Dutch architect dreams of future floating cities

Tue Oct 9, 2012 7:39am EDT
 
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By Roberta Cowan

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - When Koen Olthuis finally landed his first job after graduating as an architect, his new firm wouldn't let him work on the most historic or prestigious accounts in Amsterdam's 17th century centre. He got houseboats. Floating boxes.

But the young Dutchman, who stems from boat building and architecture stock, dove right into his new job, and it wasn't long before he started making connections between the principles of a floating house, and the battle the Dutch have been waging against the sea to reclaim land and stay dry for 500 years.

He thought, if a house can float, why not an office complex or a structure big enough to hold a whole city?

Olthuis, who along with building partner Dutch Docklands, designed a section of floating islands for Dubai's man-made Palm Islands development project, has also created a patent which scales up the technology used for a houseboat to floating structures big enough to hold cars, roads and houses.

"Water is a workable building layer or a floating foundation and if you turn water into space, which is a dramatic change of mindset, there's a whole new world of possibilities," Olthuis told Reuters.

He said the basis for his design isn't any different than the normal Dutch floating technology used for houseboats.

"It is just a floating foundation, mostly made of concrete and foam which is quite stable, heavy, and goes up and down with waves and up and down with the sea level," he said.

The floating city of the future is still a dream, but Olthuis's firm, WaterStudio, which he started a decade ago, designs buildings and floating structures which try to combat the challenges posed by rising sea levels.   Continued...

 
An artist's impression of The Ocean Flower, an estate of 185 luxury floating villas, in the Maldives is seen in this illustration obtained by Reuters October 8 , 2012. REUTERS/Handout