flowing futures

Flowing Futures

Accessible, DIY solutions to explore, reimagine and change our relationship with water. Celebrate the water that fills our planet with life through prototypes, events, and experiences. 

  • Jun 21, 2023

Introducing Flowing Futures – a design collective that was born in the MDEF program this year by the students Çağsun (Turkey), Ramiro (Argentina) and Korbinian (Switzerland). Together they work on projects that challenge the perspective that water is a cheap commodity that is contaminated and disposed of, and instead, celebrate the water that fills our planet with life through prototypes, events, and experiences. 

“Our planet isn’t just blue, it’s wet. And the water that makes it wet keeps us alive. It fills fruit and mushrooms, forests and oceans, birds and bacteria with life. We want to celebrate that. And we want to imagine a possible future in which water and life have returned to the cities in force. Together, let us explore water’s vital role in sustaining life and urban cultivation.”

This is the invitation from the student collective Flowing Futures. The MDEF Master program provided them with the space (not only physical space but also thinking/tinkering space and time) to explore various projects in this field such as water quality assessment, filtering processes, micro-cultivation… by using tools and techniques in the lab with the objective of showing the magic of water while playing and learning a lot in the process.

We are all sharing the same water on this planet. We must care for it deeply.

Ramiro has had a passion for swimming ever since his childhood leading him to develop a deep interest in the relationship people have with water. This translated into his design practice, in which he works towards a future where through collaboration we value and comprehend more its vital importance to our lives and the entire planet.  Korbi left small-town Switzerland, where he grew up, for the complex intensity of city life. This left him with a craving for forests and hyperlocal cultivation. He wishes to one day live in a world in which – partly as a response to the environmental crisis – the lines between cities, rural areas, and ‘wild(er)’ecosystems are increasingly blurry. Coming from Istanbul, Çağsun grew up playing, running, swimming and biking along the waters that divide Asia and Europe. He moved to Madrid to do more international design work and ended up in Barcelona to meet water again on a Mediterranean beach.

All of these diverse profiles share a mutual interest in water and a drive to give the topic more value by utilizing hands-on design approaches. With each one of them putting forward their skills – Çağsun in strategic thinking and electronics, Korbi in philosophical thinking and writing, and Ramiro in his work with physical tools and design softwares – it was what brought Flowing Futures to life.

The concept behind the design collective is to work on different projects related to water and growing living things. Since water in cities is hidden, going from the mountain to the ocean, without seeing it in our urban and domestic lives, Flowing Futures uses interventions and prototypes to put it back in the spotlight. 

We discuss things and we don’t go with a single idea right away. We always like to critically explore and challenge each other and then eventually go this way or another one. We also make bad decisions and learn from them.

The collective’s first prototype is Off-The-Grid Sink – a DIY, off-the-grid, circular gray water recuperation system. It aims to intervene home-scale water management rituals by showing possibilities for utilising, filtering and reusing water in our living spaces. By using local, cheap and accessible materials that could be found anywhere, the collective created a system where people can wash vegetables, hands, etc., after which the water recuperates, passing through a couple of filters. The gray water can then be used to grow living things at home – plants, mushrooms or even bacteria to make kombucha. 

The idea behind the prototype is the creation of a totally circular system that can be transported and placed indoors or outdoors. With this project Flowing Futures is making a step towards altering the way we look at water. It’s meant to remind us not only of how essential water is in our everyday lives but to also show us its beauty. 

This prototype came together step-by-step from some initial prototypes they built and evolved which also coincided with Space10 publishing a similar blueprint that inspired the process.

We almost always work down in the lab because we have all the materials we need. We also have the outdoor space which we usually use and then we have the support of our mentors.

The sink integrates 3 stages of homemade bio-physical filters in an open-source design and can run the same water multiple times in a circular fashion by emulating the process that happens when dirty water flows through mountains and mineral deposits.

The plants, ceramic pieces, sand and activated carbon filters integrated in the prototype clean the water after each use and circulate it back to its users in an intentionally semi-automated workflow.

Mindful of the quality and quantity of the resources they used, they took extra steps to reduce the cost, effort and complexities associated with building and using this tool. Even though the collective utilizes a lot of electronics to be able to control the flow of water, it has adopted the philosophy of questioning each time technology is being used. In this way technology is being reduced as much as possible to make the prototypes more low tech and accessible. The collective avoids using technology for technology’s sake and instead tries to utilize things that anyone can build and with materials that anyone can access.

We wanted to make sure our design is aligned with our values.

They have already done multiple interventions on the theme of improving our relationship with water. Recently, they started to collaborate with another collective that emerged during MDEF – Slow Lab (read more about them here). The similarities between them led Flowing Futures to be featured at Solar Brunch recurring event in Barcelona. This opened the doors for the newly-formed collective to connect with like-minded people and create conversations about water scarcity, water recuperation and how nature, plants and other minerals can filter water and make a circular system that is fully accessible.

In the coming days, they’re organizing the final event of the MDEFest, “Wet Planet Party” where they’ll present other prototypes they’ve been working on, some of which are functional, whereas others are more fictional and hopefully entertaining.

Entrances to the event can still be booked here.

What comes next? After MDEF, Flowing Futures plans to continue developing and presenting a growing number of interventions and prototypes, intended to increase the appreciation of water in our lives and in our habitats. You can follow their journey here.

Do you also want to design for the future? Learn about the MDEF master program here