Baca Architects completes bouyant house on the River Thames

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Work has completed on the UK's "first amphibious house" by Baca Architects, which rises in its dock-like foundations to avoid flood water (+ slideshow).

Amphibious House by Baca Architects

Baca Architects founders Richard Coutts and Robert Barker designed Formosa for an island in the middle of the River Thames in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

Amphibious House by Baca Architects

Faced with building on a site prone to unpredictable flooding, the architects set about creating a design that could mitigate the risk of interior flooding.

The result is a building that sits on fixed but separate foundations, like a shipping dock, so that when the Thames bursts its banks the structure can float above water level.

Amphibious House by Baca Architects

This defence mechanism can cope with up to 2.5 metres of floodwater – well above projected flood levels for the area. Four guide posts set into channels in the flanks of the building control and support the movement.

Amphibious House by Baca Architects

The house was nearing the end of its construction in late 2014, but it is now complete and has been float tested.

"With flooding becoming a regular occurrence in the UK and elsewhere isn't it time we started to learn to live with it?" said Baca Architects in a statement.

Amphibious House by Baca Architects

"Scientists appear to agree that the sort of weather we have seen over the last few weeks is likely to become much more prevalent," added the team.

"If this is the case then maybe we need to be a bit more proactive in building in measures to cope with flooding if it does occur rather than hoping that the flood defences will protect people."

Amphibious House by Baca Architects

The house is covered in zinc shingles and has a glazed gable that faces a small garden, which slopes up from the edge of the river and is designed to provide an early warning of flooding.



The site does not regularly experience severe floods, so every few years the dock will be pumped full of water to test the movement.

Amphibious House by Baca Architects

The structure is plumbed with flexible pipes that can stretch by up to three metres as the house rises in its dock, allowing the residents to continue as much as possible with everyday life.

Amphibious House by Baca Architects

Coutts and Barker have long been advocates for floating architecture, recently entering the NLA's ideas competition to deploy a fleet of small prefabricated houses on London's disused waterways to solve the capital's present housing crisis.

They are also the authors of a new floating architecture section in the Metric Handbook and Aquatecture, a book on how to design for flood-prone areas.

Amphibious House by Baca Architects

While flooding cannot be prevented, its effects such be managed more effectively, said the architects. They claim that more sustainable drainage systems such as green roofs and permeable paving could offer simple but effective resilience.

Amphibious House by Baca Architects

But they said new flood resilience standards need to be supported through building regulations to gain widespread acceptance.

"Local authorities need to impose stricter controls on inappropriate development in flood risk areas and only accept developments that are designed to be flood resilient," said the team.

"The idea of making space for water and managing floods has not really been embraced and there is still a heavy reliance on flood defences."

Amphibious House by Baca Architects

"Ideally the whole riverside community should be designed to take flooding into account, rather than just the odd house, so the consequences can be mitigated for all," they added. "Amphibious design is one of a host of new solutions that will enable residents to live safely by water and adapt to the challenges of climate change."

Recent floods have inspired a spate of aquatic architecture projects in the UK, as well as the Netherlands and coastal Africa. Among these projects are a floating school in Lagos, a boxy houseboat in Amsterdam and plans for prefabricated floating house downloadable through an open-source website.


Project credits:

Architecture: Baca Architects
Project architect: Richard Coutts
Design team: Baca Architects: Robert Barker, Riccardo Pellizzon, Robert Pattison
Structural engineer: Techniker
Hydrological engineer: HR Wallingfords

Amphibious House by Baca Architects
Site plan – click for larger image
Amphibious House by Baca Architects
Lower ground floor plan – click for larger image
Amphibious House by Baca Architects
Ground floor plan – click for larger image
Amphibious House by Baca Architects
First floor plan – click for larger image
Amphibious House by Baca Architects
Section – click for larger image
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