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Living on water: homes that reinvent the life aquatic

It’s no accident that the majority of holiday destinations are on the water. In fact, it’s science.

Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols defines the experience of ‘blue mind’ that is fostered in the human brain by proximity to lakes, rivers and the sea. ‘A mildly meditative state characterised by calm, peacefulness, unity and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.’ In other words, water makes you happy.

Living on water: Watershed Lodge by HUUM architecture
Watershed Lodge by Hughes Umbanhowar Architects (HUUM), 2013, Big Timber, MT, USA. Photography: Gibeon Photography

Clearly, we should all immediately decamp to the seaside. But if that isn’t possible, take a temporary reprieve from reality with the latest publication from Phaidon. Living on Water is a global tour of some of the world’s finest contemporary houses built with water as a fundamental component of their design.

This can mean a variety of things. There are the houses built to look at water, their design focused around the view beyond the windows. F2 Architecture’s Pole House in Australia sits, as its name denotes, atop a 13m pole overlooking the Bass Strait with a narrow bridge connecting the floating abode to land and the Great Ocean Road.

Pole House by F2 Architecture, 2017, Fairhaven, Australia. Photography: Tanja Milbourne

There are the houses designed to sit on water, such as Alberto Morell’s Tulia House in Kenya, which occupies a seemingly inhospitable plot between a mangrove and a coral cliff, with a wide central staircase opening directly onto the sea. A more diminutive abode that is more literally on the water is the Exbury Egg, designed by PAD Studio, SPUD Group and Stephen Turner, currently afloat on the Beaulieu River in Hampshire.

Living on water , Manshausen Island Resort
Manshausen Island Resort by Stinessen Arkitektur, 2015, Manshausen, Norway. Photography: Siggen Stinessen

The third selection is of houses designed to reflect water. Amaro House in Mexico was designed by Alberto Campo Baeza and GLR Arquitectos in homage to the clean lines and central reflecting pools made famous by their fellow countryman Luis Barragán.

While most of the houses are private residences, some are available to rent, such as the sea cabins perched on the Norwegian coast at Manshausen Island Resort, offering spectacular views of both the sea and, occasionally, the Northern Lights.

‘Living on Water’ is published by Phaidon on 2 February 2018

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