Dubai, Amsterdam, Seattle – all glamorous cities in which to drop anchor and make a home.
With shrinking real estate space in city centres, the luxury market has raised its sails and taken to the water. Floating homes are becoming increasingly popular around the globe, allowing their owners the best of both worlds in the form of space, luxury and convenience.
The concept of living on water is centuries old, whether you think of the Bajau people, who spend their whole lives on the water; river-dwelling communities in Britain, with moorings like Little Venice being the most popular; or quaint, colourful houseboats occupying the central grachten in Amsterdam. However, while many of us enjoy sea or river views, very few actually venture offshore permanently into what architects are now calling 'bluefield sites'.
There are several reasons, both ecological and economic, for architects choosing to expand to the water. It solves a space problem in cities like Hamburg and Amsterdam, where population density and housing shortages are pressing. A project like IJBurg in Amsterdam makes use of space that would otherwise only be used for leisure. For some floating home owners in Hamburg, having their own water-based abodes built is the most cost-effective route to a truly bespoke home.
It can be more environmentally friendly too, with some suggestions that it encourages less car-based living than land building, since river transport is available and homes can often be moored in close proximity to work. In places like Dubai and the Netherlands, where much land is reclaimed from the sea, they also provide a climate change-proof method to cope with rising water levels.
In Europe and further afield there are plenty of high-end locations. The Waterlovt project in Dubai is still in the design phase, but the homes have been designed to fit the glamorous lifestyle there; the largest floorplan is 240m2, with balconies, several reception rooms and chandeliers. In Seattle, sprawling southern-style villas have popped up in the harbour, giving the owners space and privacy that is harder to come by in the built-up city centre on land. HafenCity in Hamburg is a prime area of interest for floating home architects – with its new businesses, parks, restaurants and a glittering waterfront occupying centre stage, it's easy to see why architects have taken to the water there to build floating homes and even a floating conference centre.
Waterstudio, an architecture firm specialising in floating homes, is also working on a luxurious floating villa in Dubai, with its own private island. The firm has dreamt up an exclusive floating spa and several floating apartment complexes all around the world.
For homeowners looking for a unique property with both luxury and convenience, it seems that the future is blue. Second home seekers too will appreciate the peace and escape of a place on the water, perfect for retirement or a weekend bolthole. For those looking to settle in water-oriented cities like Amsterdam, Dubai and Hamburg, the houseboat presents the ultimate centrally located solution that will guarantee a luxury lifestyle and a unique and versatile asset.