While they don’t quite hit the low-impact heights as let’s say, a permanently anchored floating cabin equipped with a composting toilet and solar panels, Serbian yacht design firm Salt & Water has done a rather bewitching job when it comes to conceptualizing a buoyant vacation retreat that also strives to be in harmony with the natural environment.

Developed as a means of fostering “tourism on inland waters that offer wonderful examples of untouched nature,” Salt & Water’s lake- or river-bound lodging concept — official name: “Floating Hotel with Catamaran-Apartments” — recently picked up the Millennium Yacht Design award in the “Dream Boat” category for its “elegant interpretation and enhancement of a house boat in an intelligent housing solution.”

Accolades aside, Salt & Water’s vision — Quartz calls it the “Four Seasons for Thoreau” — looks like a lovely place to kick back, unwind and literally detach. A kind of modular, mobile spin on overwater bungalow resorts so popular in the South Pacific, the design consists of a static central structure — a connecting hub, really, complete with a lobby, reception area, restaurant and event space — that juts out from the shore. Two docks extend from this main building; down each, guests will find six floating pods that they can navigate away from shore once checked-in.

Catamaran hotel suite concept by Salt & WaterRendering: Salt & Water

Catamaran hotel suite concept by Salt & WaterRendering: Salt & Water

What guests decide to do while detached from the hotel-cum-houseboat hub is totally up to them: sunbathe, swim, soak in the stunning natural scenery while set adrift. The point is to allow “guests to choose the perfect location for their vacation by themselves” while also making it easy for them to return their tricked-out catamaran digs to base-camp when dry land — or a free continental breakfast — beckons. It’s the best of both worlds: complete independence on the water and high-end hospitality on shore when you need it.

The main idea is to allow users to enjoy their visit through a navigation at a very slow speed and with an uninterrupted view of the nature around. For this reason, the catamarans have this unusual shape with large windows in the front. In other words, Catamarans-apartments can be considered as 'frames of the nature' — connecting the guests with the water and the sky and isolating them from the everyday’s stress.

In addition to large windows, each pod features a living area, galley, bathroom and plenty of storage space. There are also decks located at the bow and stern of the dainty vessel. In terms of sleeping arrangements, the catamarans aren’t spacious enough for large group outings. (Keep in mind the units are more akin to floating hotel rooms, not full-on, party-centric houseboats).

Catamaran hotel suite concept by Salt & WaterRendering: Salt & Water

Catamaran hotel suite concept by Salt & WaterRendering: Salt & Water

A sleeping loft can comfortably sleep two while a couch in the living area converts into a full-sized bed to accommodate a couple more very lucky bodies.

For now, Salt & Water’s floating hotel concept remains just that. However, thanks to the award and a subsequent flurry of fawning international press that at one point managed to overwhelm the firm's website, there’s hope that serious investors will step up to the proverbial plate and help to make catamaran lodging pods a reality.

Filled with beautiful lakes, three major rivers (the Danube, Sava and Tisa) and a robust houseboating culture, landlocked Serbia seems a natural place for a hotel with pontoon rooms. (Salt & Water is headquartered in Novi Sad, Serbia's second largest city).

Outside of the Balkans, are there any specific lakes or rivers that you’d like to see the concept executed in?

Via [Quartz], [PSFK]

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

Drift away into nature from the comfort of a modular floating hotel room
Luxury catamaran pod promises independence plus high-end hospitality.