Out of all the countries in Europe, The Netherlands will likely be the most vulnerable to rising sea levels as the planet continues to heat up. So it’s only fitting, then, that Dutch firms Deltasync and PublicDomain Architects would join forces to design a city platform that can rise right along with the incoming waters, should they ever breach the country’s formidable seawall system.
Looking something like the futuristic space pods from the 1972 sci-fi film Silent Running, the bubble-shaped transparent domes of the Rotterdam Floating Pavilion were built in 2010 as a demonstration project to prove the viability of the technology. The three connected hemispheres are scheduled to remain at anchor in the city’s Rijnhaven waterfront area until 2015, providing exhibits on climate science and resource conservation, as well as meeting space.
This pilot project is sponsored by the Rotterdam Climate Initiative’s Climate Proof project, which has plans to expand the pavilion concept into an integrated urban district, complete with offices, retail space and 13,000 residences (1,200 of which will float on water) by 2040, according to the Inhabitat website. After 2015, the Floating Pavilion will begin to tour other waterfront areas around The Netherlands.
The floating pavilion is remarkable not only because of the spheres floating on the water, but also because of its climate-proof, innovative, sustainable and flexible qualities. The floating pavilion is a pilot and a catalyst for floating construction in Rotterdam. The pavilion consists of three connected spheres, the largest of which has a radius of 12 meters. The floor area of the pavilion island is over 46 by 24 meters. It will be moored in the Rijnhaven until 2015: after that, it will be shipped off to another part of Stadshavens.
The Rijnhaven is a suitable location for the pavilion due to the limited beating of the waves. Furthermore, fewer and fewer inland vessels will use the harbour. Moreover, the Rijnhaven is easily accessible by public transport, also over water.
The innovative pavilion responds to the objectives of Rotterdam to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2 by 50% and to ensure that the city remains climate-proof also in the future.
The floating body has been constructed using expanded polystyrene sheets (EPS). Five layers of EPS are placed on top of each other, the thinnest layer measuring 20 centimetres in thickness, and the thickest 75 centimetres. The thickest layer contains a grid of concrete beams, which is fastened to the prefab concrete slabs. These slabs form the hard shell of the island, protecting it against the beating of the waves, for instance. Placed on top of this, a 20 centimetre thick concrete floor, together with the beams, renders the island a rigid unit. The thickness of the island is 2.25 metres. The top of the floor is about 80 centimetres above the water level.
One of the chief goals of the Rotterdam Climate Proof project is to cut the city’s annual CO2 emissions in half and to build structures that are flexible enough to function in the harsh environmental conditions expected by mid-century.
In their present form, the Floating Pavilion domes rise to a height of 40 feet and contain roughly 12,000 square feet of space, which were used last spring for a reception at the 2012 Sustainability in the Maritime Industry Conference to demonstrate sustainable ideas for the future floating city. Some of the features include an HVAC system powered by surface water and solar energy, and a wastewater treatment process that is conducted on site, releasing filtered water harmlessly back to Rotterdam’s waterways.
The round canopy, built by Dura Vermeer, is made up of dozens of hexagonal panels made of corrosion-resistant ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) plastic, which is 100 times lighter than glass. The weight savings from the ETFE allowed the designers to reduce the materials needed for the buoyant foundation, which is only about 7 feet thick and made of sandwiched expanded polystyrene sheets and concrete slabs./AzerTAc/