Gallery: INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Water Architect Koen Olthuis on Floating ...

Inhabitat: You're a proponent of the Hydro-City, and this is not just because you're from a country that sits below sea level. What are the advantages of floating buildings? Of a floating city? What are the challenges and the limitations? Koen: Floating

Inhabitat: You're a proponent of the Hydro-City, and this is not just because you're from a country that sits below sea level. What are the advantages of floating buildings? Of a floating city? What are the challenges and the limitations?


Floating urban components will be a new tool in the ongoing search to make our greatest cities worldwide more sustainable and livable. I strongly believe that we will enter an era of consumption urbanism in which floating urban components will help us to react quickly and sustainably to the growing mix of changes. Cities will start using City Apps, which are a set of combined urban components that can be ordered via City Apps Stores. In these stores a city council or government can lease a function that can offer instant relief to a occurring problem. These city apps are already built and in stock. When someone leases a City App it can be transported in smaller urban components to cities worldwide over water. This will create a new market and flexibility. The life span of the urban components themselves are very long, so that if they are not needed any more they can be sent back to the lease company or been sold to another city. City Apps are not so different from smart phone apps - they upgrade the functionality of the existing hardware, which in this case is a city's structure.

Architect Koen Olthuis of has been fascinating the Inhabitat editors for years with his innovative floating buildings and aqua-tecture. Far from being confined by convention — or by the boundaries of dry land — Olthuis has made a name for himself as an architect who pushes the boundaries of possibility when it comes to the built environment. With a studio focused on designing floating buildings for a future water world, has designed everything from floating apartment complexes in the Netherlands to a floating mosque in the UAE to even an entire floating community of islands for the Maldives. While we’ve spoken in depth with Koen before about flood-resistant architecture, floating buildings and what he calls ‘sustainaquality’ — in the light of the latest tragedies that have hit Japan, we have to ask: how and relevant and sound is water architecture for today’s concerns? Read our exclusive interview where Olthuis explains the sustainability of building on water, as well as how he uses 3D modeling technology to help both clients and skeptics visualize how building on water could change the world.


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  1. the aquatect January 29, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Seriously? The rhetoric is all there. The ideas are beautiful!! This is a very basic concept that rings true in most of us… the connection to nature, the potentials for sustainability and design and culture and urban development and personal development…. But why do the actual projects, even the conceptual ones, end up looking like they just don\\\’t truely understand what it is that they are saying?? Why do they look like something that could be (should be?) on land?? Or some very conceptual form which doesn\\\’t seem to have very much practical dimensions build into it?
    INHABITAT did a piece a few years back about a company called Waterliving which actually built quite a few floating homes (still floating, btw) in Denmark. And they understood. And worked towards developing the concept,.. the idea. Unfortunately, they stopped before getting it fully developed. But just try taking a look at what they did, and you\\\’ll understand.

  2. Sumendra Jain March 16, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Hats off to Koen for taking House boat concept to modern structures with engineering stability in the various presentations.

  3. JBH March 7, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I have been aware of this for several years due to the Swiss have been using this system. But it is slowly reaching the US..

  4. Ailinh Nguyen February 25, 2014 at 5:21 am

    the cost?

  5. UTTY April 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm


  6. jerryd October 21, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Great article and a solution in many ways to many thing.

    Waterfront property is too expensive so building floating land is much less expensive and far less damaging to the environment.

    On some other the points brought up waste is not!! It is a resource, not a problem. Most can be made into fuels, food or other things especially once over 30 people size units as little more work to handle a lot than a little.

    50% of plastics can be simply distilled into diesel, gasoline, propane, NG for instance. The rest can be made into many things including building materials, etc.

    Tsunumi’s are a danger to land, not floating units unless attached to land and even then far more safe to those onboard. Same with floods, hurricanes, etc.

    I want to start an Eco village but restristions on building size, etc means about the only way to be really innovative is do it on water.

    I’m looking to do a 10 unit showpiece to show how it’s far less costly to do self contained small communitites that make more than needed energy, fuels, etc and housing that costs little to build, run compared to present US lifestyles.

    To start I’m building a 34′ trimaran that with just a 1kw solar array costly just $1k, PV is very cheap now if well shopped, can supply all my needs for even A/C needed here in Fla.

  7. Mstrong081 May 30, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    What about waste? no way to take it directly to land and we certainly can’t just start to pollute the ocean either. how will enough electricity and energy be provided. solar panels certainly wouldn’t on their own? i don’t mean to critisize i completely support and this idea and love what your doing but am just curious and wondering what you are doing to work out the flaws in this idea. Thanks, you are amazing.

  8. umar butt May 23, 2011 at 7:01 am

    i am quite young, it may happen in my lifetime. Then we will be more near to nature.

  9. Stefan Vittori May 16, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I can appreciate your great work waterstudio since we are involved in visualizing and bringing floating city concepts like NOAH ( New Orleans Arcology Habitat) and Harvest City to virtual live. Nice job waterstudio, would love to visualize one of your projects as well.

  10. Cherries33 May 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    How is waste disposal handled?

  11. Milieunet May 15, 2011 at 4:13 am

    Great work of this Dutch Water Architect. Here’s another great Dutch concept: Video Floating City in Rotterdam, The Netherlands

  12. Heinzfritz May 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Great concepts considering the speed at which our earth is changing, these ideas could save lives one day. Magnificent work, don’t stop!

  13. roberta May 14, 2011 at 6:52 am

    Absolutely fabulous ideas, some of the buildings are spectacular, with such a peaceful surroundings and energy.

  14. Andrew Michler May 13, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Its very interesting how floating infrastructure can be protected from natural disasters- earthquakes and floods are pretty tough to design for when they are as large as what we have seen in the last couple years.

  15. mbodyspirit May 11, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    As a Piscean, this is a dream come true.

  16. nicoleabene May 11, 2011 at 11:29 am

    How do the fish feel about this?

  17. Yuka Yoneda May 11, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Very interesting. I’m glad that people aren’t just building floating cities without considering the safety issues.

  18. Jessica Dailey May 11, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Really great interview. I was especially interested in what he had to say regarding tsunamis and building on the water.

  19. Bridgette Meinhold May 11, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I’m excited to see more floating projects come to fruition.

  20. Rebecca Paul May 11, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I want live on a floating city!

  21. Lori Zimmer May 11, 2011 at 11:08 am

    absolutely gorgeous!!!

  22. Jasmin Malik Chua May 11, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Venice could probably use some of these!

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