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Island life can seem wonderful. There is just the problem of getting there. The isolation that makes him so attractive can also be distressing. But what if your house was an island? Is there a state between the seclusion of living on an island and the luxurious mobility of a yacht?
There is now. Arkup’s Livable Yacht is a hybrid of nautical and terrestrial architecture, a slightly odd mix of technologies from marine construction, oil rigs, Dutch houses and super-yachts to create a new typology.
Climbing through the noise and dust of the prototype, still under construction at a Miami shipyard when I visited, was an eerie experience. The heavy engineering was in place, along with the incredible technical complexity of the machines and controls, all visible through hatches in the ground. Still, it didn’t look like a boat. It was a building under construction inside another building, sheltered by the huge boathouse roof and surrounded by luxurious and elegant boats of the type you see around South Florida’s many marinas.
In a way, the living yacht is just a collection of existing ideas and standard technologies, but they have been combined in a way that makes it the first truly and completely self-sufficient maritime house. And this is a remarkable thing.
In the very different climate and context of the Netherlands, there are a lot of houseboats; there is even a suburb of Amsterdam, Ijburg, made up of superbly designed and ultramodern floating dwellings. British architects Carl Turner and Baca both designed floating houses and dRMM even drew up plans for a floating village in London’s Docklands (founding architect Alex de Rijke himself lives on a barge on the Thames). Most of these structures, however, are meant to stay in one place. They can rise and fall with the tide, but they are generally fixed and plug into existing infrastructure.
What makes the Arkup Livable Yacht so unusual is that it has everything it needs on board: solar panels on the roof provide electrical power, water filtration systems recover water. rainwater and four huge hydraulic legs can anchor it to the seabed (like the legs of an oil rig) or retract when it needs to float. There is a bridge and an electric motor with two propellers, a boat lift for an annex and a hydraulic retractable terrace.
Inside, despite all the engineering, it doesn’t look like a boat at all. In large part, that’s thanks to the high ceilings, 3m closer to a luxury condo on Miami’s waterfront than the compressed space of the most luxurious super-yachts. At $ 5.89 million, it’s cheap compared to a yacht and reasonable compared to waterfront condos. Even if you don’t pay for the land, which might not be around for long anyway.
This generous interior and feeling of space is also due to the expanses of glass that make it feel like an island villa without compromising on finish or view. There are no windows, no roar of engines, no faint smell of gasoline, no annoying bulkheads. Interiors were designed by Brazilian design and furniture company Artefacto with a characteristic touch of Latin American chic – lots of white and super modern furniture, organic shapes, indoor / outdoor living and, perhaps, a Asian boutique hotel touch. There is a hint of cocaine and suitcases of money but otherwise it is in good taste.
By fixing it to the seabed with the hydraulic legs (“stakes” to use the technical terminology) the house is made stable and avoids the slightly nauseating sensation of instability. Spread over two floors with kitchen and living room below and bedrooms above, it is extremely open to the views which are, in a way, its purpose. It is possible here to truly become one with the sea around you, while sitting just comfortably enough above it.
It was also designed as a sort of urban island. While we may think of island life as reclusive, visualizing the archetypal desert island (and the company provides a few renderings of this mythical lifestyle), even the design here suggests some sort of sleek, upscale real estate. Would it be possible to settle in a privileged neighborhood by the water – without needing to connect to any infrastructure – and then float along the shore a bit to get a different view? It is an attractive idea.
There is also something curious about this new hybrid, an indication of a different future – but very possible. Its construction in Miami places it at the heart of issues related to rising sea levels and a planet transformed by climate change. Miami has been caught in a roaring real estate boom, but it is also frequently cited as the US city with the most to lose from rising sea levels, with more valuable real estate threatened to be under. water within a generation than any other in the United States. The Livable Yacht’s distinctive combination of responses to a demand for luxury, space and mobility and a reaction to the environmental apocalypse seems to place it somewhere between offshore wealth and life out of the world. It is a place of escape in every way.
Its self-sufficiency has also led to suggest that this new hybrid typology could be part of the solution to crises. Capable of being deployed in the short term in disaster areas where, most likely, the infrastructure has failed and the terrain is unsafe (as a result of floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.), the Livable Yacht could find another alternative future opposite to the luxury life scenario from which it emerged. NGOs have carefully considered the opportunities it offers, from a floating hospital to an emergency shelter.
That the architect of the amphibious house is Dutch should give substance to this notion of another way of life. Koen Olthuis and his firm Waterstudio are specialists in floating structures. They have designed many houses in Ijburg and have more experience with this hybrid architecture than any other practice. The collaboration with naval engineers Donald L Blount & Associates and the Arkup team, green-tech entrepreneur Arnaud Luguet and co-founder Nicolas Derouin should give confidence that this is not a trinket but a a home that could change our outlook on the water.
Traditionally, water has been an enemy of architecture. Even in cities that derive their beauty from their relationship to the sea, Venice for example, floods, maintenance and the risk of shipwreck or storm create a situation in which the city is constantly threatened. Even New York was forced into a moment of clarity after Hurricane Sandy. This house-spaceship evokes a future in which architecture could not fight against the aquatic future but embrace it.
Edwin Heathcote is the architecture critic of the FT