Gabriele Diamanti is a very generous designer. He hs just invented a device, which he called Eliodomestico, that turns sea water into drinking water using the natural heat coming from the sun. Eliodomestico can be made by anyone who knows how to work clay and it was specifically conceived to be a low tech object, for all to make easily and cost-effectively. Eliodomestico was finalist, a while ago, at the prestigious Prix Emile Hermès (www.prixemilehermes.com). But why is Gabriele generous? Because he decided to share his idea with the whole world by licencing it through Creative Commons (www.creativecommons.org). He explains why.
Last year, during the Salone del Mobile in Milan, you realized an installation on the street where everyone could fill up water bottles, sit down and have a drink. Now you come up with another water-related project. Is this your obsession? More than an obsession, it’s a necessity. But if with this questions you want to ask me why I care about this issue, I will answer with another question: why don’t we all do? I am very close to doctors and operators who work in developing countries where I have also extensively travelled. Hence I had the opportunity to experience all issues related to the lack of drinking water. My standpoint, with regard to water, is the following. Public management of water (where it exists) should be preserved, improved and defended against privatization (also through sensibilization campaigns); in places where this sort of management does not exist, it should be created; and whereas this should not be possible for lack of funds or infrastructure, a system should be put in place so that everyone can autonomously and independently provide for extraction, cleansing and desalting. I think that design can positively give an impact on all these three areas. How does Eliodomestico work? Like an Italian coffee maker. A pressurized pan is filled up with sea water during the day and set out in the sunshine. The heat increases the pressure of the container and produces a steam flow that falls down in the bottom bowl where it condenses as water drops. Drinking water drops. It is by no means a new principle and there are many solar distillers available already on the market. Yet these are all very expensive to manufacture and produce. I wanted Eliodomestico to be as cheap as possible, so I made it out of clay and some zinc sheets, and shaped it as a traditional bowl, so that any craftsman can make it easily. The estimated price is 50 euro against 100 of other distillers.
Why did you decide to make it an open source project?
I designed Eliodomestico in 2005 and originally I thought of patenting it. But while I was filling out all the paperwork I realized that it made no sense. Patents are, by their own nature, commercial and, considering the subject that I was dealing with, this was a contradiction in terms. If I had sold the patent to a company, it will do everything to earn the most out of it, understandably. But the result would be that the end user will once again be the slave of a commercial dynamic in order to get a glass of water. So I decided to ‘do away’ with companies overall. If I give the project away – I thought – and make it as popular as possible but in an open source way, I basically make it very difficult for anyone to make money out of it. My next step was a complete redesign of the device: the first version included an element that needed to be industrially manufactured, while the second one can be made by anyone, in any sort of situation. The idea is also that local craftsmen do it: Eliodomestico will always be a local product for the local community. There is still a lingering question: what do I earn out of it? I am afraid I have no answer for this one…