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"Barging" on the Vistula, or inland hospitality.

15 of January '21

Barging is not a discovery. In many countries, waterways have been used for years by barges and boats, restaurants, hotels and homes. In Poland, rivers and canals are still largely undeveloped, but living close to nature is increasingly in demand. Investors are looking for new solutions. Living on the water is not only a form of recreation, but also a lifestyle. Hotels on the water are on the rise... When will they start mooring entire estates?


Living on the water has many advantages, but it is certainly not for everyone. Barges moored in big cities like London, we tend to associate with the homes of artists, nomads, free souls and minimalists. Limited but cozy space, not too many comforts and extremely low cost of living (for an apartment in the center). Polish cities are still so affordable (compared to London, for example) that if we really want to live in the center, we can afford to rent even a small apartment in the center. In our culture, our own four brick walls are somehow equivalent to a sense of security. But things are slowly changing... We are increasingly willing to rent rather than buy, and when we do buy, we choose simple and lightweight structures. Can living on the water become a permanent part of the Polish idea of home?

plots on the water

Just like in the aforementioned London, a huge advantage of living on the water is the low cost of leasing. The area of water on which we put a house is much cheaper than the area of land. It turns out that renting a "water plot" is the same cost all over the country, regardless of the river or lake. In 2018 the rate, thanks to government regulations, is PLN 5 per square meter per year.

Until now, we have associated the development of rivers and canals with regulating them, building boulevards and providing tourist attractions. For some time now, architects have entered the game for water space. For the past two years there has been a dynamic increase in the number of moored restaurants, house hotels. Among architects, the Cracow firm Wotel is equalizing. Marcin Pacura and his partner Marcin Kukułka have been working on the best form of architecture on water for several years.

housoboats and armchairs

Initially, Wotel approached the subject of building on the water, quite like a boat. Construction of the first buildings took place in a shipyard. After the first trials, the architects changed the concept and returned to land. There they developed a completely new technology of water modular construction.

Krakow developers have pioneered a system that allows the customer to purchase components and literally assemble a house (quite like with land-based construction) and launch it.

The technology must be fine-tuned so that the modules align with each other where they are placed. This requires close cooperation of our entire team," the owners of WOTEL tell Gazeta Wyborcza.
Our houseboats or motels can sail on any river or lake. Usually it's not the environmental conditions that stand in the way of this, or, for example, local development plans," says Pacura.

Currently, WOTEL architects have already launched several buildings in Cracow (the first water hotels are standing near the Wawel Castle). Soon in Poznan the entire infrastucture will be built, a marina with a boathouse and more buildings.

Each city has different mooring conditions, so we can test different systems, says Cuckoo. - The weight of the furniture has to be considered, and already at the design stage we try to position it so that the building is sufficiently level. There are not too many limitations, because the stability of the object is taken care of by the platform itself, which is something like a steel pontoon. So there is no fear that if you move the sofa in the room, the building will tilt to one side.

The ordering system for water houses and hotels is as simple as buying a modular summer house. You can virtually select any components and order them to be assembled and launched.

today a motel, tomorrow a house

So far, foreign customers are the most numerous among buyers, especially from the UK, where canals have been inhabited for centuries.

It's not that the average Pole can't afford a floating house," Pacura stipulates. - There is life on the water, and Poles are getting used to it. But slowly, and rather than deciding to live in a house on the river, they are choosing to stay in a motel for a few days.

One of the greatest assets of Polish rivers is precisely the fact that they are not regulated. Wild banks in the center of the city are something absolutely unique on a European scale. How will the landscape change when Poles, too, are convinced to live in homes on the water permanently? Will leasing of water plots increase over time? All that remains is for us to keep a close eye on it and perhaps test it in the near future by going to a hotel on the water for a weekend.

Marta Kowalska

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