Floating University Berlin re-envisions an urban water infrastructure that invokes public participation.
How will life change as our relationship to water transforms and we shift from being consumers of water to stewards of water?
WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM
At Floating University, experimental water systems are constructed at every possible avenue. Water cascades down the laboratory stairs and spirals through a series of biological filters. Then, the filtered water journeys to the University kitchen, bathroom, auditorium, and greenhouse.
The filters are made out of plants, mushrooms, biofilms, sand, activated carbon, molluscs, and bacteria. They are located in a ‘spiral of bathtubs’, a ‘membrane filter’, and a ‘moving bed reactor’.
The ‘spiral of bathtubs’ consists of 9 bathtubs suspended from the ceiling of the Laboratory Tower. A ‘membrane filter’ turns rainwater into drinking water, and provides water for washing dishes in the Spülküche. A ‘moving bed reactor’ filters our dirty dishwashing water into water that is clean enough to irrigate our greenhouse, which grows 35 varieties of tomatoes from across Europe.
At Floating University, we have four different types of water on which to experiment: rainwater, basin water, greywater, and blackwater.
— RAINWATER —
Rainwater takes a 6 kilometer skydive. On its descent through the urban atmosphere it absorbs particulate pollution, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. This tainted rainwater spills off the roofs of the University buildings and funnels through a collection system for reuse.
— BASINWATER —
Basinwater comes from rainwater that lands on the Tempelhof Airport building, airfield and Columbiadamm Road. Currently, this tonic of automobile oil, vulcanized rubber, cigarette chemicals, and trash drains into our large, open air basin where Floating University ‘floats’ and then drops into the canal system and flows to the Spree River.
— GREYWATER —
Greywater is water that becomes “dirty” when it is used. There are various “shades” of greywater. For instance, greywater from our offshore kitchen is laden with grease, fat, and food particles, while greywater from bathroom hand washing is laced with E. coli bacteria.
— BLACKWATER —
Blackwater is the most delicious. Produced by toilet water’s interaction with human waste, blackwater is full of nutrients for plants as well as pathogens. It’s possible to use aerobic decomposition to turn blackwater into fertilizer and anaerobic digestion to create methane gas for cooking.
A fundamental paradigm in our research at Floating University is to emulate Mother Earth’s water cycles rather than mimic Corporate Man’s linear sewer pipes. Water will not fall beneath the streets like garbage into landfills. Rather, water flows down the drain, undergoes organic filtration, and flows back out the spout. The University uses its water to meet its needs — and then re-uses it to re-meet its needs.
How might our participation in urban hydrology nudge society toward an ecological balance?
How will we adapt our practices to the rapidly changing cities and planet to keep water affordable and abundant?
How can we be radical dreamers of utopia while keeping our feet on the ground, or in the water, as it may be?
ARTIST IN RESIDENCE
Katherine Ball (Detroit, USA) is the ‘Water Filtration and Infiltration’ artist in residence. You can visit her in the ‘water laboratory tower’ or contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. She welcomes you to collaborate, contaminate, and get curious.
BOOK: WATER LEXICON
The Water Runs Through Us: a lexicon of water practices at Floating University Berlin
This upcoming book documents the story of the water filtration system Floating University. The manuscript flows through strategies and manuals, oral histories and infrastructures. It is part of the Lexicon practice initiated by Gilly Karjevsky at Floating University. The collaborative team assembling to create the book currently includes: Katherine Ball (content collection and writing), Ted Marino (writing), Benoît Verjat and Alexis de Raphelis (visual composition), Felix Egle (design), Gilly Karjevsky (editing).
Floating University’s inaugural year of programing (2018) included the following water events:
Water Filters I: Create your own water filters
WORKSHOP | Building and growing biological filters out of plants, fungi, sand, biofilms, molluscs, xylem, water vegetables and special effects.
11.05 – 13.05.2018
Convened by Katherine Ball (artist, Detroit)
Water Filters II: Moving Bed Reactor
WORKSHOP | Learn how to construct a decentralized wastewater sewage treatment plant that cleans water with a series of tanks filled with different bacteria.
Convened by Katherine Ball (artist, Detroit) and Erwin Nolde (water engineer, Berlin)
Water, what’s her ritual?
A DAY OF WATER RITUALS | How do we practise the art of living on a damaged planet?
Convened by Katherine Ball (artist, Detroit), Alexis de Raphelis (artist, Cosne-sur-Loire) and Benoît Verjat (interface designer, Paris)
Floating Symposium: Water Working Group
FLOATING SYMPOSIUM | Two days dedicated to the future of the rainwater basin and the Floating University
08.09 – 09.09.2018