There was a slight drizzle in the air as I descended on the wide, white pillar that marked the border of Waterbert, the floating district of Amsterdam, Holland.
Despite the threat of rain, residents of small three-storey houses floating on a small lake in the eastern part of the Dutch capital were busy enjoying the afternoon.
A mother and daughter swayed fishing rods from their kitchen window while two boys jumped into the water, alternating between a swing hanging from a bridge. The dock fence had benches, bicycles and barbecues, separated by a bright orange lifeboy every ten meters.
During my visit to this unique semi-aquatic community, I was guided by Dun van Neymen, whose company Monteflor developed this project.
But instead of being overwhelmed by the success of this innovative endeavor that now has 100 homes, Van Niemen was more interested in discussing the endless list of issues he faced during its creation.
The issues that had certainly caused great frustration were now apparently a laughing stock.
“Oh, so there was a zoning plan problem,” said Van Niemen as we walked down the aisle as the afternoon wind shook the sleeves of his blue shirt and the ends of his long white hair.
“Someone wrote that all the houses should be at a certain height from the street level. But, of course, the houses here go up and down.”
He roared with laughter, and the mother and daughter, with their fishing rods, were annoyed to see the disturbance of his stillness in the water.
Given the country’s lush green tradition and innovative architectural and design history, it makes sense that the country is experimenting with the idea of houseboats.
This country is the lowest in Europe, so the seas are at risk of rising. But the Dutch did not just inspect the houseboats.
Fifty-five kilometers south of Amsterdam, Minge van Wingerton took his cows through a modern barn, next to giant oil tankers and cargo ships on the waters of Rotterdam Harbor.
“Last night, [as vacas] They came, and I did not sleep all night, ”she said, picking up a straw and letting one of the brown-spotted cows taste it. “But it was very quiet. They quickly got used to being in the water. “
The idea for a floating farm was born in 2012 after Peter Wingerton’s partner Peter, who observed how the Manhattan supermarket shelves continued, witnessed firsthand the impact of Hurricane Sandy on New York’s transport links and distribution networks.
Upon returning to the Netherlands, he and Van Wingerten decided to build a farm adapted to climate change.
His farm, which opened in 2019, has 40 cows, which roam between the grazing land near the dock and the floating system, the first time in the world.
The farm produces milk, cheese and yogurt (as well as manure), which are transported short distances by bicycle or electric van to consumers.
Meanwhile, leftovers from the city are used as fodder for the cows, from leftover food from restaurants to grass left over from the stadium of the local football club, Feyenoord.
“Our location allows us to produce and sell healthy food in the city in a very sustainable way,” says Van Wingerton, who also has ideas for a floating vegetable farm and a farm. “I believe floating farms have a better future.”
Given the success of people in the Netherlands in living and producing underwater farms, the question arises as to whether they will soon see entire floating cities.
With the support of the United Nations (UN), the US company Oceanix is at the forefront of an initiative that includes large-scale floating human settlements, which it currently describes as “the world’s first resilient and stable floating community, per 10,000 residents on 75 hectares.”
“When it comes to sea level rise, local authorities in coastal cities basically have two options,” says Oceanix chairman Mark Collins Chen. “Building a big wall, it’s never been high enough, or floating above a place. Look at the latest engineering.”
Despite being called a “floating city,” Oceanics is proposing, at the very least, an expansion of water to larger floating neighborhoods, already overpopulated coastal megacities that struggle with sea levels, such as Jakarta in Indonesia, or Shanghai in China. .
These new “cities” will be created by floating, two-hectare triangular sites, each with a population of 300 residents, with additional space for agricultural production and leisure. They are joined together and form larger and larger apartments.
“We are building an infrastructure capable of handling extreme weather events and it is very sustainable,” Sen said.
“We want these settlements not to use any fossil fuels. All of this is renewable energy, and we are trying to grow 100% of our protein needs on board.”
It sounds interesting, but are we going to see these floating urban expansions?
“It’s already happening,” Chen says. “Let’s see a floating prototype in the next few years. I’m very confident.”
Floating cities may appear straight from the pages of science fiction books, but in reality we humans have been cultivating food in floating environments for centuries.
“We have compiled a list of 64 cases to study from floating tribal communities around the world,” said Julia Watson, professor of design and professor at Harvard University in the United States. Low-Tech: Design of Radical Indigenousness, A book that explores design lessons we can learn from indigenous cultures.
“More than that, these aboriginal systems have always been naturally stable and do not currently exist in our cities.”
Examples of floating communities such as the cane growing islands of the Uru people in Lake Titicaca on the Peru-Bolivia border can still be seen today.
Floating gardens are very common, especially in Bangladesh, where farmers plant seeds in raft varieties made from floating plants, which rise and fall due to the annual monsoon floods.
Paradoxically, it was the construction of large cities that led to the disappearance of these aquatic settlements and practices, which are now considered the future of urban life.
“In Europe and China, urban growth and the replenishment of swamps and lakes have unfortunately eliminated many of these technologies,” says Watson.
Back in Amsterdam, von Neyman was discussing another problem, and we were standing at the end of the main ship of Waterburt when we saw one of the villagers using a surfboard to go from one boat to another.
“Floating twin houses [duas casas geminadas] It gave us a lot of headaches. Especially in the beginning, one was busy or the other was not. ”
“Right now, there are about a ton of stuff inside a normal house, so you can imagine these twin houses seemed a little … unbalanced.”
Van Neyman raised his hand at a 45-degree angle to explain his point, before he remembered the problem and tapped on his knee.
As we headed back to the dry land, Van Niemen, who had experienced many difficulties working in floating architecture, was curious to see if he thought these structures would become a part of our daily lives.
“It’s possible. There are marinas and ports in many cities around the world where you can more or less implement a project like this,” he said, adding that the houses here have proven popular among residents and the project has generated interest. Architectural offices from municipal and municipal officials around the world.
“Of course, for all the problems we have with rising water levels, this will be a solution,” he added.
Then paused. “Of course this is not the real solution,” he said, now wearing a serious, unnatural expression. “The solution is to prevent sea level rise.”
Unfortunately, this is a problem that even Von Neyman cannot solve.
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