Floating cities: The solution for a climate-resilient future?

More than half of the land in the Netherlands is at risk of being flooded from the North Sea and the river landscape. With rising sea levels and increasing heavy rainfall, the risk of flooding is increasing significantly. The presence of water is a great asset for many Dutch cities and challenges us to create climate-resilient urban designs. Our research on Floating Cities aims to investigate how we can construct entire cities on water. By focusing on floating buildings, we can take full advantage of our water-rich environment while meeting the needs of our expanding urban areas. This research was made possible by the Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie and done in collaboration with PAS BV, Buiting Advies, Dutch Lotus, Blue Revolution, the municipality of Utrecht, HDSR and the municipality of Rotterdam.

In our research on the floating city, we adopt new principles compared to existing floating homes. Up until now, floating construction in the Netherlands has mostly been limited to individual houses or small clusters of houses on separate floating platforms, either right by the shore or connected by a jetty. For our research on the floating city, we are focusing on a broader scale: the neighborhood and the district. This opens up numerous possibilities within the Netherlands and beyond. To create an attractive urban living environment on water, we strive for higher density, combining housing, workplaces, amenities, and ample green outdoor spaces. Just like in a regular city, but on the water.

To ensure that the floating city doesn't become an exclusive enclave, we prioritize establishing strong connections with the existing city, promoting diversity and inclusivity in the housing and work programs, and creating a lively public space with abundant greenery and access to the water for everyone. In short, a complete city.

Feasibility of the floating city

Floating cities need to be attractive and accessible to everyone, offering a range of amenities and green spaces, seamlessly blending with the surrounding environment. This requires an integrated design approach. Furthermore, consideration must be given to the foundation and feasibility of construction, as it is crucial for the floating city to be both structurally achievable and financially viable. Our research has demonstrated the technical possibility of constructing floating structures up to six stories high. The floating city is an innovative concept that can add a new chapter to the rich history of integrated urban planning in the Netherlands.

A new building form for municipalities

Building on water is still uncharted territory for many, and the idea of a floating city may raise some concerns. The knowledge we have gained through our research helps us engage in discussions with interested parties. There is an urgent need for a sustainable approach to spatial planning. Floating construction provides a solution for areas that are typically unsuitable for housing, such as areas outside dikes, areas prone to land subsidence, and areas where water storage is required in or near urban areas. Moreover, it offers the possibility of multiple land use, which is evident in a project undertaken by the municipality of Utrecht. There, an investigation was conducted to explore whether the spatial demands for an energy landscape, housing, and a large water buffer could be combined in a low-lying location on the city’s outskirts. Floating construction enables us to address these diverse challenges simultaneously.

Phase two

The research on the floating city is an ongoing process. In the initial phase, we established the feasibility of floating construction and its potential to provide a sustainable and resilient form of urban development. In the subsequent phase, we will utilize GIS analysis to map out potential locations for floating cities in the Netherlands, including areas with an increased risk of flooding. We will also focus on affordability and financing options for the floating city By further exploring the societal benefits and engaging relevant stakeholders, we aim to gain valuable insights into the future demand for climate-resilient and appealing floating cities. This second phase will be done in close collaboration with PAS BV, The Positive Lab, HDSR and the municipality of Utrecht. 

Regarding the case studies, they are focused on exploring the general potential of floating construction. The developed visuals and textual explanations are intended to inspire and stimulate thinking about compelling perspectives for floating construction.


The chosen case studies are purely meant as tools to bring these general concepts to life. They are not intended as concrete plans and therefore do not hold any status or impact on ongoing area developments or project implementations (such as the elaboration of the Merwehaven Masterplan). This applies to both the spatial designs and the presented number of residences.