Meet the Place-Makers: Hydro-Commons

By Makerversity

City Co-Labs Re-Making Place Exhibition
16-22 September, New Wing, Somerset House
London Design Festival 2019

Makerversity’s Civic Hacks addresses the big social issues of our time. We create new collaborations between makers to radical solutions to social problems.

Our Re-Making Place Civic Hack explored the future city via the way we use and design its public spaces. Makers worked together on new ideas reimagining the function of urban public space. This September, 16th-22nd in G16 of New Wing at Somerset House, our exhibition part of London Design Festival presents this Civic Hack’s outcomes.

In partnership with the Northbank BID, it drew inspiration from plans to pedestrianise the Strand-Aldwych area. This was our starting point to develop new dialogue on public city spaces in London and beyond. Come discover our three final team proposals and vote for your favourite concept. The winning team will develop their idea in a 6-month Northbank BID residency at Makerversity.


Meet the Hydro-Commons Civic Hack team!

Nasra Abdullahi is a part 1 Architecture student and a member of the 2019 cohort of the New Architecture Writers. She is interested in the human infrastructure of cities and how they react to the built environment.

Helen Tartaglia studied MA Design Expanded practice at Goldsmiths University (2017-19). Whilst there she developed a hybrid practice that broke away from traditional roles in design, instead creating a portfolio of research that focused on some of the most challenging issues faced by urban society.  Through this research Helen hopes to open up new sets of questions and proposes alternatives that challenge how we dwell (or could dwell) in cities.


How could we develop sustainable urban systems to manage water that also acts as a public space?

A population increase led to a decrease in permeable, green surfaces which also double as public spaces. Our research explores ways to drain, absorb and re-use  excess rain water. Working with permeable materials such as sand and soil, we were able to create a material-led frame work to develop a new type of public space. 


The final “Hydro Commons” space proposal is a 1500 mm x 1500 mm tank, with a flat surface sitting above ground. The tank’s underbelly absorbs or stores rainwater whilst the bed acts as public space with various uses, from micro-beach and splash pad to hydroponic seating area. The simplicity of the tank means Hydro Commons can iterate across the city, creating new sustainable public spaces of play and lingering in the city. 


How did the ideas and making process take shape?

Day One of the Hack was devoted to research and brainstorming. Taking Somerset House and its local surroundings as a point of departure led the Hydro-Commons team to encounter water and its civic use in different ways, starting with Somerset House’s summer water fountains. Being at Somerset House on a Saturday allowed the whole team to experience the space outside the usual work week. Families came along and used the main Somerset House courtyard as an impromptu beach. Furthermore, undertaking research trips throughout the Strand led to the realisation that the Thames formed a central part of our experience of the city – and how we take water for granted as a shared resource.

Prototyping was a major part of the experience on day two: experiments were made with filtration and drinking that could be made collaborative. Even designs that seem far away from the final process ultimately all contributed to the final outcome presented in the exhibition. Making use of Makerversity’s work spaces following the Hack in the lead up to London Design Festival was crucial in allowing for a space to develop new prototypes further, including filtration systems and tubing designs. So was mentoring from members of Makerversity’s community able to contribute their own design insight. Helen and Nasra were able to share ideas and gain insight from Makerversity member and designer Shruti Grover. Her project Phyto-Offering, re-imagining traditional water flower offerings in India as sustainable devices to clean up polluted rivers will be on display in the exhibition.


Join us 16th-22nd September at Somerset House to discover how you can become involved and collaborate to co-make the city of the future. Come give your own ideas on ways to improve London’s public city spaces and vote for your favourite Hack idea! All details here.

Join us to re-make place!

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Posted By Makerversity