The Float

For a private client Studio RAP designed a sustainable floating home from timber and solid cork. The exposed timber interior captures light and creates a wonderful tranquil interior experience, the exposed cork exterior blends in subtly with the atmosphere of the historical city. The use of mainly two materials, timber and cork, radically simplified its construction while creating simple yet elegant details.

Location Leiden, NL
Year 2021
Client Private
CLT contractor JM Concepten
CLT supplier KLH Austria 
Window frames Metaglas
Cork supplier Prosuber, Amorim
Contractor Private
Structural design Summum Engineering
Engineering Studio RAP
Status Completed
Videos & photos Riccardo De Vecchi

Architectural concept
‘‘Our client asked us to design an innovative and sustainable floating home along the picturesque canals in the historical city of Leiden (NL). Our design for the main mass is based on the idea that the house could be a series of atmospheres representing functions of living that at the same time avoid a single floating container appearance.’’ Taking this as the starting point for the design a series of smaller modules were designed and rotated towards the lush nature on the opposite side of the canal. Afterwards extra panels were added in between the modules and folded, creating intricate 3d corrugated walls and a roof.
Origami structure
The non-standard structure of this floating home was inspired by origami-principles and folded structures. This results in greater spans with less material than more conventional forms of structure. This load bearing structure was completely realised in Cross-Laminated-Timber (CLT), a solid, timber and bio-based material that was left exposed as the interior finish. In close collaboration with the structural engineer, folds were designed and parametrically optimised for the walls and roof that resulted in a reduction over 2000kg of timber.

The timber structure is solely clad in cork, a low density cork insulation layer and a high density cork outer layer bonded by a cork mortar layer, creating walls that breathe with a healthy and comfortable interior climate as a result. The expanded cork used in this project is a pure plant-based material with a unique ecological origin giving the building an exceptionally low carbon footprint. Cork is also a great material to manufacture digitally, all cork modules were cnc-cut creating neat seams between them and bespoke window details.
Digital workflow
All phases of this project have been realised fully digital, from design to realisation. Directly from its digital design all digital production data for the CLT and cork was made and structural calculations were done. The advantage of a solely digital workflow is that everything remains digital and therefore variable, making it possible to do changes without any problems until late in the realisation process. In this way, different design scenarios can easily be tested for planning, technical and financial feasibility. Sustainability was central in this digital workflow and guided most design decisions, in this way the project aspires to push the industry further with sustainable architecture and look beyond the use of conventional construction materials and methods.