Article published in Revolve Water, May 2014
The Italian architects Arturo Vittori and Andreas Vogler of Architecture and Vision Studio/Office, have developed with the support of the Italian Cultural Centre in Addis Ababa and the EiABC (Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development), the project “Warka Water” – a water tower hand-made with natural materials. The project was presented for the first time at the biennial of Architecture in Venice in 2012, and is aimed at rural populations in developing countries, where infrastructure and hygiene make access to drinking water almost impossible.
The project lies in a reticular structure made by reeds, a natural material easily available and can be easily built by local people. Inside the tower, which stands at 9 meters tall, is a network made of a special fabric and polyethylene textile, able to collect the drinking water of the air by condensation. The structure is composed of 5 modules that can be installed from the bottom upwards by a few people without the need for scaffolding. Weighing only 60 kg, “Warka Water” can collect up to 100 litres of drinking water per day.
The Warka name comes from the Ethiopia’s language, meaning a large fig tree, which traditionally is a symbol of fertility and generosity. Nowadays due to the gradual deforestation of these areas the warka tree is slowly disappearing. The working system was inspired by the Namib beetle, it copies it’s strategies of adapting to the climate, The small insect collects water from the desert by condensing it on it’s abdomen, where it becomes small droplets, which slide off its waterproof back, eventually reaching the mouth.
The project aims to be working by 2015 in the Ethiopian village. Ethiopia has the lower availability of water in the world and the worst quality, according to a major study just released by the United Nations. In the mountain areas of Ethiopia women and children are forced to travel long distances walking to procure water from sources whose safety is compromised by the risk of contamination due to sharing the same source with livestock. This situation involves in addition to a high health risk, a considerable burden of work for women already involved in multiple domestic tasks and highlights the impossibility for children and women to have the same access to education. The “The Warka Water” stands as an alternative solution to solve at least part of this problem.