An amazing neighborhood of 75 modern floating homes has popped up in IJburg, Netherlands, paying tribute to close relationship that the Dutch have with water. Using docks as sidewalks and the IJ Lake as a backyard, the flotilla is a large-scale adaptive development in a country that will be disproportionately affected with rising seas due to climate change. The modular homes by Architectenbureau Marlies Rohmer feature a flexible design - wall panels can be swapped for windows to adjust each house to its site. On a hot day residents can jump off the porch for a dip, or in winter they can strap on a pair of ice skates to get around.
Houseboats have been around for quite a while, and the Dutch have built some extraordinary ones. Building floating neighborhoods is the next obvious step, as development pressure is making terrestrial resources increasingly scarce. The 75 mixed income units on the Steigereiland (Jetty Island), located on the IJ Lake, are very similar in look, with only subdued colors and various heights distinguishing them from each other. The triangular dock layout and differing distances between rows help keep the development from becoming too uniform. A ring of similar-looking homes on the adjacent dike maintain the clean aesthetic.
The homes have an upper deck to the water and a veranda facing the dock to encourage occupants to connect with their surroundings. Each house starts as a concrete tub which is then built up three stories with a metal frame. Colored plastic or glass panels are inserted into the frame to customize each unit. One to three homes are built in a single tub, with the lowest floor situated halfway below the water level.
What is so astonishing about the design is how the neighborhood can grow and change according to its needs. While the promise of “mobile” homes never really succeeded on land, it might just be the ticket on the water.