods — and possibly even floating cities.

“It’s fundamentally for flood mitigation, but in our time of climate change where sea level is rising and weather events are becoming more severe, this is also an excellent adaptation strategy,” says Dr. Elizabeth English, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture in Ontario. “It takes whatever level of water is thrown at it in stride.”


From ground level, amphibious houses look like ordinary buildings. The key difference lies with their foundations, which function as a sort of raft when the water starts to rise.

In some cases, existing homes can be retrofitted with amphibious foundations to give people in flood-prone areas a less costly alternative to moving or putting their homes on stilts, says English, founder of Buoyant Foundation Project, a nonprofit based in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana and Cambridge, Ontario. “What I’m trying to do is to take existing communities and make them more resilient and give them an opportunity to continue to live in the place that they’re intimately connected to,” she says.

There are also new constructions built with amphibious foundations, such as a home designed by Baca Architects on an island in the River Thames in Marlow, England. When waters are low, the house rests on the ground like a conventional building; during floods, it floats on water that flows into a bathtub-shaped outer foundation.

Amphibious architecture isn’t about to displace conventionally designed buildings. But experts say it could become the norm in parts of Virginia, Louisiana, Alaska, and Florida, and other areas that are vulnerable to rising seas. “For some communities this might be a saving grace,” says Illya Azaroff, director of design at New York-based +LAB Architect PLLC and an associate professor of architecture at the New York City College of Technology.


Other architects are taking things a step further and building on the water itself. The Netherlands is a hotspot for such floating construction. Waterstudio, a Rijswijk-based architecture firm, recently designed nine floating homes for the town of Zeewolde. The homes look a bit like oversized floating houseboats.

Waterstudio has also designed a number of floating homes for Amsterdam’s IJBurg neighborhood. Soon these will be joined by a floating housing complex designed by the Dutch firm Barcode Architects and the Danish firm Bjarke Ingels Group. When construction is completed in 2020, the complex will have 380 apartments as well as floating gardens and a restaurant.

Floating buildings and neighborhoods are not a new idea, of course. Vietnam and Peru, among other countries, have had floating communities for centuries. But floating architecture could allow cities around the world to grow and evolve in new ways, says Waterstudio founder Koen Olthuis.

Olthius envisions cities with floating office buildings that can be detached and rearranged as needed. “It can be that you come back to a city after two or three years and some of your favorite buildings are in another location in that city,” he says, adding that buildings might be moved close together to conserve heat and separated when summer arrives.


Floating architecture can do more than prevent flood damage. By allowing the construction of buildings over water, it can give cities additional room to grow. Waterstudio is collaborating with developer Dutch Docklands on a planned community in the Maldives that will include 185 floating villas. The flower-shaped development will have restaurants, shops, and swimming pools.

The firms are also collaborating in the Maldives to build private artificial islands that will be anchored to the seafloor. The idea is to provide new places to live for residents of the low-lying islands, which are at risk of being swallowed up by rising seas. “We will let the commercial project show that the construction can work and then work with the government to help the local community,” Jasper Mulder, vice president of Dutch Docklands, told Travel + Leisure.


The islands are also meant to offer a sheltered new habitat for marine life.

There are also plans for entire floating cities. The Seasteading Institute, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, hopes to attract 200 to 300 residents for a floating village scheduled for completion in the waters off Tahiti by 2020. Homes and other buildings in the community will be constructed atop a dozen or so floating platforms connected by walkways. Eventually, the institute hopes to create communities built from hundreds of platforms with millions of residents.

“I don’t know if amphibious or floating architecture will go that far, but it is within the realm of possibility,” Azaroff says. “The overarching goal is to, one, keep people safe and, two, to allow the natural cycles to continue. Floating architecture allows you to do that in a really profound way that we didn’t have before.”

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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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