With a reputation that’s more fabled than fiendish, it’s easy to forget that the River Thames — the tideway section that flows through the heart of London, included — is a highly temperamental waterway prone to swelling, bursting and negatively impacting the more than 1.5 million people who live in its floodplain.

Some, however, are well aware of the Thames’ oft-ruinous nature. Just ask infallible human being and frequent MNN subject, George Clooney. Or anyone else who has dealt with destructive — and at times, deadly — flood events of 1928, 1947, 1968, 1993, 1998, 2006, 2014 … and the list goes on.

And then there’s Erica and Peter, residents of the southwest-of-London village of Wraysbury, who have been repeatedly dealt a soggy blow by Mother Nature since buying their Thames-abutting dream home in 2000. Apparently, they were told before closing on the home that the chance of major flooding on their property was 1 in 100 — a minimal risk; nothing to worry about, right?

Wrong. In the last 15-odd years, the couple have dealt with five damaging floods with the last major flood, in 2014, being the final straw.

Wary and waterlogged but not wanting to abandon the home they’ve come to know and love, Erica and Peter turned to London-based BAT Studio to conceive a modest structure that doesn’t replace their actual house but serves as a sort of fixed rescue raft for their most vulnerable — and valuable — possessions.

As Erica recently explained to Gizmag, the living area of their home sits safely above the flood level but their subterranean garage and storage areas are at risk. “We approached BAT Studio for a solution that could provide a safe refuge for bulky items during a flood but was also a useful space for the rest of the year,” she said.

Greenhouse That Grows Legs by BAT StudioThis leg-growing backyard greenhouse outside of London will eventually be filled with plants .... and other possessions in the event of flooding. (Video screenshot: BAT Studio/Vimeo)

That solution materialized as Greenhouse That Grows Legs, a modest timber structure that primarily functions as a spacious backyard potting shed. But when the Thames spills over its banks and Erica and Peter are, once again, forced to confront potential flood damage, the greenhouse can be packed with at-risk furniture and possessions relocated from their home.

And then, as you can see in the excellently soundtracked video above, something remarkable happens: the 312-square-foot steel-framed structure, with just the touch of a button via remote control, is lifted over 2-and-a-half-feet in the air by four hydraulic legs. Once the floodwaters recede and the coast is clear, the greenhouse can be lowered back down to its normal position.

Writes BAT Studio:

The structure of the building itself is formed from glue laminated timber sections. Along the building’s most prominent facade, the ‘glulam’ columns are expressed externally and have mirrors bonded to their sides. The result is an ambiguous visual effect which blurs the building, its contents and its surroundings. As the building becomes established and filled with plants we hope this effect will become better and better.

The aim was to construct an experimental building exploring a novel approach to flood defence whilst not compromising the quality of the buildings design. It is a Greenhouse Which Grows Legs — but we think it’s also a very nice greenhouse!

While ingenious, the frequency of flooding does make we wonder if the structure would be better used for year-round storage and a full-time greenhouse. While certainly not as painful as having cherished possessions damaged/destroyed by floodwater, I imagine that moving large/bulky items to and from the cellar with each flood warning could get cumbersome. That's potentially a lot of back and forth-ing, rearranging and heavy lifting. For Erica and Peter’s sake, I hope that it’s not.

Of course, this all leads to the possibility of the hydraulics-assisted elevation of entire flood-prone homes, not just plant-filled auxiliary buildings used for emergency storage. It’s not totally out of the question as hydraulics are being considered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one (rather costly) way to spare Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House — a 1951 modernist landmark located outside of Chicago along the Fox River, a tempestuous tributary of the Illinois River — from future flood damage.

Via [Gizmag], [Designboom]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.