©2019 by Otis Harley | otisharley@gmail.com 

Vertical Dam

Rain Capturing Canopy & Generator

“During our week of exploration in the Amazon, we had no light and drank chlorine treated river water. Via a series of rain catchers in the forest canopy, I collected fresh rain water for drinking and harnessed its potential energy to generate electricity. Water, albeit abundant in the amazon, is muddy and ridden with parasites. This system allows isolated communities access to a cleaner water source and artificial light.”



Over the course of the year 2286mm of rain (nearly 4 times that of Copenhagen) falls in the area of the Amazon we visited. Utilizing the abundance of rain in the Amazon, Vertical Dam explores ‘off grid’ means of generating electricity and clean drinking water for the autonomous communities of the Amazon through a ‘vertical dam’ system. 


The construction itself used the natural structures of the forest. Four large rain catchers were hung at a height in the canopy. These collected and stored rainwater and were connected via tubing to a small hydro generator at ground level and a water store. When the water was released it passed through the generator creating electricity and into the store for drinking.


The electricity generated manifested itself as artificial light, via LEDs connected to the generator. I ran a series of tests exploring the idea of converting water to light and devised the notion of light seconds per litre – the amount of artificial light I could create per litre of rain captured. 


At night this process became performance. LED lights connected via long clear wires to the generator turned the water reservoirs into giant floating light diffusers whilst the generator illuminated to reveal the source of the energy. This performative transformation of resources - rain to light to drinking water - aimed to explore how architecture can engage and encourage creative thinking about how we use natural resources.