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(Archive) Will Water Want

Investigating the will and voice of the Dommel River in designing an urban environment.

This project was part of DDW 2023
Will Water Want #1 — © Land-Ally

In and around the Dommel river a series of objects interact with the flowing water, producing water swirls and sounds. A billboard on the riverbank shows a system analysis of the Dommel’s basin, an examination of human influences on the well-being of the river.

How to Design as Allies of a River?

The municipality of Eindhoven commissioned Land-Ally to make "The Voice of the Dommel" heard in the area's urban developments. "Will Water Want” inquires how to design in alliance with the Dommel. The work explores the possibility of collaborating with a river, and how to listen to this non-human entity without reducing it to a mere object or appropriating it for human-centric interests.

How can the Dommel River become a designer of the landscape it flows through? How can a scientific perspective contribute to designing a city in alliance with Nature? What questions can you ask to imagine yourself in an impossible conversation with the Dommel? To explore these questions, the project takes the shape of a site-specific work consisting of a billboard and interactive installation.

Objects Interacting with the Stream

The spatial installation consists of a series of tools for the river to interact with. Glass sculptures sit in the stream through which the water flows, creating different swirls. Alongside the riverbank water flutes are attached to the railing. Here, you can place your ear onto a ceramic-shell and listen to the sounds produced by the water flowing past the tip of the flutes.

Facing this water symphony is a billboard featuring a visual investigation of the Dommel. By applying the Land-Ally research method, Marte Mei, on behalf of Land-Ally, concluded that the river no longer had a voice or agency in the Eindhoven’s centre, having been completely contained by human constructions, forms of regulation and pollution elsewhere in the river. Marte Mei worked with aquatic ecologist Jip de Vries on a system analysis of the river catchment, to find out what adjustments would need to be made on a larger scale to improve the river's ecosystem.

The Billboard

The Billboard showcases a system analysis of the Dommel River, focussing on 5 locations along the stream. These examples show the impact humans have had on the river through three perspectives: the Scientist, the 'Land-Ally' and the River itself.

The Scientific approach: investigating the Dommel River and its connected ecosystems, stating the ecological facts about each location and the impact human interventions have on the water cycle.

The Land Ally approach: building a relationship with water without manipulating it for human purposes, and instead promoting a more egalitarian collaboration. Seeing the role of the human as one that can aid the river’s well-being and potential restoration.

The River perspective: engaging in a hypothetical 'dialogue' with water. What would you ask the river if you could?

By combining these three perspectives new design directions can be found that facilitate a more eco-centric design of urban landscapes. Designing with, rather than despite, the nonhuman inhabitants of the environment.

Will Water Want #2 — © Land-Ally