Every new day comes with the news of increasing risk from unexpected storm surges and rising sea levels due to global climate change. The risks are even higher in coastal cities like Shanghai, New York, etc. In the same vein, cities like Amsterdam, London, and Lagos, which are continually dealing with double urban pressures of climate change and population density, are also looking for ways to manage the situation more effectively.
One way to deal with the rising sea levels is to build higher seawalls to prevent potential flooding. But there is something even much better – Floating and Amphibious Architecture. Architects have come up with ways to build buildings that float permanently on waterways and shorelines. Either that or creating special foundations that allow buildings to rest on solid ground inside water. Interesting, isn’t it?
More than ever, floating architecture is now top of the list of viable solutions to the impending dangers of climate change, the crowded cities, and the absence of affordable housing. Whether it is a simple retrofit building or individual homes, we are about to see an influx of more habitable homes in flood zones. But the best part is that all of these offers even better potentials for creating an entire floating neighborhood or even a floating city.
Flood Readiness like we have never seen before.
It is easy to mistake amphibious houses for ordinary buildings. The structure is similar if you are looking at the ground level. But if you look at the foundation closely, you will realize that the amphibious houses’ foundations serve as a kind of raft when the water begins to rise.
Likewise, architects have devised effective methods of retrofitting existing homes with amphibious foundations. This will serve as additional protection for homes in flood-prone zones. The best part is that it is less costly compared to relocating to a new home.
This is similar to what Baca Architects are doing with their amphibious houses on the River Thames Island in Marlow, England. According to Richard Coutts, director at Baca Architects, their amphibious housing scheme tagged ‘Bluespace’ can provide up to 7,500 units, which may solve London’s housing crisis. Collectively, bluespace has the potential to deliver as many as 7,500 floating homes with minimal disruption to existing communities.”
The architecture is such that the house floats on the water during floods, with the excess water flowing into a bathtub-shaped outer foundation. But when the water levels are normal, the house rests on the ground, like what we see in the regular buildings.
Although the chances of amphibious architecture replacing the traditionally-designed buildings are low, there are indications that coastal areas with a higher risk of rising seas may ultimately adopt this advanced architecture. So, we may see places like Florida, Alaska, Louisiana, and Virginia fully embracing the floating architecture.
Architecture is taking another interesting turn, with houses now being built on the water itself. Let’s take a quick trip to the Netherlands – where floating construction is currently peaking. At the center of it all is Waterstudio, a Rijswijk-based architecture firm, designed up to nine floating homes in Zeewolde. The firm also extended its reach to Amsterdam’s IJBurg neighborhood, where it delivered several floating homes. These are expected to be joined by Barcode Architect’s floating housing complex and the designs of the Bjarke Ingels Group, a Danish architecture firm.
The Netherlands is not alone in this – Vietnam and Peru are two other countries with long-standing floating communities. Overall, the potentials of floating architecture and its contribution to the advancement and development of cities around the world are truly exciting.
More space to breathe
Asides from being an excellent response to flood damage, floating architecture offers cities more room to grow. Waterstudio’s collaboration with Dutch Docklands to build a community in the Maldives is a good example. The community is expected to include 185 floating villas, including public amenities like swimming pools, shops, and restaurants.
In another separate collaboration, both firms are expected to build private artificial islands anchored to the seafloor. All of these will offer new places for low-lying island residents to live, saving them from the dangers of the increasingly rising seas.
How about entire floating cities? We might be seeing them sooner than expected. The Seasteading Institute, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, has built a floating village in the waters off Tahiti. The village can accommodate up to 300 residents.
We will be seeing more floating homes and communities, which will stand on several floating platforms linked by walkways. The sight of millions of residents living in homes built from hundreds of water platforms will definitely be a beautiful one.