In Amsterdam, a young boy wakes up one morning in a sleek modular home that merrily bobs along within a community of similarly floating residences. For all his life, the boy has shared the buoyant abode with his mother and father.
Groggily shuffling out of his bedroom, the boy immediately notices that something is different — something is missing. And that missing something is an entire half of the house — a full section of the family home that has vanished during the middle of the night and floated away. Disoriented, the boy finds his mother sitting out on what remains of the deck drinking coffee and reading the paper. Her eyes are heavy and she's wearing a bathrobe.
"Mommy, where did the rest of the house go?" the boy asks.
"Come here," his mother says, gesturing for the boy to come sit beside her. "We should have a talk. You see, Mommy and Daddy had a bit of a fight last night ..."
If floating homes can be designed to respond to whatever Mother Nature and the housing market throws at them — think rising sea levels or the affordable housing crises — who says they can’t weather the storm of a marriage gone belly-up?
Dutch entrepreneur and PR guru Omar Kbiri believes that floating homes — specifically prefabricated floating homes designed to detach into two separate yet equal units when a couple officially throws in the proverbial towel — are ideal for navigating the oft-messy landscape of divorce proceedings.
Conceived in partnership with Amsterdam-based architecture firm Studio OBA, Kbiri's aptly named Prenuptial Housing concept is both practical and exceedingly poetic. After all, how many homes out there are meant to physically detach and drift apart at the same time that the inhabitants are emotionally doing the same exact thing?
And whereas the above scenario — waking up to find that a parent and his share of the family home has quietly floated away — isn’t ideal, there is peace of mind knowing that both parents will continue to have the same roof over their heads … just in different locations. That is, even though the family home has been severed into two separate entities, mom’s house will essentially remain the same as dad’s house. As far as real estate goes, the break has been clean, balanced and uncomplicated with no sparring over who-gets-what.
Plus, in the event of prolonged conjugal sojourns, there’s always the chance the two estranged individuals will reconcile and drift back towards each, floating homes in tow, at some point in the future. There's a bit of hope built into this divorce-ready residence.
And if the relationship is indeed well beyond repair, there’s always the chance that a single guy or gal in possession of half-a-floating home will bump into another divorcee in possession of similar digs and shack up together, eventually uniting two independent housing units as a whole.
“Due to the way we designed it, the house responds to the flow of the relationship: when all is well, the house remains a unity," Vincent Ringoir of Studio OBA recently explained to Dezeen. "But when couples separate, the house — literally — drifts apart as well. And how nice would it be if separate units would one day reconnect again when a new relationship blossoms?"
The specifics behind how the “connecting mechanism” that holds the two sections of the lightweight timber-framed home together (or how it's disengaged) are unclear. However, I’m picturing a big red button enclosed in a glass case somewhere in the utility room. (“Press only during times of extreme marital strain and with a lawyer present” an affixed placard might read.)
Composed of two interlocking sections designed to split apart in the event of a not-so-blissful marriage, Studio OBA's divorce-ready floating housing concept can also be rejoined if and when that flame is rekindled. (Rendering: Studio OBA)
A smart investment of an exercise in fate-tempting?
As kooky as this all may sound, Kbiri along with Ringoir and his colleagues at Studio OBA are confident that freshly betrothed or hitched couples will respond positively to a home that can be split evenly if divorce or annulment enters the picture down the line. (It could be argued, however, that moving into a floating house designed to detach when things go south is asking for it.)
“With the increasing number of divorces each year, our concept is — regrettably — becoming more and more relevant," Kbiri tells Dezeen. “I especially like the fact that we can stabilise the home front during an otherwise very hectic time. With this concept you namely don't need to relocate after a break-up."
While directly inspired by the houseboats and floating homes that line the canals of Amsterdam and other Dutch cities, Kbiri and co. are eyeing European countries with high divorce rates — Portugal, Hungary and Belgium among them — as potential places to introduce the concept.
As of now, Kbiri is trying to secure potential investors as Studio OBA fleshes out plans to build a functional prototype unit. Provided that all goes as planned, the team hopes to start taking pre-orders in 2017.
As Kbiri explains to the Huffington Post, the idea for Prenuptial Housing came from his own experiences hunting for a new home with a new love. “A lot of the people around us came up with the horror stories of break-ups and divorces. What happens with mortgages, taxes and needing to find something new quick ... moving back in with your parents, even. So I thought, ‘Why isn’t there a house that is built for that?’”
Aside from soured marriages, the concept could potentially appeal to downsizing parents with grown children who are beginning to graduate from college (and perhaps threatening to move back home). Just think: a combination Millennial starter home-empty nester dwelling that can be re-conjoined for major holidays.
What’s more, with a bit of tweaking, Studio OBA’s design could work for granny flats and in-law apartments. Has your visiting mother-in-law overstayed her welcome? With just a push of a button, you could easily set her adrift for a couple of hours — or days — without fully giving her the boot.