Rain is a paradoxical natural phenomenon. It brings water to people and if it is efficiently harvested and collected, it can provide clean water and help achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all (UN SDG 6.1). However, rain can also be a real source of annoyance, when it comes to well-being in the city. When it rains, traffic is worse, and people are more depressed. Designing for water has a very different meaning when applied to Western cities.

In the context of WDO’s Water Series, we connected with Léa Grasset, a current student at École de design Nantes Atlantique (France), who offers a different vision of designing for water that is not about providing clean water to communities, but about living better lives in cities and coexisting with water.

As as aspiring designer, how has rain served as a lens to your design process?

I live in Nantes in the West of France. It is a city where there are several rivers and where it rains, a lot. Water is all around me and as a result, contributes in my opinion, to the beauty of the city. As a design student, water triggers imagination – it can be distorted, collected, reused and valued by different ways. Water has a poetic component and creates infinite movements.

Rainwater is a natural phenomenon that is associated to positive values: it helps plants and vegetables grow and is an invaluable resource for both animals and humans. It also plays a big role in climate regulation, cleaning pollution in cities, as well as provides a reserve of energy for the flows of water. It is an inexhaustible source of benefits and inspiration that designers can explore to improve the living environment of people and create a positive social impact to see the rain differently.

What innovative uses of rainwater have you employed in your designs?

I have developed two concepts in the context of my Masters in Urban design.

The first is a new kind of bus shelter that highlights the agricultural benefits of rain to users. When waiting for the bus, users can appreciate the rain and collect aromatic herbs and edible flowers at the same time. They can also harvest the water and bring it home to use to water plants.

The second concept is a refreshing swing. In periods of heat waves, rain is used to cool down the atmosphere. The structure is composed of a roof that collects rainwater, a ground that stores it and swings for children that pump the water and extract it. Children become actors of the cooling process.

About L’École de design Nantes Atlantique

L’École de design Nantes Atlantique is a private institution for higher education dedicated to design professions, in association with the University of Nantes. Founded in 1988 and recognized by the State, the school is a non-profit organization. The only design institution in western France, the school benefits from a unique regional situation. It has built an expertise in four socio-economic fields, combining education, experimental research and innovation, through four Design Labs, one of them being the
Sustainable Cities Design Lab dedicated to the evolution of mobility and built environment.


About Léa Grasset

After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design at the École de design Nantes Atlantique, Léa Grasset is currently in the 2nd year of her Master’s degree in Urban Design, at the Sustainable Design City LAB on the Ile de Nantes.