INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Koen Olthuis of WaterStudio.nl Talks About Design for a Water World
Jill: How many houses and buildings have you actually built? I see a lot of CAD images of projects in the works, but not a lot of photos.
Koen:: We’ve built I think 24 houses now. But most of them — I think around 20 — are just modern houseboats. They are a little fancier than a normal house, but still they are houseboats.
I think we’ve built four really architectural, beautiful, unique buildings, and then we have 27 or 28 projects currently in the works, like the floating mosque in Dubai, like the floating boulevard in Antwerp, like the Health Village in Aruba.
The thing about our technique of working with the water is that the buildings and the floating foundations require very little maintenance. With these floating house techniques, waterproof houses, apartments, everything, you can just go on top of the normal structure of the polders and keep the original landscape in the same way as it is.
Health Resort in Aruba
Jill: It sounds like it’s much more efficient and better for the environment. You don’t have to do anything to maintain it?
Koen:: Yeah, that’s correct. The only thing you have to be sure of is that the water quality underneath those big structures is alright. And that depends of the amount of oxygen, how the sand gets underneath your platform, the current…well, lots of factors. This works for a lot of places. It works for Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Copenhagen. People have now been calling me from Tokyo, Ho Chi Min City, Bombay, Budapest.
Jill: Well, that makes sense, because every major city has water, doesn’t it?
Koen:: Yeah, that’s why they’re cities! In the newspapers we are always preaching “the floating city has a future,” and then everybody say, ah, I don’t know. Then when we show them Amsterdam, for instance, Amsterdam has more water than Venice. The whole city is made up of tiny islands on piles. There are thousands and thousands in Amsterdam, because it’s such a bad soil. If you look at Venice, the whole city is a static city. If they could have built it on a floating foundation just a few years ago, then the whole city would go up and down with the water, instead of constantly having to be drained.
Waterstudio’s designs for the Palm Resort in Dubai
Koen:: The most interesting city for us right now is Dubai. There’s amazing investment going into the waterfront right now, and it’s the first place where people are actually designing and building right in the water. We were asked to design a water taxi, and when we showed them that design they liked it so much that they wanted more. Now we are working on structures for part of the Palm resort and also this floating mosque. That will be for the Waterfront area.
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