water bench by MARS architects collects + stores rainwater
all images courtesy of MARS architects





MARS architects (neville mars) was commissioned by the BMW guggenheim lab to participate in the think tank’s long-term vision to develop interventions that would benefit our cities and greater urban environments. for their participation, the international firm focused on water concerns, creating an outdoor piece of furniture that collects and stores rainwater through functional cushions. the ‘water bench’, is an adaptable, modular design, that has been fashioned off our traditional notions of a chesterfield sofa, creating the atmosphere of an urban living room within the public realm.


the seating piece has been conceived as the first prototype in a series of small-scale solutions that aim to emphasize multi-functionality and sustainability in urban design, in this case, increasing water independence at the local level, while also encouraging social interaction. devised as a means of alleviating pressure off of already strained centralized infrastructures, the bench responds to the emergence of water-dependency in our urban landscapes, in which green space often consumes great amounts of the natural resource.



water bench by MARS architects collects + stores rainwater
the ‘water bench’ features seams which allow water to flow into the buttons, keeping its surface dry for sitting



the ‘water bench’ merges standard outdoor furniture with rainwater collection and storage to create a product that can standalone as a means of irrigating small plots of land and gardens— with a combination of water run-off and smart wells, the design can eventually make parks and public spaces independent from district water supplies. the implementation of the humble system has the potential to lower demand, increase supply, and create buffers to minimize the impact of floods and droughts, creating a more resilient and flexible water management network.



water bench by MARS architects collects + stores rainwater
two city dwellers in mumbai test out a ‘water bench’




made from partially recycled polyethylene, each ‘water bench’ is produced from the same mould for both the underground and aboveground tanks. the surface has been realized with a tufted effect, an aesthetic of the eighteenth-century-style, whereby the grooves and seams guide the water to the buttons which in turn function as water inlets that lead to tanks inside the hollow bench. as it collects the rain, it also reduces moisture and ensures the surface remains dry for sitting. the ‘water bench ‘ is available with three different storage capacities–500, 1,000, and 1,800 liters–so that they can be implemented in a number of different urban scenarios: the smallest unit does not even require any ground work, and is best equipped for roadside installation; the medium size includes an underground tank and is well-suited for gardens and greenhouses; and the largest one is appropriate for public parks and playgrounds.


mumbai, the most populated city in india has been chosen as a test site, where the first water benches have been installed in horniman circle and cross maiden, whose installation will be carried out over a one-year prototyping phase.

neville mars was a speaker at our designboom conference at UCCA during beijing design week 2013, where he engaged in conversation with chinese architect zhang ke on the issue of preservation, specifically in relation to the dashilar area of the chinese capital. stay tuned for more coverage!



water bench by MARS architects collects + stores rainwater
installation views of some ‘water benches’ at their horniman circle site in mumbai,



water bench by MARS architects collects + stores rainwater
the two part modular system is composed of an under- and above- ground tank



neville mars talk about the ‘water bench’ project
video courtesy of MARS architects



water bench by MARS architects collects + stores rainwater
diagram that indicates how the water collection works


water bench by MARS architects collects + stores rainwater

beijing design week
september 26th – october 3rd


beijing design week (BJDW) stands to enliven china’s capital with a unique city-wide showcase of initiatives celebrating creativity and innovation from the design field at large.