January 25, 2014
The “Venice of the North” Amsterdam, has another water-immersed residential community. This is an experimental project, with real houses, really floating – not the usual inhabited boats, and no houses on stilts. It’s also experimental because the “lots” are actually water instead of land, and all these water-lots are privately owned and managed (unique for this municipality).
In good old Amsterdam tradition, the properties and living spaces are tiny – a lot measures 10×15 meters, and the “footprint,” if you can call it that, is only 7×10 meters. Even though Amsterdam is known as the “City on Stilts,” the houses are on a floating concrete pontoon without any footing. The design guidelines stipulates that the volume should contain maximum 2.5 stories – leading to another planning/architect cat-and-mouse classic.
The massing of the overall development is gorgeous, with all irregularly oriented half-stories. Due to tidal movement, a house on stilts would be ugly and impractical for people with leisure boats. However, these requirements put the architects “on high stilts” (a Dutch expression meaning agitated / assertive). Since the house is floating, the asymmetry of the volumes makes the weight distribution uneven – therefore bringing the house out of balance. Height restrictions force the designers to sink the lowest floor all the way to the base level of the concrete pontoon, so there’s no space to bring in a counterweight. As a result, people are always mucking about with sand bags or concrete blocks to get their residence water-pass.
Most houses are built up of wooden studwork to reduce weight, with free choice of finishing – except for highly corrosive metals like copper and zinc, which is out of the question to prevent polluting run-off to flow into the Y-waters.
The individual architectural expression of the houses within the tight confines of the design guidelines leads to an orderly, yet beautifully diverse and vivacious image. This is complemented by everlasting play of reflections from the water – as architect Jan Benthem, who built his own house there, explained: Living on the water means that the light comes from below. It was an unexpected delight seeing the water refractions on the walls and ceilings…it’s a treat!
Submitted By: Michael Veripapa