There is an almost mystical lake in Cambodia called Tonle Sap, through which the mighty Mekong River flows. In the dry season, its banks recede out towards its centre, and when the rains come again, it swells back to its natural shape.
Along its banks are villages of Cambodian and Vietnamese fishermen who have built their homes on floating pontoons, so that as the lake breathes in and out, they hug close to its shores. Not only their homes float, but their schools, churches, markets and even a basketball court.
In hustling, bustling Amsterdam, a sizeable proportion of the city lives full-time on the canals and stolid barges house businesses and markets such as the gloriously colourful flower market.
Venice would be a nondescript northern Italian town without the romance of its waterways and in cities around the world, from New York to Liverpool, from London to Hong Kong, crumbling old docklands are re-emerging as desirable waterfront properties.
What is it about a waterfront that attracts people to work, live and relax? Why is one home beside a harbour worth twice as much as an exactly similar home inland? Why, if businesses are given a choice, will they jump at the chance of a waterside location?
Fred Multon, who is developing a water-based business park in the regenerated Edinburgh suburb of Leith, believes it is something about the feeling of light and space, and the constantly changing impact of sea and sky.
The architecturally-trained developer said: “In modern cities, it is very easy to feel disconnected from the natural environment, and closed off from the freedom of fresh air. Living and working near the water reminds us that there is more to the world than our small part in it.”
Multon’s company, Water of Leith 2000, is leading a