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Digital Water Pavilion Turns Water into Walls of Art

Posted by on Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Digital Water Pavilion

One of the most challenging and compelling ideas in the world of architecture is that of a transforming house. That is not to say a house that changes into something completely different, like one of Michael Bay’s robots turning into a car, but a building with dynamic spaces wherein rooms can expand or divide themselves into smaller areas.

This is the idea being Spain’s Digital Water Pavilion, which uses thin curtains of water to close off areas of the pavilion to create walls. While water curtains are certainly a poor substitute for wood or brick, they do serve to properly demotivate attendants from walking through the walls.

Digital Water Pavilion Art

The resulting water walls are something closer to dynamic glass, acting as a morphing barrier between the inside and outside of the building. But of course, the terms “inside” and “outside” hardly apply to this building, because the spectacle of a water wall invites bystanders to investigate, and the ephemeral barrier acts more as an invitation than a restriction. The water wall, paradoxically, serves as a physical barrier while simultaneously inviting people to enter.

Digital Water Pavilion Designs

One of the best features of the pavilion is that the water curtains do not need to constantly serve as a wall. They can create patterns and shapes, transforming the entire structure into an inverted fountain or a stunning piece of modern art.

Spain's Digital Water Pavilion

The Digital Water Pavilion is truly an amazing design, seamlessly incorporating art, fountains, and public architecture into a unique structure that is sure to halt any passer-by in his tracks. The only real downside to visiting the pavilion is that you are likely to get wet, but with a building that is more like a playground or art show than a rest stop, who’s to say that’s a bad thing?


Netherlands Prepares for Sinking Country

Posted by on Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Dutch Floating Houses

The earth and the sea are going Dutch, so to speak, and splitting up Holland. With rising water levels, Holland is slowly becoming submerged – already 20% of the country is under water. City planners and architects are reacting by preparing their country for the possibility of total submersion. Rather than bemoaning their fate, architects at the Dutch company Dura Vermeer are seeing the problem as an opportunity. They have decided to start building a floating country.

One way that Dutch architects are implementing this solution is by building house foundations on the bottom of rivers. Whenever the water level rises, the house above floats upward to match the rising tides, while the low-lying foundation anchors the building in place. Architects are taking it one step further by building floating gardens. They create a concrete slab, add a layer that floats, and then flip it over. The lighter part floats and keeps the garden near the surface, while the concrete slab keeps the garden steady and level.

Dutch Floating Community

Some architects even want to take it a step further and create nomadic houses that can be detached, floated upstream, and anchored in a new area that is less likely to experience extreme flooding. Dutch architects envision entire floating villages that can be uprooted and relocated based on weather conditions.

Netherlands Floating Houses

Luckily, inhabitants with floating houses won’t need to surrender the luxuries of modern living. Flexible pipes and stretchy wires enable houses to move several meters before endangering the utilities. These new houses, much like the philosophy of the architects who designed them, will go with the flow and acknowledge climate change rather than struggling to avoid it.


Legos + Houses + Floation Devices = The Isola System

Posted by on Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Isola System

What do you get when you mix together Legos, the ocean, and houses? You get the Isola System, a floating house design that allows owners to add rooms by connecting together Lego-like blocks. The Isola System is the ultimate in personal control, allowing homeowners (or would it be more accurate to call them boatowners?) to design and build the ideal layout.

There is one question that immediately comes to mind when first encountering the Isola System: How feasible is it?. Is it really possible for average citizens with no experience in architecture to build a house that won’t end up on the bottom of the ocean? Well, the answer is yes, apparently. Building an Isola house is about as easy as connecting the dots. According to the designers, the flotation aspect of the Isola System is so reliable that owners can park a car in one the rooms.

Isola System Exterior

The Isola System functions by connecting movable hoops to solid poles. The structure remains stable and level as long as it attached to the posts, but the structure is free to move up and down with any changes in water levels.

Of course, with a system focused on utility rather than flair, any structure built using the Isola System wouldn’t exactly be the most beautiful house in the neighborhood. The claim that owners could park inside of them is perhaps more accurate than the designers intended, as the structures resemble garages or work sheds more than comfortable abodes.

Isola System Interior

When most people hear about a floating house, they imagine a modern and lavish architectural wonder that utilizes the newest advances in technology to create a mansion that defies conventions. While Isola structures are technically floating houses, they do not quite live up to that standard. They would be best suited, perhaps, as low maintenance sheds or party rooms for affluent boat owners, or for eco-minded individuals interested in leaving a minor footprint. For conservationists, these low maintenance albeit plain buildings might perfectly fit the bill. Hooking up plumbing, electricity, and Internet to a house that moves several feet every day might be more trouble than it’s worth, anyway.


The Red Sea Star: Where Disney’s Ariel Would Eat

Posted by on Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Red Sea Star Underwater Dining

We’ve already seen the Ithaa underwater restaurant in the Maldives, so it would be unfair to overlook the Red Sea Star Underwater Restaurant, Bar, and Observatory. This dive (get it?) gives Ithaa a run for its money, as it fully incorporates the fun of being underwater and it can actually seat more than a dozen people.

Red Sea Star Restaurant

The design philosophy is completely different from the Ithaa. Rather than focusing on class and elegance, the Red Sea Star is all about fun and color. Every feature in the restaurant resembles some sort of aquatic creature or coral, such as jellyfish stools, sea urchin lights, and starfish lamps. While the Ithaa screams “expensive,” the Red Sea Star shouts “fun!” This completely different atmosphere is made possible by the impressively huge underwater space. The restaurant can seat a whopping 105 people at a time, which enables the bar to become a party spot for special events or a hot Friday night.

Red Sea Star Restaurant

Diners access the restaurant and bar by walking across an elevated bridge to a circular building, and then descending 5 meters beneath the surface of the water. In the restaurant, thick plexiglass separates diners from the rest of the ocean as soon-to-be appetizers swim by the windows.

Red Sea Star Restaurant Design

From an ecological stand point, the best thing about the restaurant is that the creators went out of their way to encourage coral growth to attract more customers. For construction, they chose a portion of sea floor that was barren and sparsely populated by fish. Teams of divers have been cultivating the area surrounding the restaurant for years to create a lush and beautiful reef. This restaurant is a rare example of architects and business owners working in harmony with nature. An interesting factor in this equation is that the owners are motivated to be green because it attracts customers, rather than for moral reasons. Using nature as a showpiece in a piece of architecture is a unique way to encourage environmentalism.  While greed may ultimately be the motivation, who can argue when the result is an astonishing piece of architecture that contributes to the growth of the surrounding environment?

Red Sea Star Restaurant


Ithaa Underwater Restaurant Provides Classy, Overpriced Dinner

Posted by on Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Ithaa Undersea Restaurant Dining

When you imagine a restaurant set in an aquarium, you don’t expect much more than mediocre fast food with catchy names like “Shark Burger” and “Seaweed Salad.” The Ithaa Undersea restaurant blows that idea out of the water, so to speak, by creating the ultimate romantic restaurant.

In this restaurant, diners are seated in a long glass tube that rests on the bottom of the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. Surrounded by crystal-clear, aquamarine water, guests can see far into the depths of the ocean and watch as tropical fish, stingrays, and other rare creatures of the depths casually swim by. For a loving couple, the Ithaa Undersea restaurant represents the ultimate in romantic dining. For the fish, it is probably quite a bit grimmer, as they get to watch humans eat other fish while behind a glass shield.

Ithaa Restaurant View

The restaurant represents the ultimate in lavish excess. Meals cost a whopping $120 to $250 per person. While prices that high are expected, they are necessary to cover the building costs. The structure was built in Singapore, transported on an oversized barge to the Maldives, and then the 175 tonne building was sunk to a mere 16 feet beneath the surface of the ocean. For all that work, the restaurant is only expected to have a lifespan of about 20 years.

While the restaurant is undoubtedly impressive – don’t get me wrong, I’d want to eat there if I ever ended up in the Maldives – it’s surprising to see such lavish excess in a restaurant design. The building can only feed a meager 14 people at a time; meanwhile, many other architects are incorporating water into building designs to showcase how easily and efficiently buildings can go green. While the Lilypad and the Water Droplet Resort are utilizing solar and tidal currents to create energy and clean water, the Ithaa Undersea restaurant is serving several-hundred-dollar champagne and pretentiously small crab cake appetizers.

Ithaa Undersea Restaurant

The restaurant is certainly amazing, but only when viewed with the right context. As far as restaurants go, is the Ithaa Undersea restaurant impressive? Absolutely.  As far as aquatic architecture goes, is it still impressive? Not so much.


Giant Floating Lilypad Cities Possible Solution to Global Warming

Posted by on Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Lilypads Docking near a Terrestrial City

Nowadays, many people are concerned about global warming. For most, those concerns usually result in a more conscious effort to recycle. For Vincent Callebaut, global warming is a very real threat that must be addressed immediately. Callebaut is an architect, however, so he intends to combat global warming the best way he knows how:  by building an enormous floating island that can host 50,000 people.

Callebaut’s design, which he appropriately calls the “Lilypad,” is what we might imagine a Godzilla-sized frog would rest upon. This multi-layered floating hotel would drift freely through the open ocean, following the currents as it makes its trek through the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.

A View of the Lilypad from Underwater

Parks and gardens cover the surface of the Lilypad, even the vertical walls. Slopes rise up around the edges of the vessel to give an almost organic feel, like natural hills or petals on a flower. The Lilypad itself is actually quite beautiful, which is a bit ironic considering that Callebaut envisions that it will be a haven for families who are fleeing rising water levels. The structure is designed more as a lavish vacation home than a practical solution to global warming.

Lilypad Layout

Certainly, if global water levels increased then Callebaut’s Lilypad would be an excellent place for displaced refugees live, but for the Lilypad to work it needs to be much more than an oversized cruise ship. What will all 50,000 people do once they’re on the Lilypad? Can they all work and earn money? Can the gardens produce enough food to sustain the population? As nice as life on the Lilypad might be, the inhabitants will be severely limited in what they can do. Each Lilypad would be almost entirely dependent on terrestrial cities, and inhabitants would be largely unable to work and make money.

Lilypad City

If Callebaut really wanted to save the world by exploring aquatic living, the best route would be to invent a floating environment that could realistically sustain its inhabitants, rather than imagining a king-sized cruise ship. The 50,000 person count is commendable, but there comes a point at which such a densely packed group is more of a hindrance than anything else.


Water Droplet Resort Purifies Water for Guests

Posted by on Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Conceptual Art of the Water Droplet Resort

One commonality between many green buildings is that the architects like to flaunt to that fact. After all, if you are going through all the trouble to build an eco-friendly structure, why not go the extra mile and promote environmental conservatism with the design? That’s exactly what the design for the Water Building Resort is intended to do. Created by Orland De Urrutia, this hotel is shaped like an enormous water droplet to draw attention to the fact that it uses renewable energy methods to recycle seawater to create clean drinking water.

The southern side of the droplet faces the sun, which collects solar energy. The building’s northern face collects humid air and condenses it into fresh water. The lower levels of the facility contain a water treatment center to ensure that the water is clean and healthy.
But the Water Building Resort is more than a fancy water treatment facility. It also contains a hotel, a museum, a restaurant, a natural aquarium in the basement that looks out into the ocean from beneath the water’s surface, and a wharf. The building’s water droplet design is as much of a testament to its eco-friendly design as it is to the water-themed activities common in tropical vacation.

The Droplet Resort at Night

The Water Building Resort is an impressive way to incorporate environmentally minded values into a vacation hotspot. The classic drink for a tropical island is more likely a margarita or piña colada, but by flaunting the fact that the resort makes its own water, the designer has made the drinking water just as much as part of the appeal as the beautiful surroundings and lavish hotel rooms. The building would, in a way, make visitors excited to reap the benefits of environmentalism.  It is an interesting design philosophy, because vacation is typically the time when people pull out all of the stops and overindulge themselves. The Water Building Resort, however, encourages ecological conservatism while catering to individuals on vacation. Is the resort indulgent and wasteful, or conservative and eco-minded? It’s hard to say – maybe both.


Netherlands Glass House Gives “Waterfront Property” a New Meaning

Posted by on Thursday, November 10th, 2011

The Watervilla

Lakeside real estate tends to come at a premium due largely to the impressive view.  The Watervilla Kortenhoef, located in the Netherlands, offers residents a panoramic view of the lakefront, as nearly every square foot of the exterior walls are glass. This ceiling-to-floor glass wall design, paired with the fact that the floor is mere inches from the surface of the water, gives inhabitants an impressive view of the water from anywhere in the house. The modern design features stairs to a rooftop terrace where the view is undoubtedly even more impressive.

Perhaps the best feature of the structure is that the basement level rests beneath the surface of the water. This submarine level holds the bathrooms and bedrooms. After all, in a house made of glass, hiding the bedrooms underwater is the only sure way to get any privacy. The submarine rooms have glass panels on the floors to offer more up-close-and-personal view of the water.

Inside the Watervilla

While an underwater bedroom is interesting enough to make most homeowners envious, the bottom level of the structure might suffer from being relatively dark and gloomy, with little to no natural sunlight. Even with portcullis windows offering a view to the outside, bodies of water in the Netherlands are not the beautiful and clear aquamarine color common in the Caribbean. As neat as the submarine rooms are, one must wonder how good a view is that extends only a few inches into the water. The folks at Waterstudio.NL  undoubtedly created an amazing building, but their project might have worked better in a tropical climate.

The Watervilla's Modern Design is Sleek and Simple

The overall shape of the building seems to be struggling to decide if it wants to look like a chic modern building on the vanguard of style and innovation, or a trailer home. From some angles, the building is breath-taking in its simplicity and sleek design; from other angles, it looks like a parked recreational vehicle. Fortunately, the interior of the building does not suffer from this indecisiveness, featuring a clean and comfortable layout. This design, along with the stunning view of nature surrounding the building, more than makes up for any of the Watervilla’s quibbling disadvantages.

A Miniature Indoor Aquarium


Theater Design Incorporates Seawater Greenhouse Technology

Posted by on Thursday, November 10th, 2011

The Water Theater Design

The environmentalist movement has presented a double-edged sword for many architects. On one side, architects are faced with difficult challenges as they attempt to design increasingly energy-efficient structures. On the other side, these new demands require unorthodox materials, which can present unique design opportunities. Truly beautiful architecture comes from a balance of these two factors: utility and design.

Nicolas Grimshaw’s Water Theater combines form and function to create an amphitheater unlike any other.At least, that is what the public would see: an enormous, bow-shaped amphitheater with hundreds of reflective panels that glimmer in the sunlight.

Profiles of the Water Theater

The amphitheater is not the primary function of the structure, however, as the Water Theater would utilize renewable resources to cool arid farmland and provide distilled water. The eco-friendly design uses solar panels to evaporate seawater, which then condenses due to deep seawater, transforming it into clean drinking water. This process requires a large, mostly flat surface that faces the sun, which just happens to be the ideal specifications of amphitheaters. Making a few modifications to the basic design to transform a piece of modern farming equipment into a public amphitheater was both logical and brilliant.

While the shape of amphitheaters and Seawater Greenhouse structures do happen to share many similarities, Grimshaw’s Water Theater needs to overcome several potential problems. Any theatergoer knows that two of the most important factors in a performance are visibility and acoustics.

The Seawater Greenhouse Process

For a device built out of solar panels, there is a definite risk of blinding performers or audience members due to reflections from the sun. The solar panels of the theater would have to be angled in such a way that they efficiently capture the light of the sun while avoiding significant glare.

Additionally, the network of pumps and condensers running the water distillation would all have to be virtually silent, or else deactivated whenever the amphitheater is in use. Any acoustic features that help to carry the voices of the performers would also carry the electric hum of heavy equipment.

Here, the design must maintain a new balance. Grimshaw masterfully handled the struggle between form and function, but new issues arise around the problems of production efficiency and usefulness as an amphitheater.


Tropical House Uses Water as Air Conditioning

Posted by on Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

View from inside the water-cooled house

Singapore is a balmy city-state where the average temperature year-round is in the mid 80’s. The constant humidity in this Oceanic city-state provides no relief from the heat. Inhabitants are in a constant fight against the tropical climate to achieve cool and comfortable living conditions.

For one house nestled comfortably in a lush palm tree forest, the best solution is to let nature take care of the heating problem by incorporating water into the building design to keep the house cool. The owner, who desired a sustainable and green cooling alternative, allowed his architect to design a house that essentially sits on a manmade lake. To maximize the cooling effect of the water, entire sections of the floor are artfully absent to create small ponds of barely rippling water in rooms and hallways.

The modern design of the building effectively incorporates the green aspects of water architecture with the verdant tropical surroundings, creating a house that is in harmony with nature rather than imposing upon it. Without doubt, the house is the architectural equivalent of an oasis.

The House Surrounded by a Pool

Clear design issues, however, lie in interior ponds. The clean and angular modern design style leaves the interior ponds without any protective barrier; they simply occupy an area of floor as casually as a carpet. The long rectangles of water look nice, but from a practical standpoint it is inevitable that the owner will drop objects or stumble into these pools, some of which take up no less than half the width of a hallway. The architect could have found a way to incorporate some sort of safety mechanism into the design, or at least partition off the ponds so that they are not physically in the way when moving between rooms.