Crossboundaries Re-designes a Fully Solar-powered Motorboat with High-end Tiny-home Characteristics

With the world seemingly turned upside down due to pandemic travel restrictions, the effects of global warming, conflicts, an energy crisis, and more, the time has never seemed more urgent for a refuge with a high level of self-sufficient energy and the ability to remain mobile despite mounting challenges. Crossboundaries has re-designed a fully solar-powered motorboat with high-end, tiny-home characteristics that enable it to function as a slow-motion traveling nest.


Tiny home on the water. Photo credit: Johanna Link

The exterior’s resemblance to a bus on the water sparked the interest of the new owner, and with enough space to invite family and friends aboard for a getaway, she named the personal reenergizing retreat “Fàng Sōng 放松”, which translates from Chinese into “Relax”.


The boat on tour. Photo credit: Johanna Link

A transient space

Itinerant forms of architecture were first performed out of necessity and, more recently, out of willingness - the current architectural agenda debates our notions of public-private and temporary-permanent. A home that was once linked to real estate ownership now shifts to a network of commodities that can be moved to different places.

One of the great attractions of urban living is the notion of being able to easily access all the services and goods you need. But what if those services came to you?

-from Archigram "The Walking City" (1964)


Kitchen area in use. Photo credit: Johanna Link

A House that floats: Compact and transformable

This compact space is a perfect match for Crossboundaries because it allows for testing flexibility in micro-dwellings where each room assumes multiple programmatic roles. The appeal of water in this project is to explore the possibility of adapting, while challenging assumed and conventional norms.

With an overall length of about 15m, and a maximum width of a bit over 4m, the boat includes a set of interlinked and multi-purpose areas.


Cabinet with foldable desk. Photo credit: Johanna Link

The boat's color palette celebrates creativity, and it is highly customizable and extremely practical. Functionality improvements include a fully hidden bed with a function to close the “helmstand”, which hides the more technical equipment of the boat, achieving a calmer sense of home. Additionally, it includes a pop-up table for the kitchen area, and a hidden foldable desk included in a cabinet, providing a “work-from-home” environment.


Helmstand. Photo credit: Johanna Link


Bed in use. Photo credit: Johanna Link


Removable kitchen table. Photo credit: Johanna Link


"Boat office" Photo credit: Johanna Link

A living machine: Technical and sustainable integration

Research in material quality and durability led the concept to a craftsmanship level. With a results-driven approach and virtual project management, some actors, including the local master carpenter, were key in the execution phase. The boat is "smart and self-powered" due to a set of innovative solutions in terms of solar energy, heating source, water, and waste management.


Backsplash in Kitchen area. Photo credit: Johanna Link


Bathroom with open window. Photo credit: Johanna Link

On sunny days, the houseboat is fully self-reliant on its solar panels, with an average range of 50km per day. A pellet stove, remotely controlled by an app, was installed to satisfy heating demands with a source of renewable energy. In the future, the owner plans to add a water purification system and a biological sewage treatment unit to upgrade the boat for long journeys.


Afternoon sunlight coming in. Photo credit: Johanna Link

This 'Tiny Home on the Water' can be conceived as a unit of the city, containing a comprehensive set of urban resources. Ideally, in the future, people can free themselves from too many possessions and embrace denser, high quality spaces that enable more flexible ways of life.


On the outside deck. Photo credit: Johanna Link

About Crossboundaries

Crossboundaries contributes to a vital built environment through architecture, environmental design, and urban regeneration. The studio creates enduring architecture that often deals with remarkable technical processes, yet always has a pleasant material touch and human atmosphere.

Organized as an international partnership, members of the Crossboundaries team originate from and were trained in different parts of the world. The firm's first office was founded in Beijing, China in 2005 by Binke Lenhardt and DONG Hao. Later, in 2012, a partner office was established in Frankfurt, Germany by Binke Lenhardt and Antje Voigt.

After receiving their Masters Degrees in Architecture from Pratt Institute, Binke Lenhardt and DONG Hao worked in New York for several years before making their home in China. In Beijing, they both started off at the Beijing Institute of Architectural Design (BIAD) before founding Crossboundaries. Today, they frequently lecture and teach at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), as well as at Tsinghua University.

Crossboundaries has completed a wide range of small-scale interior designs and architectural projects of larger size. The firm's project portfolio includes Aimer’s Lingerie Factory, several Beida High Schools, Family Box, Soyoo Joyful Growth Center, kindergartens in rural areas, showrooms, and offices in collaboration with Siemens and BMW. The firm also engages in theoretical research projects such as China House Vision, exhibited at the 15th International Architecture La Biennale di Venezia, as well as in Beijing in 2018. Crossboundaries is also actively participating in the current discourse on architecture in China.