"The WaterBed was inspired by the nature and canal network within urban environments, specifically London," Daniel Durnin tells Gizmag. "It was an idea for a platform to reconnect with our surroundings and the beauty that we live within but often overlook."
The WaterBed offers a simple adventure experience that lies somewhere between camping and small-scale tourism. It was originally intended for users to set up a floating camp within an urban landscape with inland waterways or canals but it could easily be adapted to alternative city environments, such as Amsterdam or New York. Furthermore, keeping the WaterBed on land the shelter acts as a comfortable and easy to use instant retreat, without the fuss of setting up a tent.
"For me it’s the experience that you get using it, its quite magical to cycle along a path and then just push the WaterBed into the water and climb aboard. It's so relaxing and calming just enjoying your surroundings," says Durnin.
Drawing upon his background in furniture design and cabinet making, Durnin chose to hand build the very first WaterBed prototype using wooden materials. His design of the shelter focused on simplicity and providing minimal requirements for comfort and ease of use.
One person can easily slide the floating shelter into the bank and a couple of ropes secure it to the land and prevent it from floating away. Inside the shelter users can enjoy comfortable cushioned seating, which transform into bedding at night time, and a fold down side table perfect for enjoying a cup of coffee or a simple meal on the canal.
The WaterBed also features lots of windows and open air, enhancing the user's experience with the landscape, be it an urban canal, river or open bushland setting. Big opening windows at either end of the shelter offer views in both directions, coupled with the large retractable canvas located on the water-side of the boat. All windows and openings can be closed with curtains for privacy and/or shade.
"The idea was always to provide a connection to the WaterBed's surroundings, so I took a minimal approach in its design", says Durnin. "I chose wood as the main material, not only for its traditional use in constructing boats, but also for its environmental credentials. It also fits and complements its surroundings."
The floating shelter is relatively easy to tow on the back of a bicycle with a simple clip-on attachment. Weighing close to 75 kg (165 lb) in total, it is however a little on the heavy side if you're cycling uphill. On the plus side, the weight does make the boat more stable in the water, providing a better night's sleep.
"As this was the first prototype its most probably over engineered," says Durnin. "I employed traditional boat building techniques and, as with all boats, providing good maintenance it will last a long time. I tested it in Oxfordshire in the summer, it was comfortable and exciting. It's like being in a tent but you're on water!"
With his primary goal to inspire people to rediscover their urban landscapes, Durnin hopes to see his WaterBed being manufactured for commercial release or even developed further into open source and DIY plans.
"I am working on the Mk2 version of the WaterBed at the moment, and looking to expand the scope of the existing project," says Durnin. "I’m very interested in the way we see ourselves in our environment and like to challenge that so I am working on more interventions as well."