Rain is a significant part of the experience of living in Glasgow, affecting the daily lives of residents. Despite the numerous benefits of fresh water abundance, rain itself has a generally negative effect on people’s mood. The experience of rain is not designed into the city, and there is a lack of rain friendly outdoor spaces. Spending time outdoors is essential for wellbeing, and is often limited by rain or wet surfaces.  Identifying these opportunities led to the brief of the project being ‘to improve the experience of rain in Glasgow’.

Trickle is a public rain shelter and interactive water feature for the streets of Glasgow, developed as a Masters project for Product Design Engineering. During the rain, the shelter collects rainwater to supply a low volume water feature, without additional pumping. Trickle embraces the journey of rain by diverting its path through user-controlled mechanical arms. Through manipulating the path of the rain, users can actively participate in the experience without getting wet. This allows the users to enjoy the positive sensory aspects of sight, sound, smell and touch without the negative aspects.

The shelter is a standalone structure, with zero water or energy requirements beyond the rain. It will be passive until the rain causes the tipping bucket to fill and empty. The water will empty directly downwards onto a  water wheel unless a user is present to interact with the arms and complete the water feature. As a unique piece of rain-responsive infrastructure, the product will capture the attention of the public and encourage them to engage with their surroundings on rainy days. Trickle introduces water and nature in otherwise grey spaces, encouraging spontaneous, collaborative play for both adults and children.

This project identified the opportunity to introduce playfulness and connection with rain in public spaces. The proposed design is just one example of a rain-powered water feature, but many variations are possible. There is great opportunity to design the experience of rain into cities in a way that benefits residents and their perception of ‘bad weather’ in urban environments. Introducing rain-related infrastructure to cities has the potential to increase the time spent outdoors and encourage engagement with natural elements. This project relates to many wider social and environmental goals and has much scope for further development.

render of rain shelter with interactive arms

Trickle in use

The user can create their own version of the water feature by experimenting with different heights and configurations of the arms. It is likely that users will interact with the product until they have found several different configurations

Trickle roof

Rain collecting on the roof being directed towards central tipping bucket

Tipping bucket emptying

Once filled, the tipping bucket empties the collected rainwater and initiates the water feature

Water exchange between arms

Rainwater can be transferred between collection and dispersal arms

Network of rain shelters

The design could be implemented as a network of rain shelters., creating greater coverage. This implementation would normalise spending time outdoors in the rain and act as part of Glasgow's transition towards being a rain friendly city

Arm assembly and range of motion

Video showing the assembly of mechanical arms to the columns and the range of translational and rotational motion