LONDON — Better known for its canals, blue bicycles and cheap coffee shops, Amsterdam has quietly become a magnet for artists.
And now it has joined the ranks of major global cities, including Miami, with a housing project where homes float on wheels. The development, known as Vilvoorde Hall, features 160 residences that are equipped with self-launching pads. Some homeowners have just finished a series of lightweight modules that sit on surface water but can be towed out to sea in case of an emergency. The colorful residences were shipped in 24 containers weighing 30 tons and then pumped out to the sea.
Ahmed Belhaj, the architect responsible for Vilvoorde Hall, said in an interview that the modules were designed to withstand a 600-kilometer stretch of road.
“But you can imagine we did not have access to highways or even ocean freeways,” he said. “So we decided to make our own. And we do have oceans and oceans and oceans.”
So far, there are a handful of homes left. More than 100 residents, using funds raised from locals and foreign investors, have spent about 600,000 euros ($840,000) on the homes, which are pitched at high-earning engineers, artists and others who have managed to build their own apartments from scratch.
Once the rooms are finished, each homeowner pays a monthly fee of 18 euros ($24).
Today, the apartment areas are barely noticeable. It’s the balconies, though, that are the thing to behold. The apartments have wooden decks with large water views. The designs resemble a combination of huts and boats, all of which float in the canal.
There are larger, spacious houses, too, that the developers hoped to sell for 20,000 euros ($25,700) or more.
Belhaj admitted that Vilvoorde Hall was “very expensive” and a lot of the money came from foreign sources. He said that he had contemplated making it a far more luxurious place to live, with sophisticated bathrooms and a pool, but that the current complex represents a compromise. The apartments are meant to be affordable, but the homes themselves are an investment that the developers hope will pay off over the years.
“I don’t have big plans,” he said. “I just wanted to show that something like this could be done in Europe.”
Since the homes were unveiled last year, Vilvoorde Hall has drawn comparisons to the “bridge” houses in Denver, where homeowners move their homes to neighboring properties at the first signs of trouble.
One of the most interesting properties is the community co-op apartment (the fourth floor of one of the larger homes), where an entire floor is kept free of noise, dust and other distractions. When apartments are empty, the entire floor is turned into a performance space, with dance, sculpting and music performances.
Vilvoorde Hall is the brainchild of companies from the Netherlands and Russia, and, according to Belhaj, Denmark’s national postal system.