Koen Olthuis, founder of the architectural firm Waterstudios.NL, is an architect who is certainly not afraid of getting his feet wet. Stepping off dry land and into deep waters in his exploration of the built environment, he and his firm are proposing possible solutions to future challenges we face.
His work stretches from stunning hotels that offer luxury afloat, to purely practical concepts that provide real solutions to real problems. A great example which mixes both of these qualities is a project that deals with a problem close to Olthuis’ heart. In recent years the Maldives have been combatting the threat of rising sea levels every way they can. With not one of the 1200 islands that make up the Maldives being more than 6 feet above sea level, their concern is well founded.
The whole country has become carbon neutral, all of their children are now students of environmental science, whilst retaining walls have been built around every island. Their latest strategy builds towards a future that Olthuis believes is vital if we are to survive the strikes of climate change. It consists of star-shaped islands which are tiered with lush green roof terraces, complete with pools and beaches. The Green Star is one part of a plan for floating houses, islands and even golf courses!
The concept of floating cities is central in Waterstudios.NL’s vision of the future. Almost mirroring these star-shaped islands, but in a colder climate, is the 5-star snowflake hotel to be built off the coast of Norway. Located in the Arctic Circle, ‘Krystal’ will offer a truly spectacular experience. With a crystal clear glass roof, it makes for the perfect spot to view the northern lights. Transparent icy bricks and hallways that you float through take this design into a league of its own. But Olthuis hasn’t let his principles of sustainability drift afloat. Far from it; the floating flake is designed to be totally self-sufficient, operating as an entity in itself.
Waterstudios’ vision is sustainable, and most importantly flexible. Through a project called City Apps, floating urban components utilize urban water space to add a particular function to an already existing plot of city. Much like the apps on a phone the components, made from shipping containers, are easy to install and can be removed with ease.
From classrooms to first-aid stations, the floating apps can offer much needed resources to communities without taking up city space.
Rather than donating food or aid, companies can finance these interchangeable apps. Through such means Olthuis and Waterstudios aim to provide worldwide opportunities for cities to respond and effectively react to the unpredictable threats of climate change. With 90 percent of the largest cities in the world located on the waterfront, they could be onto something.
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