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The Dutch Way

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[dRMM]’ IJburg, a small prototype floating community, is thriving under an advanced culture of planning and design’

Three adventurers set forth on a mission to study IJburg, a small prototype floating community in the east of Amsterdam that has thrived under an advanced culture of planning, design, procurement and construction. They travelled with the aim of understanding IJburg, extracting vital information and inspiration. The team went local for a week, experiencing life in the floating village. In the UK, the housing shortage is projected to worsen, with escalating land and property prices alienating young buyers.

The Dutch Way hopes to address long-term flood strategies and housing need by proposing new floating neighbourhood ‘incubators’ to be tested in London’s Royal Victoria Dock. With this proposal, dRMM presents a provocative case for increasing density in a city that has little space left to build by activating some of its most underused areas - its waterways.

Where did your idea come from?

For 15 years, making use of London’s vast expanses of empty waterways has been a theme in dRMM’s work - we have made one-off proposals for floating houses, bars, galleries and gardens. The random development of waterside London sites against the backdrop of the underused Thames has prompted us to think of more ways to inhabit waterscapes, including plans to move our studio into a 60m Dutch barge. UK waterways offer huge potential for tackling housing shortages, transport infrastructure and urban density.

Most surprising thing you found out?

London’s houseboat owners are preoccupied with the security of tenure over the water on which they are moored. In the Netherlands, however, a 50-year leasehold policy for water plots has completely changed the commitment to waterborne accommodation. This kind of policy encourages the design of high-quality floating housing as opposed to more opportunistic converted boats. Another revelation was that after centuries of working to keep water at bay, there’s an acceptance that rising sea-levels mean they will be unable to combat water indefinitely. They are now re-flooding parts of the country through a process called ‘de-polderising’.

Most challenging part of your trip?

Our biggest challenge was finding out what constituted the Dutch Way and the secrets behind the efficient, practical and, to UK eyes, often surreal solutions that make a small country living below sea-level one of the most successful and densely populated nations in Europe. We spent four action-packed days in the floating community of IJburg. For our return, we boarded our 6m ‘rescue’ rigid inflatable boat and travelled from Amsterdam to London via the river IJ through the North Sea lock and down the Dutch and Belgian coasts of the Channel. We’re certainly more sea- wise as a result.

How do you plan to take this forward?

dRMM aims to create an incubator in London’s underused Royal Docks, which will involve dock management and ‘pioneer settlers’ in an experiment with living and working on water.

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