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Floating Houses, The Netherlands by Marlies Rohmer Architects & Planners

AR House 2013 Highly Commended: Houseboats in Amsterdam are reinterpreted in a modular system that fluctuates on the water harbouring new terrains for seasonal recreation

In most cities with rivers or canals, houseboats are a familiar sight, offering an alternative and economical form of accommodation, but they tend to be limited in size. In this scheme for a suburb of Amsterdam, the concept of a floating house is fully developed into a modular prototype that aggregates into a waterside neighbourhood.

Waterbuurt-West is part of Amsterdam’s IJburg development zone that extends over a number of artificial islands which have been raised from the IJmeer lake. Residents who own a boat can head to Amsterdam’s inner-city canals or open water. The neighbourhood has 158 waterside homes, 55 of which are individual floating houses moored around slender jetties.

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Aerial view of the waterside neighbourhood, a mixture of floating and fixed houses

Each house is supported bya concrete tub submerged in water to a depth of half a storey. A lightweight steel structure sits on top, infilled with cladding panels and glazing. This flexible, modular system can be adapted to accommodate individual preferences and requirements.

For instance, owners can choose which side of their house would enjoy a view or have privacy. The basic single-hull module has three storeys but modules can be aggregated to form larger dwellings.

Bedrooms and the bathroom are contained in the lowest storey, which is partly submerged. The raised ground floor houses kitchen and dining spaces. Connected to an open terrace deck, the main living area occupies the cantilevered upper floor.

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A house module being towed into position.The modules are constructed in a shipyard and floated to site


The houses were constructed in a shipyard, mounted on the concrete tubs and towed by tug to the site. Each house is anchored to two mooring poles in a diagonal configuration to maximise stability. A sliding connection absorbs the regular vertical movement of the modules due to changing water levels.

The jury thought this project was an inventive response to the Netherlands’ historic relationship with water. Modest, practical and economical, the floating houses also created a genuinely urban waterside neighbourhood.

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In winter the floating houses are in the frozen which becomes a terrain for recreation

Floating Houses, The Netherlands

Architect: Marlies Rohmer Architects and Planners
Photographs: Luuk Kramer, Marcel van der Burg, Marlies Rohmer, Roos Aldershoff Fotografie,

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