In this issue you will learn more on designing and constructing buoyant structures, focusing on the architectural do’s and don’ts for the floating home. We explore the design concept for the marine research center for Bali by Solus4, currently meeting various entities to bring this project to life, and we offer more on aquatecture projects that promote innovation.
We provide details on the University of Sheffield’s new engineering building called The Diamond, and discuss the latest trend of drones for ports and skyscrapers. Another successful year at ICFF, our contributing journalist tackles architectural planning for small spaces through the point of view of renowned architects. During Chicago’s design fair NeoCon, New York-based architecture firm Family presented its +Pool project: the floating swimming pool that will filter 600,000 gallons of river water.
Front cover photo credit, all rights reserved: Friso Spoelstra, Boat People of Amsterdam, Lemniscaat, 2013
As sea levels are on the rise, the need for “Aquatecture” surges. Architects and designers have been implementing ideas that reconsider water for several years. The New Orleans’ FLOAT House designed by Morphosis architects in 2009, for example, is a prefabricated home with a secure chassis made to float in case of...
Thousands of Europeans are moving from a life by the sea to a life on the sea as floating homes are spreading like water lilies from the canals of Copenhagen to Portugal’s tranquil lakes. House boats have been around for long, but floating homes with the comforts, the stability and the space of a house on land have not.
The 100-Year Solution
Jesper Dirk Andersen is CEO of Dirkmarine, a Copenhagen and London-based firm offering houses as well as offices, restaurants and show rooms floating on a hull of concrete.
Dirkmarine house on water
“I’m a ship engineer and used to be employed in a company building tunnels. One day I was gazing out of my office window in Copenhagen and saw families crawling in and out of tiny hatches on house boats with babies and strollers and I thought to myself that it ought to be possible to live on the sea in a more practical fashion,” he told ArchiExpo.
That was 15 years ago and today Dirkmarine provides the HUBB (HoUse Boat Bottom) solution, a customized and concrete hull designed to last 100 years without maintenance even in the icy, Nordic waters. The homes are generally two stories, 7 by 14 meters with a living space of 140 square meters, but Dirkmarine has delivered a 25 by 20 meters floating stage with 300 square meters both above and below deck.
“We produce all our concrete hulls ourselves. We follow and check every step very thoroughly and have throughout the 15 years had a faultless record,” said Andersen.
On top of being maintenance-free for a century, the concrete hull has a high stability and improves sea life; mussels and seaweed grows on the hull, which attracts fish and shrimp.
Floating home owners tend to want to both live in close contact with nature and without straining the environment. So demands for low impact high yield solutions are many. From Dirkmarine one of the offerings is drawing on the one element always at hand by a floating home.
”We use the river or sea water, run it through a heat pump made to withstand salt water, and generate the under floor heating and all the warm water needed on a floating home.”
Latitude & Size Variations
A new comer to lakes and canals is Friday, a spin off from the University of Coimbra on the Mondego river north of Lisbon, Portugal. The start up is delivering its first FloatWing floating homes to clients in Zanzibar, France and China this summer.
The FloatWing is built in five different sizes on a platform six meters in width and 10 to 18 meters in length. They come with a guarantee of being up to 80 percent energy self sufficient in a year depending on the latitude and size of solar panels. So while the house is built for any sheltered water between Dubai and Tromsø’s frosty fjords north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, the self sufficiency won’t be the same if clients want to keep the internal temperature at a comfort level of 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, which are FloatWing standards.
“In Portugal you won’t need the generator between April and September as the solar panels creates the energy the house needs. We’ve been researching various locations for the autonomy of the house and if it sits in Tromsø then it won’t be like in Portugal or Dubai. There the electrical autonomy would be 20 percent of a year cycle,” professor Fernando Seabra Santos, Friday’s CEO, told ArchiExpo.
While the company’s homes are built on a fiberglass catamaran construction, the materials used in the living areas are all wood.
“We use natural materials from this part of the world. The entire house is insulated with a ten centimetre sandwich of cork and we use Nordic pine wood as internal material. Not just for walls and floors, but also for kitchen, closets and toilet. Floating homes often use more artificial materials as plastic and fiberglass, but ours are natural,” said Santos.
Courtesy of Friday
“Our first prototype was made of steel, but we chose to go with fiberglass to lower the weight of the house by three to four tons. The choice of a catamaran shape makes it very stabile. If you put 12 people on one side of the house it only tilts by one degree,” he said.
All of the technical parts, the batteries and water management are kept in the floaters. So is the waste water management that offers three stages of treatment including inverse osmosis purifying the water to a degree where it’s almost drinkable.
Concrete vs Fiberglass
Unlike the heavier concrete hulls offered by other manufacturers, the fiberglass catamaran is mobile both on land and at sea. The company delivers the floating home and offers to transport it in two or three standard containers and reassemble anywhere. At sea it’s fitted to move by itself.
Courtesy of Friday
“Our houses have two outboard motors offering a moderate speed of about four knots. The idea being that you may choose to sleep in a new place every night. It gives you full autonomy,” said Friday CEO Fernando Seabra Santos.
“It’s when you open the glass walls and the space doubles, you really feel you are on water. The breeze fills the house and it’s an amazing sensation.”
Under a sparkling horizon and 160 meters off the shores of Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia, a new 2,500-square-meter floating structure remains currently in the design phase. The architectural studio behind the design of the Marine Research Center, Solus4 has come up with a new typology for stationary in-water projects...
Africa is leading the world in population growth, but its inferior infrastructure remains a major impediment to progress. In general, the continent’s roads, ports and airports lag far behind those in other parts of the globe.
Echoing Jeff Bezos’ plans to someday deliver Amazon products by drone, an exhibit at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, which runs through November 27, proposes building drone ports to meet the African continent’s expanding needs. The exhibit consists of a prototype drone port situated at the edge of a canal adjacent to Venice’s Renaissance-era factory complex known as the Arsenale. A large vaulted brick structure with seemingly improbably thin walls, the Arsenale houses a small white drone with a black lens for a nose.
“The drone port is like a filling station for the future,” declared the renowned British architect, Sir Norman Foster, standing in front of the prototype at the Biennale’s opening in this past May. “The drones in an emerging economy like Africa,” he said, “would be able to leapfrog the lack of roads and deliver urgent medical supplies and cargo very, very cheaply and swiftly.”
Built from a brick/tile hybrid product enhanced by an additive developed by Swiss-based LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, the drone port is relatively lightweight and it packs a very small carbon footprint. It’s “transforming earth into a high-performance product and using an age-old form, the vault,” Foster said, “but in [such] a way [as] to reinvent it, and to create something that is also a presence in the landscape.”
Courtesy of Metalocus
Unlike typical modern buildings of today that defy gravity with metal rebar, bolts and other industrial materials, this vaulted structure relies on its walls alone to support its weight. Technically speaking, instead of depending on the force of tension for stability, the drone-port prototype is supported by the force of compression. Its secret is new digital form, finding technology that allows architects to design structures with traditional materials that would otherwise be almost impossible to build.
“You cannot just create any geometry or it will fall down,” explains John Ochsendorf, an MIT professor who worked on the drone port prototype. In Venice, he was at one of the Arsenale’s massive buildings, manning a separate exhibit of vaulted arch structures that he had worked on. “Here, we are showing that there are many geometries waiting to be discovered.”
Courtesy of Norman Foster
Another bonus is that unlike a lot of contemporary infrastructure, this relatively inexpensive environmentally sensitive structure is elegant and sleek. “We are celebrating gravity by respecting the forces,” said Ochsendorf, “There is an honesty to the composition, and we don’t have to sacrifice beauty.”
So-called global cities are running out of space to put everyone. To meet the demand, a new market has emerged in micro-apartments and aPodments; finding ways to cram people into smaller units has been the subject of design competitions such as the landmark aDapting to Small Living Show hosted by the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
The good news is that living in a small space doesn’t mean that you don’t have to live like a monk in a cell. That was the reassuring message from a panel discussion titled Designing for Small Space at this year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair, where three U.S.-based designers discussed the profound implications of going small for their profession.
Playing the Stylist & Therapist
The trend toward living small is resulting in more multipurpose furniture, custom designed pieces, and even different approaches to using color. It appears that in every way going small requires designers to be more creative. The ICFF panel showed slides of wall partitions that folded down and converted into dining tables, Louis Vuitton suitcases that served as side tables, and steel storage trunks fitted into the end of a bed that could double as seating.
New York designer Alexander Gendell recently added the Pop Mural chair to his Folditure collection of fold-flat furniture.
Folditure Pop Mural by Alexander Gendell
Everyone on the panel agreed that clutter is bad. New York City-based designer Amir Khamneipur said that he begins by working with his clients—even their children—to pare down their possessions.
“You have to play their stylist and their therapist,” he said, “You have to say that these have to go, this has to go and that has to go.”
Khamneipur generally puts quite a bit of storage in a small apartment, but he said that it is possible to overdo it and that too many bureaus, drawers and cabinets can be an eyesore.
Bed Up by French furniture manufacture Décadrages
Between Architecture & Furniture
Another strategy is to make more space by probing behind walls that can be used for arches, alcoves and yes, more storage. So if there is space behind the wall, and you are living in a 400-square-foot apartment, you really might want to have a medicine cabinet that is 20 inches deep.
Karen Stonely, principal at New York City-based Span Architecture, showed slides of a tiny Craftsman-style house in Maine where she concealed a television behind panels, designed a kitchen table to fold out of a wall, and installed a seating base near a fireplace that could be transformed into two daybeds.
“We are interested in the slippage between architecture and furniture,” Stonely explained. “When does a piece of architecture become furniture and vice versa?”
Wooden furnishings have been integrated into the walls of this compact Madrid apartment by Elii Architects, allowing them to be folded away when not in use. Watch the video.
Fighting Against Stubborn Spaces
Changing colors, or even varying the shade of a particular color, can add volume and depth to a space. But there also are potential pitfalls.
“Sometimes I go into a room and it is small and dark,” said the Los Angeles-based designer Oliver Furth. “If you paint it white, it is still going to [be] gloomy,” noting that you cannot make a room be something that it doesn’t want to be.”
Another strategy, he says, is to transform it with “lighting that is dramatic and sexy.”
Obviously all of the design tricks in the book won’t work if designers cannot convince their clients to edit their possessions. “Coco Channel said get dressed and then take one thing off,” Stonely said, “I think that in a small space that is often the case—being careful to have a reductive nature. Maybe everything that you think needs to be there, in fact doesn’t.”
Beyond 3-Dimensional Spaces: Designers from LAAB explain their small-space project in Hong Kong. Watch the video.
Inside looking out, a 19,500-square-meter facility, with a striking anodized aluminum and glass facade, frames the view of the adjacent 17th century St. George’s Church in Sheffield.
The University of Sheffield’s new faculty of engineering building comprises hundreds of individual pieces of various shapes, sizes and dimensions. The lattice-like façade—hence the building’s name, The Diamond—was in part inspired by the stone tracery framing the church’s windows.
Yet, despite inspiring the name, the multifaceted facade offers more than just a pretty face. “[It] plays a central role in reducing carbon emissions,” Matt Cartwright, director of London-based Twelve Architects, the firm behind the design, said in an interview for ArchiExpo.
The facade’s triple glazing, which has a solar-reduction coating that reduces glare by 33%, helped to achieve remarkable U-value (how well something conducts heat) and air leakage rates. “Each [side of the] façade has a different combination of transparent, translucent and opaque glazing that responds to the solar intensity.”
Courtesy of Twelve Architects
Ventilation & Light
Targeting BREEAM Excellent, The Diamond’s sustainability features go beyond the surface. Bordered by laboratories, classrooms and offices, the interior’s large central atrium, defined by its curved, futuresque ‘pods’ and providing a live view of the engineering activities, is naturally ventilated through glass louvers that can be opened.
“These are mechanically controlled and linked to the BMS system,” says Cartwright. “[This natural ventilation helps] to overcome the significant quantity of energy that would be used to mechanically cool and heat such a space.”
Rounded roof lights bring abundant amounts of natural daylight into the space where custom-designed glazed study tables on the first floor allow the light to penetrate lower levels.
Along with rainwater harvesting, the use of low-energy LED lamps and automatic lighting controls including presence detection, The Diamond’s sustainability program includes a connection to the district’s low carbon heating network and lab spaces cooled by active chilled beams, which helps to minimize annual electricity consumption.
“…frames the view of the adjacent 17th century St. George’s Church in Sheffield.” Courtesy of Twelve Architects
A 2050 Performance
“[Addressing the client’s broader strategy including the university’s 2020 target to reduce carbon emissions by 43% from 2005 levels] the philosophy of the design was to develop a solution that symbolizes a progressive approach to sustainable building design,“ says Cartwright. “During the design process, we modeled the building performance using climate data for 2050.”
Further beyond its good looks, The Diamond has been designed to be both flexible and smart. “The building is used as a teaching tool, allowing close monitoring, recording and an understanding of its energy usage,” says Cartwright. “Sensors and data outputs provide information to the building management system and user to optimize efficiency of operation.”
With a public route at ground level, the six-story building—the university’s largest investment in teaching and learning to date—benefits not just engineering students and the university, but also the community at large.