Houseboat, London

A practice from each European country was asked to design a houseboat prototype for a housing fair in Sweden. Our aim was to design a house where the enclosure is experienced as a congruence of lines, rather than defined by surfaces. We described this spatial quality as a ‘thicket’.

The structure of the houseboat is a basket of woven carbon-fibre, derived from the traditional Irish craft of weaving currachs. The boat contains inflatable elements at high and low levels. The lower range is for flotation. The translucent upper range forms the roof and contains trapped argon gas as a form of insulation.

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Internally the living space has high-level storage rails that can be lowered into the room. In this house, nothing is hidden away. The quality of the architecture comes from the accumulation of possessions.

You enter the houseboat through a dense loggia of solar panels. In summer, these power a heat exchange system where cool water is pumped through copper pipes in the external walls. In winter, the solar electricity is directed into the argon inflatable roof elements, which work like very low powered fluorescent fittings, glowing gently through the long winter nights.

At the heart of our project is the delight of hiding in a hedge. Light is dappled and there is no horizon or vista. The atmosphere is one of immersion in the dense substance of the house.