Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, Spain


With water making up 70% of both planet earth and the human body, the research questions how the relationship between human, architecture and water can define the spaces and lifestyles we inhabit. Energy being intangible, is difficult to visualize but water holds the ability to carve, move, reflect, and respond and its power is a medium with which we to make this energy evident. The project explores the phenomenon of gravitational potential energy in order to circulate water and to shape a new way of living in response to the environment.



Pneumatic hydraulic energy is driven by fluid power, which is the use of pressurized fluids to generate, control, or transfer power. Fluid power can be divided into two parts: hydraulics and pneumatics. Hydraulics stores energy in the form of gravitational potential energy.  Pneumatics stores energy in the compression and pressurization of a gas.  The energy stored in a compressed gas is equivalent to the work done to compress the gas.


Gravitational potential energy is the energy stored as the result of its vertical position or height. Hence, the greater the height, the higher the energy. We explored the potential of this phenomenon through a hydropneumatic water system. With this s

ystem we are able to circulate water vertically while optimizing the distance  and speed at which the water can travel.

For the system to work, we need two containers at different heights, an input tube where the water will enter the system, an air connection between container one and

container two, and a tube transferring the water out of container two. As water is poured into the first container, the air in it is pressurized. This pressure is transferred to the second container, which in turn forces the water out of it. This

cycle continues until the second container is empty.


The Hydro-Pneumatic Waterfall was inspired by the Heron’s Fountain. It works on pneumatic hydraulic energy and our chosen phenomena of gravitational potential energy is highlighted through it. Since gravitational potential energy is directly proportional to height, the height of the top container from the floor was crucial. The higher the container, the more gravitational potential energy accumulates in the water.

The first iteration of the Hydro-Pneumatic Waterfall was built to test the energy flow within the system and to gain data on incorporating the sensors into the final model.

In the schematic drawing, we studied the height relationship between containers, the tube diameters, the organization of containers within a vertical structure, and the pressure and time relationship to the energy flow. From this, we found that with a larger height difference between container one and container two and with smaller diameter tubes we can create more pressure and therefore the system will operate more efficiently.  Stacking the containers also had a positive effect on the system.

For our proposal we adapted the system  to  an open loop cycle with an input and output so that the system can continually operate based on the changes in river condition and at the end of each cycle,  return the water back to the river. In this adapted system we aim to keep the water within the structure for as long as possible. The environmental conditions  and way of living within the house is directly related to the changes in climate and to the changes in the river over the course of 24 hours and one year


The brief of Phase II was to design one house for one person, for one year. The house also needs to incorporate the chosen phenomena.


The site chosen for out project was on the River Besòs in Barcelona, Spain. The specific site location was just before a dam in the river, so as to use the pressure and flow difference to our advantage.

Data concerning temperature and precipitation in relation to the chosen site was collected and was translated into graphs. The graphs acted as a base during the design of the final house. They gave backing to design decisions pertaining to typology and location of spaces.


A sensing device was designed which could be left on site to capture environmental data. This device comprised of three major parts- the turbine, the gears and the rotary sensor. As the device was inserted into the river water, the flow of water turned the turbine, which was attached to a gear held together by a ribbed band. The gear was attached to a rotary sensor to collect data of the number of rotations. This was then converted to data to calculate the speed of the river.


The ram pump uses no external source of power to pump water, the force of moving water from the river gives it the power it needs. The pump uses momentum of a relatively large amount of moving water to pump a relatively small amount of water upwards. It works on two one-way check valves. This would enable the river water to be pumped into the top tank and then be regulated within the house based on the workings derived from the Hydro-Pneumatic Waterfall Device from Phase I.

‘Do we need a permanent physical wall to define a space?’

is the question that led us to bring in the concept of using water as walls to define a space. Falling Water 2021 is all about creating a new lifestyle for the user. The design evolved vertically because the top water tank had to be placed at a height to maximize gravitational potential energy. The water collected into the tanks are the source for the water walls throughout the house. The spaces through the house were governed by activities during a 24 hour cycle of the user. The functions of the water walls are to define a space, to provide privacy and to cool a space depending on the 365 day cycle.


A physical model was constructed out of CNC milled 4mm birch plywood. The joineries were designed such that no glue would be required and the elements would be interlocked and held together by wedges.