Aquatecture Water Harvesting System envisions buildings that harvest water


When Cape Town experienced a water crisis in 2017, with residents being restricted to using only 50 litres of water a day (enough for a 90-second shower, a half-gallon of drinking water, a sinkful to hand-wash dishes or laundry, one cooked meal, two hand washings, two teeth brushings and one toilet flush), Shaakira Jassat from Studio Sway shifted her design work to focus on a response to what she was observing. 

With Day Zero (the day Cape Town’s taps would be shut off) being anticipated, Shaakira created something that would change the way we experience water in the urban environment. Through her design studio, Studio Sway, Shaakira places a strong focus on research through design and regularly calls on experts from respective fields when necessary, creating a multidisciplinary environment. Shaakira is based in the Netherlands but collaborates with South Africa regularly to test various iterations of the technology.

Given the dry situation in Cape Town, Shaakira envisioned buildings that could harvest and sustain their own water needs. This she calls the “Aquatecture Water Harvesting System”, a panel designed to harvest rainwater. It can be installed as a façade panel on buildings, making water harvesting an integrated building feature. Or it can be used as free-standing elements in landscapes, creating water-harvesting stations at various nodes throughout cities.

The rain harvesting panels being tested at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town

Traditional architecture requires water to be kept out and away from a building, often flowing into stormwater drainage systems and picking up dirt along the route. With the Aquatecture Water Harvesting System, Shaakira envisions the opposite of this. What would happen if we didn’t dispel water from our city centres, but rather retained it to be utilised? Aquatecture is designed to collect falling rainwater as it trickles over the open punctures of the panel (which looks almost like a giant “cheesegrater”). The water that is collected is transported down to a collection tank and pumped back into the building’s grey water system, or stored for later use.

Shaakira’s main goal was to create a water harvester that would fit in dense urban spaces by being compact, having an appropriate visual identity and being able to integrate into architecture. The rain harvesting panels are made out of stainless steel. This material was preferred over other choices due to its durability in wet conditions. It also has the ability to withstand rust, making it an ideal water-friendly material. The panels are modular and detachable which makes them easy to move from one building to the next should the need arise, in this way increasing the lifespan of the material and designing it to last.

The rain harvesting panels are piloted at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town as well as in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Local student teams from Engineers Without Borders at the University of Cape Town collaborated during the development of the Cape Town pilot. The research primarily consists of on-site rainfall observations, weather and water collected data monitoring and analysis. The Oranjezicht Farmers Market, located across from the installation, taps water from the tank to water the market’s large trees and shrubbery. After the testing phase is concluded, Shaakira hopes to bring the panels to market.

To learn more about the project or to enquire about ordering panels through a pre-order, contact

Follow @studio_sway on Instagram for the latest developments.

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