Aquatic architecture is unique because it can be taken in two very different directions. On one end of the spectrum you’ve got architecture that focuses on beauty and elegance, like the high-quality aquariums offered by Okeanos Group. On the other end you’ve got structures such as bridges and dams that focus entirely on performing a utilitarian purpose. A lot of buildings fall somewhere in between. The Golden Gate Bridge, for example, is both beautiful and vital for the people of San Francisco.
Climate change has prompted architectural designer Gunwook Nam to build the Human Pump, a structure that is both an art piece and a valuable tool. The artistic portion of the piece is quite obvious: the irregular wooden slats create a natural-looking flow that’s easy for the eye to follow. The beautiful design invites pedestrians to hop on top of it and take a stroll, which is necessary for the second component.
Beneath the wooden slats is a system of water pumps. They capture the kinetic energy from peoples’ footsteps and use it to pump water. You could walk the length of the Human Pump and there might be a glass of refreshing water waiting for you on the other side.
Architecture like this has obvious implications considering the impending global water shortage. Theoretically, cities could install systems like these around the areas of their city with the heaviest foot traffic as a way to harvest kinetic energy. Setting up these systems would be a lot more expensive than just pouring out concrete sidewalks, but the constant stream of free energy would theoretically pay itself off. Just imagine what a system like this could do to help bring clean drinking water to the poor urban areas.
At the moment, Nam’s Human Pump is more of a showpiece than a way to solve world thirst. The plan is to make it store up energy throughout the day, and then release a constant flow of water in the evening to create a public gathering place with artistic waterfalls and play areas for children. In any event, this is the first step in the right direction. It will probably be a while before the Human Pump kinetic energy system makes the leap from artistic novelty to practical tool.
This kind of reminds me of the rooftop greenhouse by Green Sky Growers. Their aquarium was primarily used as a way to grow food, but the entire greenhouse created a beautiful green and white living space. It’s always interesting to see aquariums and aquatic architecture that somehow fuse beauty with functionality. This just goes to show you: your next aquarium might be a piece of art, but it is only limited by your imagination. Create an open-topped aquarium in your living space, for example, and you have a natural way to keep your house cool during those hot summer months.