Ever since man first started building structures, water has been an innovative part whether its for indoor pools, exterior fountains, waterfalls of grand entrance piece. Architecture, through its process till now, has incorporated water in every way possible, engaging it with innovative techniques. Sometimes serving as an aesthetic purpose or sometimes promoting sustainability.
Water is a unique and limited resource, and how we incorporate it with the design now matters. Water features are set to take various different forms and serve different purposes. Today, the direction of incorporating has changed from aesthetic to new innovative uses that embrace the natural elements in the buildings itself.
Architecture and water have a brief history of the intersection, ranging from aqueducts engineered by the Romans to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. The relationship between both holds a new value in today’s modern age when climate change has become the driving factor. The innovative techniques of incorporating water are evolving with the close relationship between ecology and humans.
Following projects mentioned below feature water in various ways:
Proximity to Water:
- Dania Park, Sweco Architects: A waterfront park, located along the edge of the Oresund strait that divides Sweden and Denmark. Qualities from the existing site were initially hard to identify, but eventually, the projects acquired appreciation. The light, horizon, long views, sky, wind, and sea gave the waterfront park an upliftment in terms of design. All features in the park, from activities to functions, direct themselves to the sea, orienting towards the water.
- Carpa Olivera, Colectivo Urbano: Built-in 2015 with an area of 722 square meters, Carpa Olivera is a social center in the historic center of Mazatlan. Colectivo Urbano, a landscaping and urbanist firm, designed the project to recycle, clean, and return the pool fed by tidal water as a new playful element. A spiral slide dramatically promotes the social reactivation for locals and tourists.
- Steinsdalfossen Waterfall, JVA: Completed in 2014, consists of a tourist information center, parking areas, and restroom facility in addition to a footpath leading to the waterfall. The site is situated across the river from the waterfall integrating itself into the landscape and river. A slanted wall becomes the spine of the concrete project introducing different levels between roads and parking areas. The in-situ concrete material was added with a pigment containing chromium-dioxide, resulting in the green surface of the project, as it links the building to the surrounding landscape.
- The Infinite Bridge, Gjode & Povisgaard Arkitekter: Completed in 2015, the Infinite Bridge is a sculpture about the surrounding experience. It is about being aware of the relation between the city and the magnificent water by the bay. The bridge has a diameter of 60m with 60 identical wooden elements placed on steel pillars and is situated half on the beach and half in the sea.
Proximity Shaped by Water:
- Teshima Art Museum, Ryue Nishizawa: Opened in 2010, an open gallery space featuring 25cm thick concrete shell with two elliptical openings.
- AntiRoom II, Elena Chiavi, Ahmad El Mad, Matteo Goldoni: Completed in 2015, Antiroom II is an unreachable surface from the ground and can only be accessible by swimming or boat. The circular wooden structure creates a space separated from the vastness of the infinite sea. A white space flooring with a small center defined water pool is an eternal temple beyond the concept of time. Antiroom can float and move away as a singular, isolated world in the sea with its unity with the sky and cosmos.
- Floating Fields, Thomas Chung: It was installed by UABB (Urbanism\ Architecture Bi-City Biennale) in Shenzhen. Floating fields created an array of open shallow rectangular partitions, some filled with growing fields and others with water. Together they created a multi-cycle, which included mulberry dyke ponds with duck and fish, aquaponics, algae cultivation, and water filtering. Floating fields draws inspiration from the context on several levels to resuscitate the site. The series of connected holding ponds with various aquatic functions create a complete ecological water cycle.
- Indoor Waterfalls: Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport, designed by Safdie Architects, is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall- supplemented by a series of smaller cascading waterfalls and terraced gardens.
Sustainability using Water:
- Dixon Water Foundation Josey Pavilion: Lake Flato designed a building that has no active heating or cooling systems. The complex is composed of two buildings that are capped by gabled roofs that direct the rainwater to a shared gutter. The water then flows into a large trough for birds and animals to use in a cistern. The constructed wetlands let water flow into the ground and recharge the shrinkage Trinity aquifer.
- The Exploratorium, San Francisco: It conserves potable water through low-flow fixtures and leverages its site by harvesting ocean water for a radiant cooling system. The rainwater is harvested and stored in a 27,000-gallon cistern and used for flushing toilets in the science museum.
- Waterplein Benthemplien, Netherlands: Completed in 2013, consists of a water square that combines water storage with public urban space. The design collects rainwater from a larger area and then dramatically gushes through waterfalls, fountains, and open-air baptistery. In the dry season, the collected water can be used through the underground infiltration basins device. There are three basins to collect water in total. When the shallow basins are dry, they are open to those who want to play sports, the second one contains an island with a clean and shiny floor, and the third can be used to play football or basketball. Each entrance includes intimate areas with well-selected grasses and wildflowers surrounded.
Some structures of buildings, rather than incorporating water intentionally, embrace the existing landscapes, and build on it, around it, through it.
By studying projects like this, we realize how some cities and countries are trying to incorporate water with architecture and urban planning– by collecting water, reusing, recycling, harvesting, etc. The use of water in urban architecture and design today is blending with the environment. Similar to green space and trees, water offers a peaceful respite in various forms.
Whatever the scale of project or design, it thoroughly reflects an evolving concept of the relationship between humans and ecology. For the ones who get inspired by nature for designing a structure, technology does its part from- advances like digital technology, computational design, fabrication tools, 3D printing, and Artificial intelligence.
The next generation of Acquatectue is here! It will strive to do more than implementing water in design, and more with water.
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