Floating village

Architect Julius Taminiau lived with his family in the center of Amsterdam in a small apartment. They were looking for a family home which turned out to be very difficult to find given the high and rapidly rising housing prices in Amsterdam. Taminiau searched for affordable alternatives and serendipitously came across an old dilapidated houseboat that was for sale with it’s own moorings. Taminiau happened to be working previously in London on an open-source autarkic project of a houseboat for Carl Turner Architects.

The houseboat is part of a “floating village” of approximately 200-300 houseboats near the old Olympic stadium in Amsterdam. It is now a “historic” place where traditionally skippers and people lived who were looking for alternative solutions for affordable homes. First there were mainly houseboats, later this was gradually transformed into water-homes.


The design is inspired by the Japanese “Tatami” ratio and layout. A Tatami is a mat that is used as a floor covering in Japan. The proportions of spaces are also determined on the basis of the Tatami. There are different arrangements of the mats according to Japanese tradition. This arrangement and coherent relationship ensure a harmonious feeling. The ratio of a Tatami is the same as a standard plywood panel (and many other building boards).

The floor plans are linked to the Tatami and the maximum span of a timber beam. The cladding is also linked to the Tatami and is also an abstract reference to the scales of a fish. The black color with different gloss levels of the façade mimics the water and contrasts with the white interior for optimum light reflection.

The advantage of this total “Tatami system” is that the proportions of the rooms, cladding, windows and materials are interrelated and coherently proportioned. The house feels therefore harmonious, everything is in relationship with each other.

Materialization and sustainability

Another additional advantage of the “Tatami system” is that sawing losses are minimized, resulting in less material use and therefore lower costs. This strategy made it possible to build the houseboat with a very limited budget.

The materialization proved difficult so close to the water. Often plastic or other water-resistant materials are used, but Taminiau wanted to use sustainable materials as much as possible. For the façade cladding, after a lot of research, they came up with wooden panels that are made durable and that are given a 50-year guarantee. The windows are made of sustainably harvested hardwood. The construction is also made entirely of timber (except for the concrete box on which the house floats). The house is also provided with a thick layer of insulation. There are 14 solar panels on the roof terrace and space has been reserved for a future heat pump. Some parts of the interior are made up of computer-controlled sawed elements, which made it possible to design precisely on the mm and to minimize cutting losses.

The house is also oriented to the south and is thus passively heated by the sun. To prevent warming up, the windows are positioned in such a way that cross ventilation is assured. There is also a large roof hatch in the middle of the house that provides natural draft on hot days.


The floor plans are designed as efficiently as possible with minimal circulation so every space is optimally used. Various space-saving solutions have been applied such as a kitchen island with built-in chairs, an open staircase in the living room that subtly breaks the space between kitchen and living room and various smart storage spaces.

The houseboat consists of 3 floors. The ground floor is 1.5 meters below water. Here are 2 children’s bedrooms, bathroom and master bedroom with ensuite and walk-in-wardrobe. The living room and kitchen are located on the upper floor. About a third of the house is classified as a flexible space. This space is double-height and now functions as an office and at weekends as a guest room. In the future it can easily offer space for, for example, extra bedrooms or a small self-contained apartment.

On top of the houseboat is a huge roof terrace hidden behind a balustrade. The roof terrace is somewhat visible from the outside because plants grow above the balustrade and thus give the houseboat a friendly appearance.

The interior is built according to the minimalist philosophy of Taminiau. “We believe that our minimalist designs emphasize the beauty of and relate to: the space, a few carefully selected neutral and natural materials, some beloved personal belongings, planting and – very important – the user.”

Prefab construction

The houseboat was built on the other side of the country in Hardenberg (Oranje Arkenbouw) in a large hall with cranes and a water basin. The houseboat could thus be fully prefabricated without weather influences. This has many advantages, such as not having problems on rainy days, but also the certainty that you can always work according to the schedule, so that there is less room for errors. After this “prefabrication” the houseboat was towed across the IJsselmeer to Amsterdam. A journey on the water of almost 100 km.

Living on the water

We believe living on the water could be one of the solutions for climate change because a houseboat:

  • can move along with the water level (and rising sea level);
  • is easy to move;
  • can be completely prefabricated anywhere else and shipped to the required destination;
  • makes residents more aware of nature (one constantly sees animals swimming around);
  • the surrounding water can be used as gray water (e.g. for flushing the toilet or washing machine);
  • the surrounding water could be even filtered into drinking water;
  • the heat of the water could be used for heating the home;
  • the houseboat has to stay afloat, one need to build lighter and use materials more consciously;
  • completely prefabricated houseboats are interesting in order to cope with housing crisis;
  • living on the water also gives a lot of pleasure, one can jump out of a window for a fresh dive;
  • the light reflects in the water, so more light enters;
  • there is little noise nuisance because there is little to no contact noise;

The construction of the house was filmed, the video can be watched via the link below:

The house was also filmed after completion, the video can be watched via the link below:

The very inspiring Kirsten Dirksen and her family also visited the house and filmed it: