The overwater bungalow concept originated in Tahiti in the mid-’60s, when a group of American expats bought and rebuilt a decrepit Raiatea hotel and creatively repositioned its lack of a beach as a boon, using traditional Tahitian fishing huts as a model to construct stilted bungalows over the calm waters of the reef. The overwater bungalow—of which there are now more than 7,000 worldwide—has since become a symbol of extreme luxury, with price tags to match.
And more continue to spring up, hoteliers undaunted, even as it would seem that extreme weather and environmental concerns might make them harder to build and harder to maintain. Just two years after Hurricane Irma destroyed the island, the Royalton Antigua Resort and Spa opened in July with six plush overwater bungalows—Antigua’s first, and the first in the hotel brand’s portfolio. In the Maldives, oft-reported to be sinking, Waldorf Astoria debuted the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi with 56 ultra-luxurious villas perched confidently above the Indian Ocean. In both cases, sea level rise was a huge consideration—standards for building are three feet higher above sea level than they were just 15 years ago—as was minimizing environmental impact. “We spent months studying the area’s tides, seabed quality, and characteristics, and the underwater fauna and flora,” says Royalton architect Jack Zyman of Mexico City–based firm Zyman & Zyman. In the Maldives, Waldorf Astoria architects worked under a strict Environmental Impact Assessment with an eye toward preserving the increasingly fragile coral reefs.
Such measures are fairly new, and add to the general complexity of building, basically, hovering hotel rooms. Yet while modern innovations like 3-D modeling, better excavating equipment, and rust- and salinity-resistant materials have increased the durability of overwater bungalows, the general concept of construction remains as it did when the expats thatched their first overwater roof in Tahiti, even as the earth has become less predictable.
At the Royalton, Zyman and his team called on indigenous construction techniques to design “most efficiently,” he says. The process starts with a survey of the sea base, in order to determine the placement and type of stilts. A sandy ocean floor might require concrete bases beneath each stilt; stronger soil, or a floor made of solid rock, can support piling. “The problem comes—and it always comes—when each of your six or eight different stilts has to be piled at different depths,” says Belgian-born, Malaysia-based architect Jean Michel Gathy, who has designed some of the world’s most memorable overwater bungalows, including those at One&Only at Reethi Rah and Cheval Blanc Randheli, both in the Maldives, and at Aman’s now-shuttered Hotel Bora Bora. The number of stilts matters, too: Too many, says Gathy, might impact not only marine life but also water flow and, ultimately, the shoreline.
Source: Architectural Digest - Florida Real Estate Photography Blog - DeVore Design offers real estate photography, aerial photography and real estate videos from in Daytona Beach, Orlando, Lakeland and Tampa. We encourage you to share our content!