Floating Eden


  • Will the first Dutch hills be on water? Dutch architect Anne Holtrop collaborated with green technology firm Studio Noach and botanist and vertical garden guru Patrick Blanc to design an artificial floating island containing gardens and a spa. The floating gardens project was proposed for Amsterdam’s youngest neighborhood IJburg. According to Dezeen it should contain baths and treatment rooms on the inside, while the outside would be covered with hydroponic greenery.

    “A visitor will walk from room to room and experience a sequence of baths, panoramic saunas, chill and relax areas. From the interior, the frame the constructed landscape and give access to outdoor terraces and pools. From thereon paths continue over the hills and through the valleys connecting different spaces. The persons who walk here, will see a combination of water, vegetation and architecture, which gratifies the human desire for a world that is visible and tangible.”

    The proposal is currently on show at the ‘Architecture of Consequence: Dutch Designs on the Future’ exhibition at the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) in Rotterdam.


    This idea paves the way for a more modular approach for the newest district of Amsterdam. In IJburg a floating neighborhood has already been built, containing 38 private floating water villas and a couple of floating apartment blocks made by social housing association Eigen Haard. Although this experiment is one of the first big-scale water housing projects in the Netherlands, it is hardly recognizable as an inspiring hybrid district. New initiatives such as a floating wellness park as proposed here could help this new district to really become a flexible, more plug-in like modular floating city, as Archigram would love to see.

    The idea of a floating garden is one in a series of international floating ideas to make cities more sustainable and definitely more flexible and interesting. Some days ago we wrote about Rietveld Landscape’s proposal N A P — a floating park made out of shipping barges. Smaller projects that have been carried out already are the works of the floating garden people, a group that has been experimenting with floating gardens in Amsterdam’s canals since the sixties. Last year we reported about their floating plug-in park and the floating campsite at the beach of Almere.

    One of the great ideas in the proposal by Anne Holtrop is the hilly structure of the park. “The architecture makes the walls and ceilings the outer for hills and valleys. Inside the interior follows the counter form of the landscape. Amorphous areas with faceted ceilings, all of different sizes and heights, blend as one.” The floating garden/spa wellness island uses the availability of plenty of fresh water at this location close to the city center of the Dutch capital. “A floating sustainable biotope, using recycled materials with a vegetation coating that from its pores literally breaths oxygen and wellness is unique for our planet.”