architecture

Climate change may lead to a rise in floating architecture

Updated 5th January 2018
Floatwing by friday
Credit: Courtesy Jose Campos
Climate change may lead to a rise in floating architecture
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Climate change poses a serious question: how will our cities cope with rising sea levels? Some architects believe that floating buildings offer the answer, and have come up with a wide variety of designs to prove it, from simple prefab homes to entirely amphibious neighborhoods.
Leading the charge is the Netherlands, which has long been a pioneer of water-based living. With over half of its landmass underwater, the country has a well-established canal infrastructure, but is also now taking even more ambitious leaps to transform its cities.
In Amsterdam, a new breed of contemporary houseboats has been popping up all over the city. Among these is a slatted timber structure by Framework Architecten and Studio Prototype, which shows how floating homes can easily feature a story submerged below the water.
A more ambitious proposal is also planned for the Dutch capital -- earlier this year, Danish firm BIG and Rotterdam studio Barcode Architects revealed designs for a huge housing complex that will float on the IJ lake. The 46,000-square-meter building will provide a gateway to IJburg, a whole neighborhood set on artificial islands.
This 46,000-square-meter building is called Sluishuis and was designed as a gateway to  IJburg-- a neighborhood set on artificial islands that float on the IJ lake.
This 46,000-square-meter building is called Sluishuis and was designed as a gateway to IJburg-- a neighborhood set on artificial islands that float on the IJ lake. Credit: Courtesy of BIG and Barcode Architects
BIG is also promoting floating architecture in its home city, having already completed a student housing building made from shipping containers in Copenhagen's harbor. The project demonstrates how floating architecture can be achieved on a budget. "It's the only building type that will never flood," said BIG partner Kai-Uwe Bergmann when it completed last year.
MAKOKO FLOATING SCHOOL - Designed by NLÉ, Makoko Community Building Team
Makoko was built as a prototype floating school in Lagos, Nigeria. It was designed to house schooling facilities for the local slum district of Makoko. Credit: Courtesy Design Museum
One city where the risk of flooding is more critical than most is Lagos, Nigeria. In a bid to overcome the challenges of the rising tide, architect Kunlé Adeyemi has designed a number of floating buildings, including a school and a radio station. "Given the impact of climate change, we can begin to think a lot more about the opportunity for living with water as opposed to fighting it," he said in a 2015 interview.
Some architects see floating architecture as an opportunity for easy travel. A team from Portugal's University of Coimbra has created a prefabricated floating house that can be shipped anywhere in the world, allowing its occupants to take residence on some of the world's most remote rivers and lakes.
Others are using this typology as an opportunity to have a bit of fun. In Seattle, visitors to the WA Sauna can take a plunge into a cold lake after warming up inside a floating wooden hut.
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