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The Life Aquatic

New Zealand architect Les Dykstra’s book Aqua House and his exploration of the relationship between water and architecture.

Founder and director of Grafton-based Architects-ldl, Les Dykstra’s book Aqua House was born out of global concerns surrounding water usage and the increasing pollution of water environments.

The multi-award winning architect Les Dykstra, who last year received the New Zealand Institute of Architects Local Award for Enduring Architecture for the DSIR – Physics and Engineering Laboratories in Wellington, focuses his expertise on architecture that integrates water on technical and aesthetic levels.

Over the past 12 months this has culminated in the completion of a commercial building that harvests rainwater, a beach house that collects rainwater and treats waste on-site and the construction of a home which incorporates an array of design features found in Dykstra’s book.

Aqua House re-examines the place that water occupies in architecture to determine how current practices in architecture may contribute to the water pollution of environments and to what Dykstra terms, the “unsustainable use of water”. He then seeks to investigate how some of these architecture practices could be modified in future to mitigate the water problem.

“The key idea in the book is how the design of a house can integrate the technical and aesthetic functions of water,” Dykstra says.

“I have attempted to answer this by designing a building (Aqua House) that works with both the aesthetic and technical functions of water… the design integrates water and architecture in a way that could contribute to reducing contamination of the water environment.”

Dykstra outlines the principles of how water, which is collected, recycled and cleansed, is celebrated and organises the house, suggesting a range of water-wise solutions such as placing a reflection pool storing quality water in the entrance hall of a home or including a structure comprised of water columns to replace underground cisterns and solid water tanks while allowing for visual appreciation and awareness of the quantity of stored water.

Dykstra envisions that, in future, consumers will seek water-wise architectural spaces to experience water states and transformations including its distinctive tastes, sounds and scents.

“Water’s beauty is in its fluidity, transparency and reflective-ness. For example, water has symbolic meanings: to Chinese Feng Shui it represents good chi and in Christianity, it means cleansing,” Dykstra says.

“People are naturally drawn towards water for its aesthetic qualities and musicians frequently celebrate it in their work.

“I think consumers will be drawn to integrated water design solutions …and manage in the process, to celebrate water.”



Les Dykstra’s book Aqua House