Koen Olthuis is an architect on a unique mission. He’s the founder of Waterstudio and is known for working on water. We had the chance to sit down with the man himself and get into the mind of a water architect.
When asked to describe his work in one sentence, Koen describes Waterstudio; an architectural firm working only with water.
Koen’s attraction to water comes from a practical place. In our interview, he explains that after 80 years or so, a large proportion of land projects will be demolished or out of use. Water-based projects, on the other hand, will live on for hundreds of years effecting the efficiency and evolution of conventional living. He and his firm would rather aim for fewer that stand the test of time, than many that become obsolete. It all plays into his vision of the future.
From the glory days of the navy, to phenomenal yacht building skills, the Dutch have gained a reputation for water works. Anywhere Olthuis goes, as a Dutch man, clients understand why he works with water. Being Dutch goes beyond affirming his reputation however. Although Waterstudio started with their own patents and technology, they soon realized that it was about networking and sharing (Dutch!) technologies. The projects are only possible with collaboration of Dutch design and Dutch engineers. Delft, home to the ‘Dutch Water Valley’, is teeming with innovative water technologies and is also home to the firm. This means Olthuis and his team are surrounded by resources in the line of aqua innovation.
With these technologies at their disposal, the firm make just about anything possible. So Koen enlightens us that it’s not the technological capacity that dictates the possibility of a project, but rather the cost efficiency. It all comes down to the water; is it still? Are there waves? If so, what volume of waves? The answers to these questions determine the cost and feasibility of a project. A towering hotel in the middle of the ocean will require much more technology than an island on a lake.
You’ve heard of going green, but how about going blue? One of Olthuis’ fundamental beliefs is that working with, on, and in water can (and will) be of great benefit to a city. Whilst a community is constantly evolving, it is contained by a static construction. Technology shifts and grows spontaneously, whereas a city holds to a rigid structure.
This combination is inefficient and incompatible, according to Olthuis.
Floating buildings could literally rearrange the composition of a city. Features could be added, taken away, connected and combined to make an incredibly flexible community. Not only could it be functional and practical, but also of urgent assistance. For instance, in the case of a flooding in a slum area, valuable facilities, such as schools and healthcare units, could be removed and taken to another location. The floating technologies makes such facilities much more appealing to government funding as they are not at risk of environmental conditions. With these temporary units, instant sanitation could be provided, as well as water filtration. They could provide much needed housing as well as education facilities.
Ultimately, Olthuis wants to make the features of a city as functional as the apps on your phone.
The range of Koen’s work is vast. With floating islands starting from $10 million, to projects in the slums of the world, the market is dynamic to say the least. However, his market seems to be more fundamental than a category of people he aims to engage. It’s clear from our interview that Olthuis aims to change the cityscape. In very much the same way that the elevator opened up a world of possibilities to the modern city, Olthuis accredits water architecture with the same potential. Cities will move upwards and outwards over water, expanding in not only space but also dynamic capacity.
The Dutch have always been very aware of their co-existence with water. In fact some would say they are experts in the field. Just as tribes in the North Pole have tens of different words for snow, the Dutch have the same for water. This can be attributed to their constant struggle to keep their head above water. Olthuis believes that the time has come to work with nature, rather than against it. This means no matter where he is, his work not only involves design, but also education. According to Olthuis, it’s education that will make water architecture possible in cities at large.
Although the practice of water building isn’t well known, Olthuis shares his vision of the future in which floating houses will be an extension to our already existing communities. Just as in Amsterdam, there will be no noticeable difference between a home that’s grounded on earth and a home floating on water. But rather than floating homes, Olthuis envisions floating neighborhoods.
The transition will be gradual however. The practical application of floating facilities will make way for the future; floating parks, floating schools, even floating stadiums.
Many thanks to Koen Olthuis for vision with us here at Bolidt. His practice faces some of the biggest issues we face and we’re excited to see how it evolves.Ask a question
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