Conceptual Conservationism: Khalili Engineers’ Floating “Pipe” Could Generate Billions of Liters of Drinkable Water

Pat Finn Pat Finn

The Land Art Generator Initiative is an annual design contest celebrating environmentally conscious innovation in architecture and engineering. The group’s tagline, “Renewable Energy Can Be Beautiful,” sums up the ethos of the contest nicely. While the entries might only be concept pieces, their visual ingenuity enables us to envision a world untethered from wasteful practices. The best entries this year made the prospect of creating such a world seem more exciting than daunting.

Among the best entries this year was a piece by Khalili Engineers entitled simply “Pipe.” (Think the opposite of Magritte’s The Treachery of Images.) This proposal includes detailed plans and renderings for a hyper-efficient, solar-powered desalination machine that would be docked offshore in Santa Monica, California. The 100-percent carbon-neutral mechanism would be able to transform 4.5 billion liters of Pacific seawater annually into usable water for drinking and irrigation. Interest in desalination has grown over the past several years in California in response to a water crisis.

While the piece is called “Pipe,” the actual chrome design looks more like a cross between an airplane engine and a cigar. Indeed, in the rendering that depicts the device under evening light conditions, the checkered solar panels resemble nothing so much as the patterns on a foil cigar wrapper. It is possible that this was intentional: While solar-powered desalination is a 21st-century idea, the aesthetic of “Pipe” — right down to the mechanistic title — is wrapped up in 20th-century notions of industry and elegance.

Along with fine cigars, another paradigm of 20th-century elegance Khalili Engineers draws on is the luxury cruise ship. In addition to its role as a desalination machine, “Pipe” was also envisioned as a convenient offshore destination for day trips. Visitors would take in panoramic ocean views while the device itself takes in billions of liters of saltwater. Thermal baths of partially salinated water will also be accessible to visitors on site.

When the results of this year’s Land Art Generator Initiative are announced in October, “Pipe” will stand or fall based on its engineering features. Here, the device is sure to be in a strong position due to the efficiency of Khalili Engineers’ proposal, which harnesses the power of not only the sun, but the Earth’s magnetic field. “Electromagnetic filtration uses an isolated electromagnetic field on pipes circulating seawater, separating the salts and impurities. The process is rapid and energy efficient,” the engineers explained in a statement.

One thing is certain: Khalili Engineers’ notion of creating a water filtration and irrigation system that doubles as a spa-like destination for tourists fits perfectly with the utopian ideals of the Land Art Generator Initiative.

All images via, and hat-tip to, designboom

Pat Finn Author: Pat Finn
Pat Finn is a high school English teacher and a freelance writer on art, architecture, and film. He believes, with Orwell, that "good prose is like a windowpane," but his study of architecture has shown him that a window is only as good as the landscape it looks out on. Pat is based in the New York metro area.
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