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'The Float' an expressive floating cork house in Leiden, Netherlands by Studio RAP

Project name:
The Float
Architecture firm:
Studio RAP
Leiden, Netherlands
Riccardo De Vecchi
Principal architect:
Design team:
CLT contractor: JM Concepten. CLT supplier: KLH Austria. Window frames: Metaglas. Cork supplier: Prosuber, Amorim.
Interior design:
Built area:
Site area:
Design year:
Completion year:
Civil engineer:
Studio RAP
Structural engineer:
Summum Engineering
Environmental & MEP:
Tools used:
Solid cork facade with the timber interior
Residential › House

Studio RAP: For a private client we designed a floating home that is completely cladded in cork. The solid cork facade with the timber interior captures light and creates a wonderful tranquil experience from the inside. The outside blends subtly with the picturesque canals in the historical city centre of Leiden (NL). The use of only two main materials, timber and cork, radically simplified its construction while creating simple yet elegant details.

Architectural concept 

‘‘Our client asked us to design an innovative and sustainable floating home along the picturesque canals in the historical city of Leiden (NL). Our design for the main mass is based on the idea that the house could be a series of atmospheres representing functions of living that at the same time avoid a single floating container appearance.’’ Taking this as the starting point for the design a series of smaller modules were designed and rotated towards the lush nature on the opposite side of the canal. Afterwards extra panels were added in between the modules and folded, creating intricate 3d corrugated walls and a roof. 

Origami structure 

The non-standard structure of this floating home was inspired by origami-principles and folded structures. This results in greater spans with less material than more conventional forms of structure. This load bearing structure was completely realised in Cross-Laminated-Timber (CLT), a solid, timber and bio-based material that was left exposed as the interior finish. In close collaboration with the structural engineer, folds were designed and parametrically optimised for the walls and roof that resulted in a reduction over 2000kg of timber.


The timber structure is solely clad in cork, a low density cork insulation layer and a high density cork outer layer bonded by a cork mortar layer, creating walls that breathe with a healthy and comfortable interior climate as a result. The expanded cork used in this project is a pure plant-based material with a unique ecological origin giving the building an exceptionally low carbon footprint. Cork is also a great material to manufacture digitally, all cork modules were cnc-cut creating neat seams between them and bespoke window details.

Digital workflow

All phases of this project have been realised fully digital, from design to realisation. Directly from its digital design all digital production data for the CLT and cork was made and structural calculations were done. The advantage of a solely digital workflow is that everything remains digital and therefore variable, making it possible to do changes without any problems until late in the realisation process. In this way, different design scenarios can easily be tested for planning, technical and financial feasibility. Sustainability was central in this digital workflow and guided most design decisions, in this way the project aspires to push the industry further with sustainable architecture and look beyond the use of conventional construction materials and methods.


Studio RAP is an architectural design company where we combine the power of computational design with innovative digital fabrication methods. Our team consists of architects, designers, roboticists, programmers and researchers. Together we explore innovative technology and try to improve the way we design, produce, manage and build architecture. 

We are based in Rotterdam where we surround ourselves with robots in an industrial atmosphere where we can discover and realise challenging architecture. In close collaboration with our client we design from vision to detail. With diagrams, visuals and prototypes we make the design process clear and insightful. With experience in design, fabrication and contracting we deliver unique buildings within time and budget. In our workshop in the Innovation Dock in Rotterdam we develop innovative building processes together with extraordinary designs. 

Together with our robots we challenge the traditional way of building and rethink the architectural profession. This results not only in expressive buildings but also in a thorough hands-on approach to solve problems in the building industry. Our clients vary from municipalities and multinationals to private individuals. They’re characterised by a shared passion for innovation and design. 

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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