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Water World

05.08.21

Two of the world’s leading experts on floating architecture have collaborated on a ground-breaking residential masterplan in downtown Boston. James Matthews gets the lowdown

Successful partnerships can deliver exceptional results and nowhere more so than with talented design duo Koen Olthuis, Principal of Waterstudio in the Netherlands, and Richard Coutts, Principal of London-based Baca Architects. Having joined forces on numerous ground-breaking projects both nationally and internationally - from marina masterplans to floating hospitality and leisure venues, perhaps it wasn’t too much of a surprise that the pair received the commission invite from Boston’s 6M Development to assist with the design and build of the first floating project off the East Coast of America. The intended outcome? A landmark community that will provide a template for climate adaptive, sustainable homes across the Hudson Harbour and along the entire U.S. coastline - and indeed to any other coastal city where land costs are high.

The Charlestown Naval Yard masterplan centres on repurposing a long-dormant pier by selectively demolishing and retaining parts to create four islands that will become anchoring points for floating homes, providing Boston with much-needed eco housing. Th e homes, built on top of large floating pontoons tethered to the islands by flexible moorings, will allow the properties to rise and fall with the tide. Th e pier development will thus work with the dynamictidal range of Boston’s Inner Harbour, whilst also achieving a canal experience reminiscent of Amsterdam. For both Olthuis and Coutts, sustainability is key to the scheme which is aiming for 138 LEED Certified Gold and will include water heat exchange, acting as a renewable “blue battery”, to provide heating and cooling, together with solar pergolas on the rooftops which will generate sustainable energy.

“The homes will be built using modern methods of construction consisting of highly insulated prefabricated timber panels,” explains Olthuis. “They’ll offer four levels of accommodation with three and a half sitting above the waterline, no higher than 12 metres above the existing pier height. Half the lowest level will be below the waterline, with windows above, and will sit within the flotation unit to provide buoyancy to the rest of the structure. The plan is for a combination of townhouses, duplexes and apartments with balconies and roof terraces and easy access to a boat mooring, designed to adapt to different mix of units as the evolving market dictates.”

Each island, adds Coutts, will also have its own character and offer different types of amenities from numerous pocket parks, wetland fringes providing natural habitats, a public harbour walk and canal-side pathways to event spaces, retail, and restaurants at the water’s edge and a gourmet market. The development will be pedestrian access only, served by water taxis and private boats.

“It will be a wonderful neighbourhood and a catalyst to activate this stretch of the harbour and possibly beyond,” enthuses Coutts. “We’re not only creating homes in strategic locations but are activating the waterfront for the public and providing new green spaces. The different identities of each island will also mean that the total development will be greater than the sum of its individual parts.”Olthuis adds: “Our scheme marks a tipping point for cities looking to unlock their water potential. With this project, Boston will be able to showcase the new philosophy of ‘Rise of the Blue City’ in which space is used to enhance liveability along the waterfront, bringing solutions to combat the effects of sea-level rise and urbanisation.”

About Baca Architects

Baca Architects was founded in 2003 by Richard Coutts, with the aim of integrating landscape and low carbon technology to create beautiful and enduring developments. Since then, the practice has established a core specialism in innovative waterfront design and flood resilience, and Richard has become one of Europe’s foremost experts on designing with water. Baca’s current and recent projects include: The Australian Underwater Discovery Centre - Australia’s largest natural marine observatory with underwater dining, slated to open in 2023; several UK eco-resorts currently in planning; and the UK’s first multi-dwelling development to be built in a flood zone, located near Stratford Upon Avon

www.baca.uk.com

About Watestudio

Waterstudio is an architectural firm based in the Netherlands that’s confronting the challenges of the problems posed by urbanisation and climate change. It’s estimated that 70% of the world’s population will live in urbanised areas by 2050 and, since most of the world’s cities are situated on waterfronts, it has become necessary to rethink the way we live with water in the built environment. A solution, Waterstudio believes, is to create floating structures that are both sustainable and flexible. Projects include: a masterplan for Maldives Floating City, a first-of-its-kind “island city”; and Arkup, zero-emissions floating homes.

www.waterstudio.nl

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