What types of things would you put into a museum? Historical artifacts, obviously. Art is another easy choice. Some museums like to display items used by famous people, like the testing equipment used by the Wright brothers. But what about water? Would you ever think to build a museum devoted entirely to H2O?
It might sound a bit unorthodox, but that’s exactly what Juan Domingo Santos did when he designed the Water Museum. The town council of Lanjarón, Spain commissioned the project in order to draw attention to water. You see, much like Taiwan over on the other side of the planet, Lanjarón has some serious water problems. Water supplies are scarce and the region frequently runs into water crises, so the council members set out to build a water museum in order to draw attention to the importance of this life-giving liquid and promote its conservation. Rather than releasing a boring public service announcement, they set aside money for a museum in order to appeal to a wide audience. I’d say it worked — people all over the Internet are talking about it!
Juan Domingo Santos made the most out of his limited budget by incorporating many natural materials into the design. This stunning walkway, for example, is made of logs from fallen trees. The gaps between the logs highlight the concept of wasted water, for every spilled drop will quickly vanish into the darkness below.
Santos also recycled old industrial features and incorporated them into the museum. The museum was built alongside the Lanjarón River, near an irrigation ditch that used to service a slaughterhouse. The museum refitted the area’s old water infrastructure, including the watermills and an old public laundry. The end result is a museum that is beautiful, and seamlessly combines old and new, natural and manmade, into a cohesive whole.
This picture is the absolute perfect example of what I mean. The ancient brick walls contrast starkly with the smooth, modern wall to the left and the simple wooden bench. The bare metal and rough walls give the room an industrial feel, but the enormous pool of water and the blown-up picture of clouds emphasizes the natural world.
I think the message that Santos is trying to send is that the world isn’t starkly divided by clear boundaries. Everything is connected. How we treat water in the past affects how we use it in the future, and the buildings we create have a profound impact on the environment. You can’t change one thing in the world without sending out a series of ripples that affect everything around it.
The Lanjarón Water Museum is a truly refreshing look at aquatic architecture. Usually, designers like to come up with buildings and art installations that highlight the natural world, exhibit modern technology, or they’re a combination of both. This water museum, however, incorporates old ruined buildings and industrial architecture.
Of course, there’s a reason why designers generally avoid ancient and industrial buildings in their design — people just don’t think that they’re very pretty. What do you think? Do you love Juan Domingo Santos’ unconventional design, or do you prefer the modern and natural aesthetics that currently dominate the design world?