The world's sea levels are rising, so this architect built a floating house.
News flash: Our sea levels are rising at an unprecedented rate, and low-lying cities are already ankle-deep in the effects.
Case in point: Venice, Italy.
While levees and drainage channels may help in the short term, a long-term solution will likely involve some major changes to our habitats.
Thankfully, there are architects like Matthew Butcher who have been thinking about this issue for years.
Unlike other architects, most of whom are looking for ways to combat rising sea levels, Butcher has taken a different approach: working with the rising seas.
He believes that adapting to our changing environment is perhaps the only way we’ll survive.
That's why he built a floating house.
Pretty cool, right? Here’s how he came up with the idea:
“For the last 10 years, I have been exploring architectures that might exist within a flood-prone environment. At the core of this is an exploration around the relationship our buildings form to the environment and how they negotiate the differential between an inside and outside condition,” Butcher told Upworthy.
Butcher is a professor at the University College London's Bartlett School of Architecture and co-founder of the architecture practice Post-Works.
He’s been exploring architectural concepts on paper that respond to flooding landscapes for years, but thanks to a commission from Radical Essex, a year-long architecture program, one of his text-based projects became a reality.
This is what his floating house idea originally looked like in its infancy:
And here's a more advanced version:
Since April 18, 2016, locals have seen the Flood House, as it was appropriately christened, bobbing along in the Thames Estuary.
While the design is quite modern, Butcher took a great deal of his inspiration from the surrounding water-based community.
“The house references the fishing huts, concrete bunkers, the marine infrastructures and the industrial structures along the East Essex coastline. I have come to understand these structures as a kind of Estuary Vernacular, of which I have tried to make the Flood House respond,” he told Upworthy.
But don’t let the fancy exterior fool you. Inside, the house is stark.
That, too, is purposeful. The interior is basically a shelter from the elements, and nothing more. The house is not meant to help us live the comfortable lives to which we’ve become accustomed, but rather to survive if continuous flooding forces us to become completely nomadic.
And you thought "Waterworld" was just a movie.
“Life in the Flood House would have to be very simple, almost primitive. There is no access to electricity or running water,” Butcher explained.
And yes, these utilities might be implemented if this prototype were to ever become a real, functional house. But for now, Butcher said, it’s simply meant to demonstrate how architecture could cater more to an environment that’s literally ebbing and flowing.
The house does, however, possess one fancy ornament.
It's a weather vane with the word "Level" written on it, commissioned for the house by artist Ruth Ewan.
According to a press release, the title of the work was taken from a speech by the 14th-century priest and political activist John Ball and refers to the concept of social equality as well as the rise and fall of the tides.
Butcher hopes the Flood House will help other architects realize that the way they're currently building isn't about working with our surroundings, but against them.
“We continue to construct buildings to be these things that are at great cost to the environment. We seal our houses up from the weather, heating and cooling them mechanically," Butcher said.
"This puts massive pressure on natural resources used in supplying the energy for these operations. The Flood House instead presents the idea of a nomadic architecture that is subservient to the environment in which it exists. It rises and falls with the tide and travels with the currents.”
He says this isn't meant to be seen as a solution, but rather a warning that it could be our future if we don’t start reevaluating the way we live and adapt.
Rising sea levels are our reality now.
So considerable changes in how we interact with the seas must be made as we sail further into the uncharted waters of the 21st century.
Thanks to innovative thinkers like Butcher, constructive conversations about how we'll survive are already underway.