We've picked our favourite entries from A/D/O's Water Future Design Challenge

11 October 2018
Reading Time
4 minute read

Earlier in 2018, A/D/O launched the Water Futures Design Challenge. It was an attempt to get designers and creators to begin conceptualising and imagining innovative new ways in which we can start thinking about solutions to the (currently) toxic attitude many of us have toward drinking water. The crisis is now global, and A/D/O want each and every one of us to consider reimagining our destructive drinking water culture and contemplate designing alternative realities.

Over 2,000 members of the global design community from 35 countries applied to be a part of the challenge. On July 31, 2018, the Water Futures Jury – a panel including A/D/O, Debera Johnson of Pratt, Dr. Upmanu Lall, Columbia Water Center, Josh Kogan of the EPA, Jane Withers, Water Futures Curator and Vincent Lee of Arup – met, debated and concluded with the below finalists.

There were three categories, and we’ve picked a favourite from each.


Clara Schweers

Over in the Future Objects and Materials category — which, as the name suggests, is focused around future objects that facilitate sourcing and accessing drinking water in the urban environment — it’s young German designer Clara Schweers who has impressed us. Her project Waters saw the School of Design Pforzheim student examine the relationship between water and filtration through a series of sculptural objects.

She’s travelled across the world collecting and containing water from a variety of locations, and sources, in an attempt to think about how, in Clara’s words, “All the successive species on Earth have drunk the same water.”

A/D/O judges say that, “In a culture where we take water for granted and treat it as a utility, the jury were intrigued by this proposal for reframing our relationship to water and reintroducing a poetic dimension which has largely been lost."


Only If

Together Karolina Czeczek, Adam Frampton, Stephanie Hamilton work as Only If, and for the Water Futures Design Challenge, they entered the Future Information and Communications category, with their Water Map project. In essence, they want all of us to have a solid grasp on how water works in the urban environment.

Acknowledging the category’s search for advertising campaigns, graphics, packaging and other ways to communicate alternative methods for sourcing and accessing water, all of which should aim to promote behavioral change or awareness raising amongst the general population, Only If have created a kind of cartographical glimpse into a future in which New York City’s water systems are laid bare, in order for the public to understand that something as important as water has to be looked at through the prism of architectural and social lenses, and not just an exercise in technology.

The prize jury notes that they “believe that a project such as Water Map, a proposal for illuminating water systems in the city, has the potential to become a powerful educational tool that engages public interest in water issues, policy and management. While Water Map uses New York City as a case study the approach can be applied to other urban water environments.”


Jason Kim

Finally, over in the Future Systems & Infrastructure group, architect Jason Kim got us thinking with his Water Everywhere work. “Irony is living in a world whose surface makes up 70% of its water, but only being able to drink three percent of it,” Jason says. “The greater irony still, are the modern global cities adjacent to rivers and beach fronts while staring at the threat of water scarcity.”

With that in mind, he has proposed a project that will use large-scale solar water stills as an infrastructural component to design public spaces along major waterfronts. Water Everywhere can, in theory, be deployed in any city that is adjacent to a body of water. In addition to this, the affordable sills will aid with the all-important desalintion process.

He has been nominated, judges say, because “Water Everywhere promotes sustainably harvested water alongside public engagement, bringing water distillation into the heart of the city and making desalination possible at a local level.”

Each of the nine finalists will continue to develop their work with the help of assigned mentors and experts in their respective fields. Mentors include Anthony Acciavatti, historian, cartographer and architect; Daniel Michalik, Founder of DMFD; Emma Riley, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Lonely Whale; Rachel Sarnoff, Founder & CEO of Lincoln Sarnoff Consulting.

Winners in each category will be announced in December and will win a $15,000 prize. All nine finalists will be invited to exhibit their work at the Water Futures Closing Exhibit in March 2019.

A/D/O is currently exhibiting a Water Futures Mid-Season Exhibit through November 15 at their space in Brooklyn. The exhibit features works by Ooze Architects, Studio Swine, Tei Carpenter and Chris Woebken. Each proposal features off-grid thinking and small-scale infrastructures that include new ways to harvest rainwater, clean wastewater at a local level, and provide free drinking water as an alternative to the scourge of plastic bottles.

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