2022 Retrospective: Embassy of Water

Brown lawns, dried-out fens, and low river levels. The consequences of the drought were clearly visible this summer. If it is up to the Embassy of Water, cities and villages will contribute to the resilience and health of the entire water ecosystem. Therefore, the water partners of the Embassy of Water are asking themselves: ‘How can we ensure that the million new homes in the Netherlands make a positive contribution to the water system?’

Type Update
Published on 6 December 2022
Part of Embassy of Water
2022 Retrospective: Embassy of Water
Part of Embassy of Water

‘We seem to slowly be coming to realise that we have to live together in harmony with water again. Not only taking but also giving back, that reciprocity. Achieving this sort of awareness is quite a process.  We, as Embassy, are also working on our awareness. I want to share our learning process with others.’

Curator Anouk van der Poll has shown for a number of years with the Embassy that we have to deal with water differently. During Dutch Design Week 2022 (DDW22), the Embassy is a kind of springboard “to really getting started now”, according to the curator.

“We seem to slowly be coming to realise that we have to live together in harmony with water again. Not only taking but also giving back, that reciprocity. Achieving this sort of awareness is quite a process.  We, as Embassy, are also working on our awareness. I want to share our learning process with others.”

Regenerative housing

The Embassy will be fully committed to housing for the next two years. Last July, the administrators of the Embassy partners (Municipality of Eindhoven, Water Board De Dommel, Province of North Brabant, drinking water company Brabant Water and Dutch Design Foundation) signed an agreement to collaborate on this.

To call back to the term regenerative agriculture, Van der Poll came up with ‘regenerative housing’. “Making a home in such a way that it not only takes but also gives back to the water system.” This year during DDW22, she wanted the Embassy of Water to be a springboard for housing projects to really include water in the plans from the start. “Because we still flush our toilets with drinking water, even though alternatives have long been available.” 

Read the interview with curator Anouk van der Poll here

Stage for water

This year the Designhuis in Eindhoven was once again the stage for various examples of how we can make water flow and live again. Like with Lady Penelope‘s Water Ballet, which featured funny do-it-yourself gargoyles, fountains and other solutions to return rainwater to nature. With the plug-and-play solutions, the downspout and gutter come to life. 

Visitors could also take action on-site with the Pee to Tree installation by Van den Berk Nurseries and SEMiLLA Sanitation. Visitors to the Embassy of Water could contribute to fertilising two bog oaks (Quercus palustris) in a women’s urinal. A fully circular process that saves water and nourishes plants.

Studio Verveeld & Verward developed Niet Rotterdam (Not Rotterdam). A new 5300 square meter Rotterdam on the Maas, in Limburg. This soil offers Rotterdam residents their own place at 30 meters above NAP when the sea level rises and Rotterdam is submerged. Niet Rotterdam symbolises the urgency of a sustainable and inclusive society. In Niet Rotterdam, for example, every Rotterdammer is an equal shareholder of the land. 

Watch the Curator Tour here: Step into a world where we live together with water

An enormous drought now characterises our summers. As a result, even the Netherlands is dealing with water scarcity. We must collect the precious rainwater, retain it for as long as possible and ensure it can infiltrate the soil. Commissioned by the Embassy of Water, social designer Rocco Verdult depicts inspiring examples with Playmobil that ensure the water system can recover (regenerate).

Voice of Water

The Embassy of Water gives water a voice. In 2020 Cees Kamp performed the Voice of Water and 2021 Matthijs Schouten. This year, Li An Phoa embodies water’s needs and gives it a voice. To bring the Voice of Water to the table in construction projects, designer Chiara Treglia developed a Toolkit for the Voice of Water. With the toolkit, the needs and wishes of the primary non-human stakeholder, water, are no longer an afterthought but are actually given priority. During DDW22, stakeholders could use this toolkit in various sessions and hear about water needs.

Read here, ‘listening to the water, how do you do that?’

Embassy of Water conference

During the Embassy of Water conference, the main message was: Give water the freedom to flow. In her opening remarks, water is the greatest shared identity of all of us, the Voice of Water, Phoa stated. “Who hasn’t used water this morning?” 

Phoa proposes to include the drinkable river as a social compass in all our choices, thinking, and conversations. “Even in all our intentions and our feelings. If we all contribute and convince people to join, it will also be attractive, concrete and tangible.” 

“Every drop, every tributary matters. Water is everywhere. There are river basins all over the world. Even in the Sahara. You can find that beautiful pattern everywhere. If we start thinking about how we wash, not just our body but our house and all our production processes, we can already start taking steps.


Karla Niggebrugge, policy officer for climate adaptation in built-up areas & social innovation for the province of North Brabant, one of the partners of the Embassy: “We believe that sustainable construction or climate-adaptive construction is not enough. We are going for regenerative construction so that housing contributes to the recovery of the water system. So it contributes to the recovery of basically everything that we have thrown out of balance in recent years and decades through everything we have done and built. Everything we will do in the future will allow us to restore that imbalance.” 

“We don’t know how housing construction can contribute to the recovery. We do know that a lot can already be done. If we dare to use these developments, we’ll have come a long way. We can’t do that alone. That is why we are looking for people who want to take on this adventure. Who wants to try with us and actually want to do it.”

Do you want to contribute to the Embassy of Water, or are you curious about future developments? Sign up for the newsletter (at the bottom of the page), visit the Embassy of Water page or contact us.

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