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Living On The Waterfront

Floating villas with 360-degree views could be the future of housing

If Arkup’s new $5.9 million avant-garde “livable yacht” is any indication, luxury floating villas may someday replace waterfront condos as the way to savor incredible marine views with nary a concern for sea rise.

The first off-grid floating villa—a 75-foot-long, two-story, next-generation houseboat—combines the features of a yacht and a floating residence with the form and function of a coastal mansion, down to the kitchen’s quartz-topped center island, the master bedroom’s private balcony, and a composite deck with a natural hardwood look and glass railings. During its February debut, the villa was surrounded by the calm waters of Miami’s Biscayne Bay.

“We want to provide the feeling that you are in a luxury house or waterfront villa—the stability, safety, and comfort of the house—with the view of being on the water,” says Nicolas Derouin, Arkup’s managing director. Glass walls and sliding glass doors stretch from floor to ceiling. Closets abound. Bathrooms “are big as in a villa or a house, not as in a yacht.”

The home’s contemporary furnishings are by luxury Brazilian brand Artefacto.

Since the villa’s height is adjustable, sea level rise isn’t an issue. When the wind whips up, four spud-like legs use an automatic hydraulic system to drill down into riverbeds or harbor bottoms, creating a stable foundation in up to 20 feet of water. The 4,350-square-foot houseboat is simultaneously raised out of the way of storm surge and flooding. The vessel can be as stable as a home on land amid 155 mph Category 4 hurricane winds.

Rooftop solar panels provide ample power for lights, air-conditioning, and a state-of-the-art kitchen, as well as electric propulsion to soundlessly cruise 20 miles along estuaries or coastlines on a single charge.

“You can move the boat wherever you want, so you can change your view, change your neighbors,” Derouin says. The sustainable vessel also has systems for harvesting and purifying rainwater.

Inside the livable yacht, surrounded by Biscayne Bay.

Koen Olthuis, an architect who founded the firm Waterstudio.NL, has built more than 150 floating residences in the last 15 years, including a neighborhood of buoyant villas with terraces in the Netherlands, before partnering with Arkup, combining Dutch technology with Arkup’s newfangled spud foundation system that enhances stability and banishes seasickness.

While yachts use the space in the hull, the new houseboat is built on top. “This is like building on land, but it’s on a floating foundation,” Olthuis explains. “Once you are in the house, it is exactly the same, like a normal house. You don’t feel any movement.”

On the outside, the four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath hybrid has a yacht’s white fiberglass composite cladding and maintenance-free Brazilian hardwood trim that’s also suited to a contemporary abode. Modern gray and beige furnishings by Artefacto, the luxury Brazilian furnishings brand, seamlessly bridge the home’s indoor and outdoor spaces.

Although Arkup’s first non-rocking, liftable floating villa is “a toy for billionaires,” Derouin says it ultimately opens doors to initiate more affordable housing solutions and develop real estate on the water in a sustainable way, “not just a unit that would be sold alone to one buyer.”

Having worked with urban planners and government officials from Europe to the Maldives, Olthuis foresees marinas, harbors, and abandoned areas of coastal cities transformed with floating restaurants, eco-resorts, shops, and museums. Arkup’s spud system will make it possible to build a 20- to 25-story floating apartment building. “It will just touch the ground a little bit—a little stability, and you can go up,” the architect says. “This kind of thing will happen in cities all around the world.”

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