Building on Piers: 8 Projects Floating Above Water

Exploring reflection, pier buildings reveal powerful relationships between surface and structure.

Eric Baldwin Eric Baldwin

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Architecture emerges from context. Whether created to embrace or reorganize their surroundings, buildings are formed with careful attention to thresholds, boundaries and borders. Straddling the space between land and water, pier buildings must tackle unique environmental conditions. Connected to the shoreline, these structures utilize novel spatial strategies and material assemblies. Made at various scales, pier buildings can be cultural, residential or commercial in nature.

Exploring pier buildings from the Architizer database, the following collection showcases how designers are creating spaces that elevate human experience. Drawing new boundaries, each project creates modern relationships between program and building envelope. Tying into natural processes and rhythms, the projects juxtapose constraints with cultural values. As investigations into reflection, they reveal powerful relationships between surface and structure.

© Andreas Fuhrimann Gabrielle Hächler Architects

© Andreas Fuhrimann Gabrielle Hächler Architects

© Andreas Fuhrimann Gabrielle Hächler Architects

© Andreas Fuhrimann Gabrielle Hächler Architects

Finish Tower Rotsee by Andreas Fuhrimann Gabrielle Hächler Architects, Luzern, Switzerland

As a three-story prefabricated wood tower, this landmark in Luzern rises above the water on a pillared concrete platform. Providing access to both the water and shore, the design was made as both a functional building and a sculpture in the lake.

© Architekturfotograf Rasmus Norlander

© Architekturfotograf Rasmus Norlander

© Architekturfotograf Rasmus Norlander

© Architekturfotograf Rasmus Norlander

Skjern Å by Johansen Skovsted, Skjern, Denmark

As a conversion of a pump station along the Skjern River, this design includes indoor and outdoor viewpoints and gathering spaces overlooking the natural basin area. Resting above the waterway, the project creates a direct link between the original existing structure and the new.

© Bossley Architects

© Bossley Architects

© Bossley Architects

© Bossley Architects

Voyager NZ Maritime Museum by Bossley Architects, Auckland, New Zealand

Recording New Zealand’s yachting history and exhibiting vessels themselves, the Voyager museum expands outwards and upwards over the water. Adapting an existing build, the project was formed with a series of planes which rethink the traditional form of the sheds.

© Foreign Office Architects

© Foreign Office Architects

© Foreign Office Architects

© Foreign Office Architects

Yokohama International Passenger Terminal by Foreign Office Architects, Yokohama, Japan

Formed as a “no-return pier,” this passenger terminal was designed as a fluid and uninterrupted multi-dimensional space. Exploring structural and spatial flows, the project features interlocking circulation loops as an extension of urban ground and folded surface.

© EHDD

© EHDD

© Chibi Moku - Architectural Photo Cinema

© Chibi Moku - Architectural Photo Cinema

Exploratorium at Pier 15 by EHDD, San Francisco, Calif., United States

Built along Pier 15 in San Francisco, the Exploratorium project was designed as an interactive landscape for the bay area. With spaces for education and discovery, the design includes multiple outdoor areas formed around the waterfront with continuous surfaces.

© Kennedy & Violich Architecture

© Kennedy & Violich Architecture

© Kennedy & Violich Architecture

© Kennedy & Violich Architecture

East 34th Street Ferry Terminal by Kennedy & Violich Architecture, New York, N.Y., United States

As the primary public ferry terminal along the East River, this was the first public project in New York City built with digitally fabricated shop-built building components. Exploring energy efficiency and ‘atomized’ services, the design integrates architecture and engineering above the waterway.

© OTH Architecten

© OTH Architecten

© OTH Architecten

© OTH Architecten

Kraanspoor by OTH Architecten, Amsterdam, Netherlands

This office building in The Netherlands is supported by a concrete crane way below, and the construction is characterized by its transparent double-skin climate façade of glass. The outer layer of moveable motor-driven glass louvers appear as lace-work around the building.

© Lang + Schwärzler

© Lang + Schwärzler

© Lang + Schwärzler

© Lang + Schwärzler

Badehaus Am Kaiserstrand by Lang + Schwärzler, Am Kaiserstrand, Lochau, Austria

Designed as a bathhouse in western Austria, this project looks out to views of Pfaender Mountain and the Bay of Bregenz. Raised on a series of piers, the structure is connected to the coast of Lake Constance and extends a cultural promenade.

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© ACDF Architecture

Playster offices // ACDF Architecture

Montreal, Canada

© INCA Architectes

Arjuzanx Natural Reserve // INCA Architectes

Arjuzanx, France

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