Floating Houses

The Netherlands has a history of living close to water and of coping with its caprices. That means living on land protected by dykes, on mounds, on shore or floating. Floating homes recently became eligible as a significant solution to Holland’s modern housing needs.

Living on the water has been the picture of Dutch cities ever since; not only because the country is located under sea-level but also due to its long history as a trade nation with Amsterdam as a central marketplace. After Dutch sea trade started declining at the end of the 19th Century, many retired sea barges were converted into permanent residences that moored at the canals and the waterways. This was the beginning of the famous house boat living in the Netherlands that still exists until present days.
And there’s the threat of rising river levels, too. Due to climate change, the rivers that flow into the Netherlands are more full than before. It has been recognised this problem cannot just be solved with dykes. Nowaday’s strategy: Water is no longer seen as danger, but as a chance, as a challenge. A major shift is taking place, away from working against increasing water, and instead trying to work with it. Special planning for floating apartments is one way Dutch authorities are working to adapt to the effects of rising sea levels and increasing rainfall due to climate change. For the Dutch, small differences in water level fluctuation present a problem that is only going to get worse.

A front-row view and of course a jetty by its own – the jetties (« steiger » in dutch) gave the artificial island its name

In recent years there has been an increase in the number of water-based housing developments that share more characteristics with land-based housing especially in the Amsterdam area. These floating dwellings actually form part of an urban design.

The aesthetically strong design of the Waterbuurt borough responds to a new way of living. The floating homes have an interesting composition that clearly refers to the structure and layout of the Amsterdam canals. Despite the fact that these are new premises, they already fit in the history of Amsterdam.


water, quays and jetties form the framework of public space

Floating houses in Steigereiland are attached to moorings which can adjust vertically with the tides and other sea rises. The base of the building is filled with cement and heavy-duty foam. Rings attached to sunken posts make sure the house stays put. This allows the structure to move up and down, depending on water level.