Fraunhofer Communication Award for “Grünes Wasser” project

Press release /

First place in the 2022 Fraunhofer Communication Award goes to “Grünes Wasser” (Green Water), a project that has brought new life to the “Fleete” (canals) of Hamburg’s city center, with the participation of the general public. Once filled with boats, sailors and goods from all over the world, the waterways are now largely unused and devoid of vegetation. Christoph Pöhler from the Fraunhofer WKI and Beate Kapfenberger and Martha Starke from the design studio “morgen.” have developed floating islands which are made from a lightweight material that consists entirely of renewable raw materials and upon which plants can be grown. During a participatory action in June 2022, which was accompanied by cross-media, the islands were endowed with their plants and then launched into the water.

The photo shows a researcher holding a triangular floating island made from mycelium material, in which plants are growing. At the corners, connecting elements made from wood can be seen.
© Design studio “morgen.” | Maischa Souaga
Christoph Pöhler launches the floating element, complete with plants, at the Bleichenfleet in Hamburg.
The photo shows a compilation of 19 triangular floating islands upon which plants are growing.
© Design studio “morgen.” | Martha Starke
Through the passive irrigation of the floating islands, valuable habitats for numerous insects and other creatures are also created under water, in the root system of the plants.

“With our floating stepping-stone biotopes, we want to breathe new life into a public space that is lacking in vegetation, such as the Hamburg “Fleete”. It was particularly important for us to engage the general public in this project. We would like to show people at first-hand how organic lightweight-construction materials can enhance public spaces. For this reason, we decided on a participatory action in which interested people could help to plant and launch the islands”, reported Christoph Pöhler, a scientist at the Fraunhofer WKI.

Various cross-media communication measures, ranging from event communication, through press releases and print communication, and on to social media posts accompanied the implementation of the project.

In order to honor the importance of scientific communication, the Fraunhofer PR Network has been awarding the Fraunhofer Communication Award since 2005. Original ideas, effective campaigns and creative projects are distinguished for their contribution towards the transfer to society. The prize was awarded at this year’s PR Strategy Meeting on 22nd November 2022 in Berlin.

The stepping-stone biotopes of “Grünes Wasser” can play a role in improving the quality of water and life in the city. Appropriate planting creates food, reproduction and refuge biotopes for fish, birds, insects and other small creatures in densely populated urban areas. The floating elements are made from residual materials such as wood shavings and hemp hurds. The shape and strength is achieved by means of a fungal mycelium that grows through the residual materials. The construction is so light that the island, complete with plants, can float on the water.

The floating islands illustrate the performance capabilities of modern biomaterials. As eye-catching exhibits in public spaces, they highlight the fact that materials made from renewable raw substances can now fulfill the most stringent requirements. The project is consequently helping to raise awareness of sustainable material solutions in order for them to be used more as a matter of course in product development in the future.

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