In March 2012 dRMM was announced by the British Council as one of their selected group of architects for participation in the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale. The firm was named one of the ten chosen ‘explorers’ to follow a brief which set each team the task of examining different parts of the world in search of intellectual solutions to universal architectural problems. This brief followed the overall thematic ethos of the 2012 biennale – “Commmon Ground” – which was curated by David Chipperfield.dRMM’s project team travelled to Amsterdam to study IJburg, a floating housing community designed in major part by Marlies Rohmer Architects, with additional structures being self-built by private owners. Through surveying water infrastructure generally, and floating housing in Amsterdam specifically, the ‘treasure’ dRMM wanted to bring back to the UK was Dutch design knowledge – a globally unique combination of practical hydraulic engineering and lateral strategic thinking. We were also keen to undertake an expedition by water, taking our fast lightweight RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) to the Netherlands.Making use of London’s vast expanses of empty waterways was a theme in dRMM’s work 15 years ago, now revisited. Random development of waterside London sites against a backdrop of underused River Thames has prompted us to think of ways of inhabiting water. UK waterways offer huge potential for tackling issues in housing shortage, transport infrastructure, and urban density. Floating architecture also offers answers to the topical question of what to do with flood zones.After centuries of working to keep water at bay, attitudes in the Netherlands have shifted with climate change. Predicting that it will not be possible to indefinitely combat water due to rising sea-levels, the Dutch are now re-flooding parts of the country in a process entitled ‘de-polderising’ Holland. Building floating houses rather than houses on piles is a manifestation of this future-proofing.
Photography © Alex de Rijke, Tom Etchells, Isabel Pietri, Cristiano Corte