Water Sanctuary

The challenge I am addressing is:

Most people in the developed world are intellectually and emotionally detached from the consequences of the way they use water.  We buy drinking water in plastic bottles and flush clean water down the toilet with little regard for the role water plays in all aspects of life. The cost of fresh water continues to increase. However, despite investment in education programs and infrastructure projects, too often it is only drought and punitive water restrictions, which temporarily alter behaviour and attitudes to water use.

Meanwhile in the developing world there is poor access to clean and safe water, there is poor infrastructure, and pollution of vital water resources is an inevitable outcome of development processes.  Currently 1 in 6 people of the planet do not have access to safe clean drinking water and without change this will be one in 1 in 3 within a generation.

My aim is to create permanent change in the way we understand and manage this most fundamental and precious resource.

My idea to meet this challenge is:

Imagine a beautiful Water Sanctuary floating in a river, lake or estuary near you, a vessel for understanding water, a place of tranquillity, utility and inspiration.

Using a combination of art, design, space and technology a Water Sanctuary will be:

  • Secular Temple – a tranquil space of awe and wonder, telling a four billion year creation story;
  • Educational Interpretative Centre – where children and adults learn about the water cycle, and its intimate relationship to life;
  • Community Facility – a meeting place to discuss and plan local community water management;
  • Icon – an artistic expression of the strange and wonderful characteristics of water; and
  • Sanctuary – a place located in the public domain, that offers services to even the most humble and dispossessed.

A Water Sanctuary is a new architectural form that will offer simple services such as the provision of clean drinking water and the cleansing of the waterway it inhabits. It will elegantly integrate technologies for water capture, cleaning, distribution and storage, self-generated renewable power, and educational interpretation. The novelty and complexity of this integration should provide an unforeseen opportunity to create new technical solutions, which hopefully prove valuable in other applications.

Now imagine a network of sanctuaries throughout Australia and the world, each one a local site-specific secular institution telling a slightly different story, and inspiring people to understand and value water across all its utilitarian, cultural and spiritual manifestations. This idea is a paradigm shift. It is not meant to replace current water management programs, but rather supplement the best of them. It aims is to stimulate locally and globally a new ‘people’s movement of water empowerment’ akin to “Keep Australia Beautiful”, “Men’s Shed” and “Permaculture”, but will address climate change and access to clean water, the biggest social and environmental issues of the 21st century.

What is my aim is to:

  • Continue research on the artistic, interpretative and technological narrative of the “water sanctuary”. This will include engaging with scientists, academics, story tellers and water related businesses in Australia and overseas;
  • Market test the idea;
  • Design and build models of a range of prototypes;
  • Create a virtual Water Sanctuary, an internet repository of my research and designs to test ideas and receive feedback;
  • Explore ways to fund the next stage. This may include using the exposure and profile the Fellowship provides to help raise capital to build the first Water Sanctuary and launch the idea more broadly.


Why I am the right person to do this:

I became interested in the concept of Water Sanctuaries while still a student 25 years ago. I now have over twenty years professional experience as designer and project manager of complex technical and cultural projects. The new methodologies, service models and building forms I have devised underpinned by my core values of social justice and environmental sustainability. Over the years I have continued to research and contemplate our relationship to water and my passion for this idea has evolved and deepened. As a mature practitioner, I am confident I now have the technical, entrepreneurial and human skills to make this passion a reality.


The following are downloadable documents