For centuries, the Netherlands has been dredging usable land
out of the ocean. But keeping the country’s 3,500 polders dry
requires constant vigilance. And in response to rising river
and sea levels, authorities are now reflooding some of them.
In the Netherlands, floating houses are going from
quirky one-offs to a viable, pragmatic reality.
From the number 26 tram cutting through Amsterdam’s
IJburg district, the new Waterbuurt West housing development doesn’t immediately draw the eye. A line of glass-encased
houses erected on stilts extends along a dike at the eastern
edge of the city. Behind the facades, however, a quiet revolution in Amsterdam’s housing stock is taking hold. In the water
is a complex of 55 floating homes, the largest such concentration in the Netherlands and the first time that waterborne
dwellings have been placed on the Dutch rental market.
In previous decades, floating homes serviced an eccentric
niche market of buyers. They were the “initiatives of individual people—hippies and so on,” says Niek Kruisheer, of the
Amsterdam architecture firm Attika, which is planning its
own floating complex in IJBurg, near Waterbuurt West. Now,
due to a conflux of national policy shifts, housing demand,
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and manufacturing advances, large-scale floating-home
developments are suddenly becoming a viable reality.
For centuries, Holland has been dredging usable land out
of the ocean. Amsterdam’s Central Station was erected on
artificial islands in the harbor, and the city’s Schiphol Airport
sits on a “polder”—a low-lying tract of land enclosed by dikes.
But keeping the country’s 3,500 polders dry requires constant
vigilance. And in response to rising river and sea levels, authorities are now reflooding some of them.
Given the country’s stifling density and scarce available
land, the real-estate opportunities are huge. And upcoming
waterborne projects will include homes for the public-housing market—a big indicator that they are ready for introduction to a broad clientele. (Consider that in Amsterdam
alone, 200,000 homes are “socially
Waterstudio is developing a 1,200-unit floating-house project about 15 miles west of Rotterdam. The first part, called the Citadel (pictured), is a complex of 60 luxury residences slated to open next year.