Christopher Sjoberg

Christopher Sjoberg

New York, NY, US

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regattaH2O - 1st Place, LAGI International Design Competition, 2017

Familiar Form, Chameleon Infrastructure:

What makes a human-made form beautiful? What makes a natural landscape beautiful?

Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder, but powerful forms and powerful landscapes both elicit strong emotional attachments and can inspire participants into action. While each may be evaluated upon their own merits and qualities, rarely do they come together without controversy.

Yet there are some man-made forms so universally associated with their landscapes, and so steadfastly imprinted in the collective imagination – the red dairy barns of pastoral America, the terraced rice paddies of Southern China, the whitewashed villas of hilltop Greece - that they become an inseparable element of the natural landscape's identity. The sea is no different, and since the 5th Millennium BC, when civilizations first began navigating the oceans by harnessing the wind, the billowing forms of sail and mast have occupied an omnipresent place in the mental image of the seaside.

In this capacity, regattaH20 re-purposes this familiar maritime form as infrastructure which harvests fog to create fresh water and taps the wind to power its operations, all while conjuring the sweeping beauty and timeless qualities of these angular shapes. Unlike offshore windmills which disrupt a natural setting with heavy mechanical presence and distracting movement, the slowly-undulating and ever-changing forms of regattaH2O embody a pleasing and familiar form, direct contours of the naturally fluctuating coastal breezes.

Now more than ever, long-held norms of conservation, often environments rich in renewable resources, are being challenged by the realities of a warming planet and the requirement that society take immediate and significant action. Through an artistic and technological re-imagining of millenniums-old science, regattaH2O shows that the union of the natural environment with the climatic benefits of sustainable energy and water infrastructure can have powerful and positive impacts on how we perceive these places.

The Challenge:

Many say the new sustainability ethos is “water is the new energy.” California has recently experienced one of the most prolonged droughts in its modern history, almost certainly made worse by climate change, putting strain on water resources depended upon by industry and residents alike. Los Angeles, which obtains a mere 13% of its water from local ground well sources,1 depends on a vast and energy-intensive network of water transport infrastructure to move water from distant reservoirs into the city.

For Santa Monica Pier, which has already made great progress in using sustainable solar energy to meet its power needs, the next step is to ensure that water can also be sustainable sourced on-site, in a manner detrimental to neither the region's vital ecosystem, nor its prosperous and celebrated leisure and entertainment identity.

How then, can locally-sourced fresh water be sustainably produced through minimal-impact, visually pleasing infrastructure?


The design of regattaH2O relies primarily on a process known as fog harvesting, which has been pioneered through joint research at MIT and the Catholic University of Chile, and in practice throughout parched regions of the Atacama desert since the 1960s, to provide fresh water to residents for irrigation, cooking and consumption. Unlike osmotic membrane and evaporator desalination processes, which require large amounts of energy or large solar coverage respectively to extract fresh water from saltwater, fog harvesting silently and passively combs fog rich coastal air, produced as a natural part of the hydrology cycle. As fog passes through vertically oriented, fine plastic meshes, water molecules condense on the surfaces, forming droplets which cling to the mesh, slowly descending until aggregated in collection troughs where they then drain into storage basins for treatment and use. These meshes compose the sails of the regattaH2O proposal, with collection troughs designed as veins within the sail surface, transporting harvested moisture to the mast were it can be piped to storage vessels at the Santa Monica Pier.

Competition Website

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Status: Competition Entry
Location: Santa Monica, CA, US
My Role: Designer
Additional Credits: Ryo Saito

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