Watervilla De Omval

What is it?

First seen on an Inhabitat post, Watervilla De Omval is a floating 2-bedroom house on a canal off the Amstel River in Amsterdam. Designed by Dutch architecture studio +31 Architects, the houseboat is permanantly moored and has no means of propulsion, but does rise and fall with the tides and also has a jetty off which the owners can launch a small boat.

It has an elongated plan with the majority of living spaces, kitchen and master bedroom on the “ground” floor, with a second bedroom, study and ancillory spaces underwater. A roof deck over the master bedroom provides views across canal life, as does the expansively glazed canal-facing facade.

What do we think?

Whilst we imagine the main living areas and roof deck are a pleasure to inhabit, we suspect this may not be the case of the underwater spaces, since there do not appear to be many windows and, tellingly, the architects have not published photos.

Thematically, the design of Watervilla seeks to incorporate both residential and aquatic influences. Whilst its stair design, lighting and general materiality are resolutely domestic, its filleted corners in form and across many of the details make it difficult to mistake this houseboat for merely a house. Likewise the recessed lower level and expressed ribbon around the long facades confirm aesthetically what it is already doing functionally, that is: floating. As such, it strikes a healthy balance between architecture, nautical- and product-design.

Of particular interest to us is the inherent ability of this project to withstand the impact of rising sea levels. Whilst entire underwater cities have been proposed by more than one architect of late (most recently by Alanna Howe and Alexander Hespe of Arup at the Australian Pavilion of the 2010 Venice Biennale – see our post on the topic here), this is the first project we’ve seen actually executed. Surely the Netherlands, with the majority of its landmass below sea level, is the most suitable place for such architectural experimentation to take place.

Despite one or two shortcomings, we can happily imagine Watervilla De Omval being a prototype for many other similar projects along Amsterdam’s canals.

Author: Warwick Mihaly

I am an architect, writer, teacher and father.

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