Clare Chapman
Phone: + 43 - 1 - 811 40 - 319
Tue, 28.01.2003
pte20030128057 Science/Technology, Environment/Energy
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Futuristic homes to 'set sail' in Berlin
Floating houses rotate to face the sun, save space on land

Berlin (pte057/28.01.2003/12:21) - Aquatic homes that can turn to face the sun and even include a floating garden are being offered in Germany as part of a pilot project that its creators hope could soon be copied in the UK.

Since the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the decision to switch the German capital from Bonn, Berlin has been suffering from rampant overcrowding that has driven people ever further from the city centre. A shortage of land has meant planners have had to look for ever more inventive solutions, the latest of which is the decision backed and sponsored by the city council to start building floating homes - complete with floating gardens.

Designed and funded by the company Water City Ltd (Wasserstadt AG), work is already underway to make Waterworld a reality and an initial offering of 24 water houses are set to be erected in the first stage of development.

And Wasserstadt spokeswoman Heike Brandhorst said: "Once we have made the dream a reality we will be pushing the project abroad. Britain would be a great place to start with its many rivers and lakes. And as our motto goes - the future is on the water."

The Wasserstadt concept is to take advantage of the vast amount of open space on the water by creating small aquatic communities in two of the capital's marine areas, the Rummelsburger Bay and the Spandau Peninsula.

The 3.5 million pound project was launched seven months ago by the company in co-operation with the City of Berlin.

The homes have been designed by renowned Berlin-based architectural firm Gruentuch/Ernst, whose design resembles a large floating bread-bin.

The white, futuristic-looking house floats in the water with downstairs rooms below the waterline to give added stability. Each of the houses has two floors, with the lower floor almost totally beneath the waterline.

Almut Ernst, who is a partner in Gruentuch/Ernst, explained the design and its advantages. She said: "The house is built so that the lower floor is almost entirely under water, which means the weight above water is counterbalanced with that below water, making it impossible for the house to capsize. The underwater level will consist of four units - ideally for the bedrooms and the bathroom. The upper level, which is entirely above water, will provide living and kitchen space."

Ernst said the homes would use metal cladding on the bottom and sides to ensure durability and have a wooden roof top, and a floating garden.

Sizes, like the prices of the houses, vary. Buyers can expect to pay between 230,000 pounds and 340,000 pounds for the novel homes, which will range in size from 135-square-metres to 211-square-metres. The firm also have high hopes that once the project is complete it can be exported around Europe and cite the UK with its enormous pressure on land prices as a perfect place for more floating homes to be located.

Despite the prices, interest from potential buyers for the initial offering has not been lacking. Wasserstadt's Brandhorst said: "We have had a great deal of interest from the people of Berlin, many of whom have been to see our current exhibition, which shows what the homes and the water parks will look like once they have been built."

She said many people in Berlin were interested in moving out of the city centre, which in the last ten years had grown busier with tourists and foreign businesses, and added that many were amazed that it was possible to live on the water yet still have easy access to the land and city.

Brandhorst said: "Berliners nowadays are looking for new areas to live. They no longer want town houses and flats that all look the same and are cramped. They want quality as well as something different. What we are offering is comfort and accessibility in modern houses coupled with the sense of freedom and relaxation that living on the water gives. They are also perfect for boat owners who can moor their vessels to their own houses instead of in an expensive marina.

"The houses are ideal for families or for people who carry out their work from home and want to create office space within their own house. The buildings are tied to jetties which means they won't float away and access to land by foot is easy. Each buyer will also be provided with a parking space on dry land and both the Rummelsburger Bay and the Spandau Lake are close to the city's public transport systems."

Brandhorst added that interested buyers also had no need to worry about safety issues. She said: "Naturally safety is a top concern but Germany has very strict regulations when it comes to building permission and city authorities would not allow any construction work to go ahead if there was any question of danger to the public.

"We are also working with an expert in this field, Professor Herman Hertzberger from Amsterdam, who is not only a top designer but who has already built a house on the water for himself."

Despite the fact that no final deal has been made between Wasserstadt and an architectural firm, Brandhorst is confident that the first homes will be ready for their first occupants next year. She said: "Negotiations are going smoothly and there is no reason why the homes will not be built by the end of 2004.

"Each area will start with up to 12 floating homes but that is just the start. Once we have proven that they are not just a fantasy but can actually be a reality we can start expanding and even look to take the project abroad."

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Contact: Clare Chapman
Phone: + 43 - 1 - 811 40 - 319