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Architecture + water

Vital for the survival of all human beings, water is also one of mankind’s most formidable enemies. The apocalyptic visions of the tsunamis and the large-scale floods will certainly not deny this. With the inescapable rise of oceans, a global warming consequence, the coastal cities like New York, Miami and Guangzhou and the countries like Bangladesh, the Maldives and the Philippines will surely see their lands being reduced. Defensive measures are gradually taking place. But it is time to act. City-planners, architects and scientists see the possibility to develop new concepts for a floating life.
Leading figure of this movement for his sustainable projects, the Dutch architect Koen Olthuis condemns the under the sea level coastal lands, which have become more risky because of the climatic changes. During centuries, he explains, the sea level and climate were relatively stable, meaning that city planning was too static. With the present climatic conditions uncertainty, we have to rethink our coastal cities. Increase their flexibility to adapt to all eventualities, which we are not able today to quantify accurately. « Big cities like London, Miami, Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta and Manila could in the 25 next years enlarge their territory by 5 to 10% on the water. » In Jakarta precisely, the closing of the bay by a dyke would create a big 100-sqkm polder enabling to store an important quantity of freshwater to face extreme climatic conditions. In Thailand, S + PBA is planning a city far from any coast, endlessly adjustable, which would use the qualities of the local mangrove swamp to filtrate the water and produce oxygen. It means not to live against the nature but in symbiosis with it. Water becomes a new auxiliary and no more a barrier….

The Archi-Europe team


Portrait of the month

1 Koen Olthuis

2 Villa New Water, Westland, The Netherlands - 2014

3 Citadel, The New Water, Westland, The Netherlands

4 Waterfront villa, Westland, The Netherlands

5 Floating Cruise ship terminal

6 Villa ‘De Hoef’, The Netherlands

7 Sea Tree

8 City Apps


Waterstudio.NL, Rijswijk, The Netherlands

Facing the city planning and climate changing challenges, the Dutch office Waterstudio. NL chooses to work principally towards flexible strategies and large scale floating architecture projects proposing sustainable solutions.

In the Netherlands, one quarter of the country being under sea level, the architects are considering the ways to rethink the built environment. Koen Olthuis (*1971) is one of them. Founder of Waterstudio, he studied architecture and industrial design at the Delft Technology University. As per his words, we treat our cities as if they were static and we don’t stop erecting fixed urban elements, which after 50 years become obsolete and useless. But the to-morrow’s city is dynamic, hybrid, flexible and environment friendly, a moving town, which reinvents itself constantly. The architect’s work is more precise in order to especially respond to the pressing needs of climatic changes. Koen Olthuis proposes to live on the water, with the water. The first town created in this spirit is under construction between The Hague and Rotterdam. Called « The New Water », this 1200 house urban development takes place in the polder zone, intentionally filled with water after a few centuries of artificial draining.
Strict rules limit the volume authorized above sea level. This constraint gives life to a rather sophisticated design and to interesting spatial solutions, particularly a naturally lighted basement, large glass surfaces, parts with wood and a white Corian® curved frame running along the façade. First one of the 6 buildings foreseen in this project, Citadel is also, with its 60 luxury apartments, the first floating building in Europe. Easy to reach from the side by a floating road, the building is composed of 180 modular elements, placed on concrete foundations. The norms are identical to those of a house on dry land. Another element of the New Water project’s first part: the Waterfront villa has a concrete base with a boathouse and a swimming pool. Three U-shaped volumes enable to optimize the viewpoints at each level. Corian® is used as the main covering material.
Waterstudio develops a revolutionary concept for the cruise ships terminal. A sculptural triangular floating construction (700 x 700 m) situated outside the bank, disposes of more than 160 000sqm of conference halls, cinemas, shopping areas, spas, restaurants, hotels, etc. The triangular ring raises at one place to create a smaller interior harbour. Covered with aluminium panels and partly with photovoltaic cells, the structure anchors itself to the seabed by cables with shock absorbers, enabling a vertical flexibility, whilst ensuring horizontal stability. Modern, light and transparent, the De Hoef villa shows in a concrete way that floating architecture has now reached the same level as its land counterpart. Realized with a steel frame, the construction is an amphibian structure, floating on water but surrounded by land on three sides. The choice of this type of structure results from the fact that « normal » houses are not allowed in this peat landscape.
With the project See Tree, Waterstudio proposes a new concept for the high-density urban green points. With many layers of trees, this floating structure, unattainable for man, uses the petrol offshore platforms’ technology. It would be the first 100% floating object designed and built for flora and fauna.

At the other end of the world, Koen Olthuis undertakes a huge project: design a floating town in the Maldives. The masterplan proposes a solution to the dramatic situation created by the rising sea level. These floating developments, especially, have a real positive impact on the poor communities living near the coast. The architect reminds that the most exposed cities are Mumbai, Dhaka and Calcutta because of their huge populations threatened by the water level increase. In these cities, millions of people live in dense slums along the water and are vulnerable to floods especially during the rainy season. “With the City Apps, based on standard maritime containers, we want to use the technical knowledge coming from our floating projects for the wealthy people.” They can be compared to Smartphone with applications adapted to different needs, such as a special programme for slums. In view of their flexibility and small size, the City Apps use the space available on water and are very convenient to be used as residences or schools, for instance.

The objective is to reach 10 000 containers in 5 years, rented in the whole world. “The importance given to slums has opened new opportunities and has put me in touch with many interesting and influential people who understand the necessity for the architects to use their influence and creativity to change the lives of millions of human beings, underlines also Koen Olthuis”.
His approach to improve the coastal towns throughout the world with these floating urban components is a real challenge. « It is just as if we had discovered a small part of the water potential to make the cities more resilient, sure and flexible. I believe that our projects and those of many architects, who use the floating technology as a tool, will open new norms for the cities ».

1 Koen Olthuis

2 Villa New Water, Westland, The Netherlands - 2014
Photo © Architect Koen Olthuis – Waterstudio.NL

3 Citadel, The New Water, Westland, The Netherlands
Photo © Architect Koen Olthuis - Waterstudio.NL

4 Waterfront villa, Westland, The Netherlands

5 Floating Cruise ship terminal
Photo © Waterstudio.NL and Dutch Docklands

6 Villa ‘De Hoef’, The Netherlands
Photo © Waterstudio.NL / photo Pieter Kers

7 Sea Tree
Photo © Architect Koen Olthuis - Waterstudio.NL

8 City Apps
The «communication» application will serve as social and educational platform Inside the container, you will find the technological equipment to optimize the small space. Photo © Architect Koen Olthuis - Waterstudio.NL

Project of the month



The Building On the Water

The Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza Vieira signs with Carlos Castanheira his first work in China, a large curved building floating on the water.

In Huai’an, in the important New Salt industrial park, 400 km north of Shanghai, the company Shihlien Chemical is proud to own one of the most outstanding headquarters’ buildings. Five years ago, the President wanted to erect an office building on a 10 hectares artificial lake, reservoir used to supply water to the chemical factory. To achieve this visionary project, he invited Alvaro Siza to create a building in harmony with water, whilst putting light on Shihlien. This was really a new adventure for the architect. The design, the researches and the construction lasted four years. Erected in exposed concrete, the construction waves and contorts itself on a length of more than 300 m and a surface of 11.000sqm, like an enormous dragon elegantly put down on the middle of the island.
Its white hue offers an apparent uniformity contrasting with the green roofs. Its fluid and complex outline escapes from convention, far from the overwhelming orthogonal shapes of the factory.
Interconnected by two footbridges, which create shortcuts through the building, the lower level accommodates offices, the company’s cafeteria and a meeting room, whilst the higher level is reserved to the management and VIP spaces. Real space sculptor, Alvaro Siza has conceived a poetic work of a quiet beauty, interacting constantly with the aquatic environment. His architectural vocabulary minimalism, closely linked to his deep respect of the place, the culture and the history, becomes in this case more original.
A great care has been taken to respect the environmental norms (we must note that the Chinese manufacturing units are not often associated to quality architecture). When the factory was inaugurated, end of August 2014, the architect was happy the client wanted to scrupulously respect the project and he appreciated the excellent quality of the construction. « It was a great pleasure, he explained, a source of pride for Portugal and a reference for the industrial world ». This first project will certainly not be the last one. Again in partnership with Carlos Castanheira, Alvaro Siza is designing an art museum in Hangzhou, in East China, which should open in 2016.

© Fernando Guerra | FG + SG

Products of the month


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Events in the spotlight

MAISON&OBJET - An Essential exhibition. 23 - 27 January 2015

3,000 exhibitors including 45% international brands.
More than 130,000 m² (net) of stand space.
85,000 visitors, including 50% from outside France.

A leading event in home styles, MAISON&OBJET offers an international, 360° panorama of the market. Decorative items, furniture, accessories, textiles, fragrances, children's world, tableware, etc.
This lifestyle platform merging business and creativity is THE meeting place for buyers and specifiers the world over. A facilitator of encounters, business booster and strategy scout all rolled into one, this essential trade exhibition draws its inspiration from Paris. Luxury, know-how, design, avant-garde…
MAISON&OBJET and the City of Lights: a unique DNA!

Federating all lifestyles. Bringing together all players in the sector. Selecting the best offer. Decoding new trends. Anticipating consumer movements. Proposing new sources of inspiration. Revealing talent. Stimulating the market. Promoting creativity. Creating value.
Gifted creators - Singular objects - Dazzling settings - Noble materials - Strategic innovations - Luxury to be experienced - Services – Encounters– Strategies – Solutions - Business
Organisation SAFI, a subsidiary of Ateliers d’Art de France and Reed Expositions France.

For more details about the exhibition, please visit our website:

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Archi-World® Academy - 2013 2015 AWARDING CEREMONY

The second edition of the worldwide architecture contest for students in architecture Archi-World® Academy Award (AWA) 2013/2015: "Architecture for tomorrow" was a great succes. With over 1400 students in architecture participating from all over the world.

The awarding ceremony will take place on Wednesday 21th of January 2015 in Munich - during the construction fair BAU 2015.

Click here to register for the Awarding Ceremony

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BAU 19 - 24 January 2015 München

BAU, the World's Leading Trade Fair for Architecture, Materials and Systems, is the biggest and most important event in the sector. The next BAU takes place from January 19 to 24, 2015 at the Messe München exhibition center. Around 2,000 exhibitors from more than 40 countries and over 235,000 visitors from all around theworld are expected to attend.

On display at BAU on 180,000 square meters of exhibition space are architectural solutions, materials and systems for commercial and residential construction and interiors, for both new - build and renovation and modernization.

Every two years this event brings together market leaders from the sector to participate in a unique international display of competence spanning all the construction trades.

BAU is also the world´s largest trade fair for architects and construction engineers,attracting more than 60,000 design professionals. The exhibits at the fair are organized according to building material and also product an d theme areas. The many attractive events in the supporting program, among them high-caliber forums with experts from all over the world, round off this industry showcase.

Architects and students can subscribe here for a free entry ticket.

More inforation:

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ECOBUILD 3 - 5 March 2015 - Excel London

Over the past ten years Ecobuild has cemented its position as the sustainable design and construction marketplace for the new build, refurb, commercial and domestic buildings.

Join your sustainable design, construction and energy peers at Ecobuild 3rd – 5th March 2015 with 89% claiming that Ecobuild is a great show and one not to miss! It brings you a mix of suppliers that offer thousands of new and innovative products and services as well as offering a programme set to inspire, educate and solve your every day challenges.

For more inforation about Ecobuild:

Registration Ecobuild 2015:

Competitions in the spotlight
Mada 2015

A competition for young architects

MosBuild the international building and interiors event from Russia, is proud to introduce an international award for young architects and architectural students. The competition is organized by ITE Group together with the international community of architects Archi-Europe. The jury comprises renowned international and Russian architects, prominent public figures, and representatives of various communities and associations.

The competition has two categories:

• Best architectural solution for creating an accessible environment

• Best sustainable architecture project

Registration deadline: 16 March 2015

Click here for more information about this competition


Symposium? East West Central 02: Re-scaling the environment New landscapes of design 1960–80
(28 & 29/11/2014) – Zurich ETH Institute gta (CH)
(26/09/2014 – 4/01/2015) – Antwerpen deSingel (B)
Les jouets en bois suédois
(19/06/2014 – 11/01/2015) - Paris (F)
VII Triennale Design Museum ? Il design italiano oltre le crisi Autarchia, austerità, autoproduzione
(4/04/2014 – 22/02/2015) – Milan Triennale Design Museum (I)
El Paisaje Urbano en la Colección de Fotografía del IVAM
(9/10/2014 – 15/02/2015) – Valencia IVAM Centro Julio Gonzalez (Es)
>> read more

Deadline: 09/12/2014

Unbuilt Visions
Deadline: 30/12/2014

d3 housing tomorrow 2015
Deadline: 02/01/2015

>> read more


Kinetic Architecture: Designs for Active Envelopes
Russell Fortmeyer and Charles Linn

Images Publishing
€ 75.00
224 pages
ISBN 9781864704952
>> read more

The Morphology of the Times
European Cities and their Historical Growth
Ton Hinse

DOM publishers
€ 28.00
304 pages
ISBN 978-3-86922-309-4

>> read more

BIM and digital models
For architecture, building and construction.

Olivier Celnik & Eric Lebègue

Editions Eyrolles
€ 69.00
624 pages
>> read more

© 2014 Archi-Europe
Responsible Editor: Jacques Allard
Chief Editor: Marie-Claire Regniers

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