Rotterdam City House Lab Residency 2022: Géraldine Heller ”Water”

July 2022 - August 2022

Location: Zwaanshals 288B, Rotterdam

Commissioned by: Studio C.A.R.E., Stad in de Maak

About ”Water

Observation – Water in the city
Rotterdam, a city surrounded by water, nevertheless none can be found in the middle of this heatwave. The plants need to be watered and can’t afford to wait until next rainfall. I searched for potential rainwater storage, to no avail. Upon further investigation rainwater storage systems do not appear to be prevalent throughout the city; maybe it’s time for a change.

Research – Climate change and extreme weather conditions
Rotterdam is located mostly below sea level and the effects of climate change are causing its level to rise further. The groundwater level is also rising. With the widespread use of concrete and other impermeable surfaces, the streets are becoming increasing prone to flooding and storm sewer overloading. Diverting and collecting a portion of rainwater could relieve the system during a high demand situation while providing additional water supply in times of drought.

Rainwater harvesting
In areas of uneven rainfall, water tanks called cisterns are used for underground rainwater storage for entire villages. In the Mediterranean region these systems are a millennia old tradition. By using micro-cisterns we could adapt these systems for contemporary living, by placing them on balconies, patios and gardens. Collectively these individual systems could add up. Rotterdam currently encourages, funds and promotes project such as green roofs and rainwater barrels knowing its help on the city infrastructure.

Drinking water and energy conservation
Drinking water in Rotterdam is relatively inexpensive, but energy cost for its treatment are rising. Many water uses other than drinking and washing don’t require this degree of purification. Using rainwater as an alternative for watering plants, flushing toilets, washing laundry, could help in energy conservation. Perhaps role model projects could increase popularity and shift thinking among communities.

Installation “Water”
“Water” is a research project focusing on urban rainwater harvesting. The installation at the Rotterdam City House Lab illustrates in a simple yet aesthetic way how individuals can optimize their own micro rainwater harvesting system and approach their water supply independence.

Géraldine Heller, born 1994 in Zug, Switzerland, is a designer and maker with a focus on modularity and reuse material. She stayed 5 weeks at the Rotterdam City House Lab to explore sustainable solutions for living together in urban areas.

The 5-week process

WEEK 1 & 2

► mapping the residency space
► pipes, hoses, cables, passages as inspirational objects
► researching different fields of interest: interior space, ROSy system, wind, water, passage
► checking out the workshop facilities

WEEK 3 & 4

► deciding for water as the project trajectory
► researching different scopes and fields of interest regarding water
► choosing wastewater and rainwater reuse as a focus
► developing different ideas regarding rainwater reuse realisation


► beginning final installations
► refining research regarding urban rainwater reuse benefits, scopes and possibilities of application