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Jun / Jul 2014
Inside Out

WRITER: Nadine Khalil

Designed by an architect who went from high-end residences in London with Mackay and Partners to luxury hospitality projects with Denniston in Kuala Lumpur, Dymitr Malcew’s latest project, The Floating House, combines the best of both worlds.


One look at Dymitr Malcew’s Floating House is enough to tell you that it’s an offshoot of a houseboat. That said, the idea behind it springs from a more natural experience. “I grew up living on the Polish coast, open to the natural landscape of cliffs and sea. When I started to work on floating house designs years later, it was natural for me to blend nature, architecture and technology,” the designer explains.

Not made for the open sea, the house is designed to be easily moored in calmer places, like a protected bay or marina. According to Malcew not only is it a wonderful place to stay, it can also serve as your permanent home.

“Most houseboats are very basic and after I worked with Aquadomi in Denmark to design my first, which was build-to-order, we received many positive responses,” he continues, “so I wanted to take it to the next level. It’s a bit of a niche market because it is meant to be luxurious.”

For this Singapore-based architect, real luxury isn’t about opulence but about where a home is located, its connection with nature and light and the quality of the materials used in its construction.



Location is key to the way Malcew works. Before he begins planning a house, his priority is the site. A hill house he designed in Bali, for instance, merges with the steep landscape overlooking a valley. Malcew devised a way of maximising the narrow surface area available by building two interweaving ribbon-like structures. “I wanted to integrate the building into the topography so that it seemed an extension of it. You walk out of the living room and you’re directly on the top of the hill. The ribbon shape allows for this seamless connection. It’s as if the house were embedded in the hill.”

This ethos of subtle intervention allows Malcew to come up with solutions to the problems often associated with integrating buildings into unusual environments. In the case of the floating house for example, the use of columns to support its zinc-cladded roof, rather than walls, was essential to its success. “They make it a more flexible structure. If it were rigid, it wouldn’t be stable because you aren’t on the ground and the water is in motion. So the columns allow for the option of minor movement without too much disturbance. And the gap between the walls and the columns makes the most out of the daylight.”

In fact, the house has few walls to speak of. Sandwiched between a sleek horizontal tin roof and a thin, floating platform, most of the house is walled with framed glazed glass, open on all sides. Both roof and base extend beyond the glass, forming floating terraces, from which you can jump straight into the water. The overhang creates shade without shutting out too much natural light.

The result is a curious sense of privacy. While you are completely exposed to what’s outside, thanks to all that glass, as you are afloat, presumably far from other inhabitants, you’re also shielded.

The floating house was designed for Southeast Asia, with a tropical climate in mind but with a tweak or two, it could work as easily anywhere in the world. “At the moment, I’m speaking with a company in Bahrain about building it,” Malcew adds. “For it to work in Europe, I would need to limit how open the house is. By blending architecture with nature, I treat the surroundings as part of the design. I’m not so much focused on the form as on the experience and as the experience of nature in Asia is amazing, it feeds my work.”

Perhaps that’s why the Polish architect is still in Asia. Either way, Malcew appears determined to continue dreaming up houses that are as embedded in their environment as they are apart from it.

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