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Fabrica Takes First Place at Design for Change With Water Culture Project

Since 2012, the French city of Lille has hosted a competition between some of the finest design schools with the challenge of developing a solution to better the quality of life for its citizens. Students work creatively to answer problems within three topics: climate change, textiles and mobility and mass catering.

This year, Fabrica took first place with its innovative and colorful Water Culture project.

The Italian research center beat out more than 450 students from schools around the world, including Ensci Les Ateliers (France), Ied (Spain), Parsons and Harvard (U.S.) and Polytechnic (Hong Kong).

Together, the Fabrica team—consisting of Aaron Gillett (Australia), Chandni Kabra (India) and Karen Oetling (Mexico), under the guidance of Angelo Semeraro and Sam Baron—came up with what they deemed “Water Culture.”

The project is rooted in Lille’s climate; it’s one of the wettest cities in France, with an annual average of 177 rainy days. That means it rains for a little more than 48 percent of the year.

Fabrica’s goal with the project was to “change people’s negative perceptions of weather into a positive” by using rain as a source of beauty and entertainment. They accomplished this through the development of public shelters that reveal colorful patterns when wet.

To create these “climate responsive” architectural structures, Fabrica dyed fabrics with local resources like beets and onions and covered the dye with white hydro-chromic ink. The colorful patterns printed beneath the ink do not show when dry, but are “magically” revealed when rained on.

Fabrica said this helps remind people to see their city not as wet and gloomy, but as colorful and vibrant—even on a rainy day. The team members used their native countries as inspiration, by means of bright colors to symbolize themes like sanctity and happiness.

The shelters not only create a more beautiful environment for Lille, but also allow (and encourage) residents to interact with one another in public spaces—no matter what the weather is like. They can also serve as a marker and provide protection for businesses.

The award ceremony will take place on Nov. 26, 2016, in Lille.