Water is our most essential resource, yet, increasingly, it is synonymous with inequality, disease, and environmental degradation. In developing economies in particular, there is often a stark contrast between those urbanites whose lives are shaped by the daily task of securing a minimum amount of water, and the emergence of water-dependent urban landscapes. The Water Bench was created as a response to these concerns. The first prototype in a series of water-conservation solutions by MARS Architects, the design was developed in connection with the BMW Guggenheim Lab to cut back consumption of public water used to irrigate parks and green spaces in cities. Engineered specifically for subtropical climates (parts of Latin America, India, Southeast Asia, and Australia), it makes use of the unique condition of continuous, heavy rainfall during the wet season, which allows the bench to fill its internal reservoir. This water is then used to irrigate surrounding vegetation during the eight-month dry spell that follows.

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In addition to collecting rainwater, the Water Bench provides public seating. Its design is inspired by Chesterfield sofas: the aesthetic of eighteenth-century-style upholstery becomes functional as the grooves and seams in the seat guide the water to the buttons, which act as water inlets to tanks inside the hollow bench. In this way, the surface remains dry for sitting, bringing the comfort of an urban living room to outdoor public spaces.

The Water Bench is a modular design made from partiallyrecycled polyethylene. With three different storage capacities—500, 1,000, and 1,800 Liters (132, 264, and 475.5 gallons)—the benches fit different urban scenarios and site conditions ranging from terrace gardens to public parks. The smallest unit, which requires no groundwork, is best equipped for roadside installation; the medium size has an underground tank, ideal for gardens and greenhouses; and the largest unit is best suited for public parks and playgrounds.

The first Water Benches have been installed in Mumbai’s Horniman Circle and Cross Maidan for a one-year prototyping phase, starting at the beginning of monsoon season. The goal for this project’s implementation in Mumbai is to install enough units per park to make them both verdant and independent from public water.

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