How arid Namibia helped inspire an innovative Dutch rainwater drainage system

Published at: 13 December 2017

Namibia is one of the world's most arid countries, so it might come as a surprise that it provided inspiration for a rain drainage solution for a designer from one of the most waterlogged places in the world.

Dutch design graduate Fien Dekker spent four months living in Namibia, where she was struck by the local people's relationship with rain. Namibians talk of rain often and when it does rain, which is rather seldom, they welcome it with excitement and reverence. This was in stark contrast to Dekker's native Netherlands - where the general attitude tends to be more one of aversion to downpours. Says Dekker in Smart Magazine,

The contradiction between the desire for rain in Africa and the aversion back home was striking, I wanted to create something that would highlight the beauty of rain. A solution that shows how water in public space could add value and quality. I think we should embrace water.

Her solution, she called Rain(a)way, is a set of tiles for street and walkway surfaces, which has subsequently been nominated for the What Design Can Do Awards. Seemingly simple, yet aesthetically pleasing, what makes her design special is the way in which different tiles function together. Some tiles have a unique texture that channels rainwater away toward other tiles that have small water-permeable openings for letting collected water to seep away. Together the tile system allows for natural water infiltration not possible with impenetrable conventional paving systems.

But Dekker doesn't just see Rain(a)way as drainage solution, but a starting point for thinking about bringing back natural water cycles to our cities and finding solutions for the impact of climate change on the built environment.

Read more about Dekker's design process and insights in this more in-depth article.

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