Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

Olthuis Floats a New Idea

A week ago Gerad posted about the difficultly of building massive, supposedly sustainable, structures that are then left in disuse after they’ve served their purpose. He gave the example of the Cape Town Stadium, built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which now struggles to find a host team capable of filling and paying for the venue.  Events such as the World Cup or the Olympics do require facilities of extreme proportions, and it is often the case that building these new venues is beneficial for the local economy.  I racked my brain for a good 5 seconds for a solution that would allow host cities access to adequate facilities while ensuring that these facilities would actually live up to their sustainable potential and be used for years afterwards. I have found the solution!

To be fair, I did not come up with the solution out of thin air or really as a result of my brain racking—I found it via the always trusty Google search. I realize that you are not supposed to believe everything you read on the internet, but Koen Olthuis’s floating structures are one thing I am willing to throw a considerable amount of belief and, by way of this post, hype behind. Olthius is the founder of Waterstudio, a world-renowned architecture firm that specializes in floating structures with the goal of “sustainaquailty.”  No, I did not spell sustainability wrong; “sustainaquality” is the term Olthuis has coined to refer to the environmental and economic benefits afforded by structures built to float entirely on water. Floating solar fields; wind cooling effects; wind, wave, and tidal energy production; no lasting physical footprint; and a negligible carbon footprint all contribute to the sustainaquality of floating structures or even entire floating cities.


A floating stadium “app” taken from Koen Olthuis’s new book Float!  (source)

But again, how is this helpful for the leftover stadium dilemma?  Well, Olthuis actually proposes floating stadiums as one of many possible uses of water development in his new book called FLOAT! (yes, there is actually an exclamation mark in the title)  The most obvious benefit of constructing a floating structure is that cities would not need to reserve land space years in advance that might end up as dead space after the event is over anyway. The second, more mind-blowing proposition made in the book is the concept of using floating structures like rental units. Essentially, London could build a floating track and field stadium for the 2012 Olympics and then Rio de Janeiro could simply tug that same stadium across the Atlantic for the 2016 Olympics. Olthuis has named these transportable infrastructure pieces “apps” and you can add them to your city just like you add “Words with Friends” to your smart phone 😀 It’s crazy, I know…but something crazy has got to happen if we are aiming for truly sustainable cities.    

~taylor mcadam 


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