A bold new residential building in Amsterdam has given the phrase “living on the water” a whole new meaning. The Sluishuis by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Barcode Architects rises directly from the water, coming to a point like the bow of a ship. Its creators envision it as an entire city block with its own port, set directly on the IJburg Steigereiland lake. Even better, this building benefits more than just the ultra-wealthy people who can usually afford to enjoy such views. Its 442 zero-energy residences are about half owner-occupied and half rentals, making space for a range of different income levels and age groups.


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Docks for boats inside the waterfront

Located within the newly revitalized Steigereiland neighborhood, the first of the IJburg islands when approaching from central Amsterdam, the Sluishuis references the industrial and maritime heritage of the area, as well as its vernacular architecture. The architects wanted it to feel like a traditional European courtyard house was enlarged, modernized, and adapted for the canal-centric landscape of Amsterdam. The 527,000-square-foot building juts out over the waterfront on the outskirts of the city, with a triangular opening acting as a “gate” through which 54 boats can dock at an inner port.

Inside the Sluishuis complex, the apartments are all arranged in a terraced fashion.

Stepped promenade running through the Sluishuis apartments glows in the twilight.

The Sluishuis apartment complex's triangular

The units on this cantilevered side of the building feature glass balconies over the water, giving them incredible views looking either outward at the city or inward at the courtyard and its gardens. The apartments at the rear of the building step down to the docks, each with its own spacious outdoor terrace. A promenade winds around the building, inviting visitors — including the public — to climb all the way up to the rooftop gardens and gaze out at the new neighborhoods on the IJ. It also connects to an archipelago of public program elements like mooring points for 34 houseboats, floating gardens, and a sailing school.

Wall of glass balconies on Amsterdam's ship-like Sluishuis apartment complex.

Walkable courtyard in the Sluishuis apartment complex offers a nice public seating area to both tenants and visitors.

Native plants emerge from giant planters and climb the facades throughout the complex, and large windows draw daylight into all corners of the building. Untreated aluminum reflects the play of light across the water, helping the Sluishuis blend into its environment. The units include duplex penthouses, urban studios, and premium apartments, and all of the homes are accessed through the central courtyard. All 442 apartments are energy-neutral, and power for the building comes from 2,200 square meters (about 75,347 square feet) of solar panels.

Aerial view of the BIG-designed Sluishuis apartment complex in Amsterdam.

“With iconic architecture, as well as new housing typologies, high-quality outdoor spaces, and breathtaking views of the IJmeer, Sluishuis is a new landmark for IJburg as well as Amsterdam,” says Dirk Peters, a founding partner at Barcode Architects. “We have tried to design a building with a surprisingly changing perspective and a unique contemporary character, which reflects the identity of the future residents and all users of Sluishuis.”

Ship-like Sluishuis Apartment Complex in Amsterdam, designed by BIG and Barcode Architects.

“Having spent my formative years as an architect in Holland at the end of the 20th century, it feels like a homecoming to now get to contribute to the architecture of the city that I have loved and admired for so long,” says Bjarke Ingels, founding partner of BIG.