14 exhibition units with films, animations and interactive applications around the topic drinking water (© Anne-Sophie Stolz)

A Creative Approach to Knowledge Transfer in the Field of Drinking Water

Steinbeis experts organize exhibition at the new Mörscher Wald waterworks in Karlsruhe

Information is a core resource of continually growing socio-political and economic significance. Current topics such as digitalization, artificial intelligence, mobility, sustainability, and emerging technologies with their global consequences require education of a broad public audience, not only to involve the members of our democratic society in such sources of knowledge, but also to put them in a position to make decisions and take action. As part of its corporate communications, the municipal utility company Stadtwerke Karlsruhe therefore decided to launch an information campaign aimed at members of the general public on the many issues affecting the production and supply of drinking water. To this end, it commissioned the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Visual Information and Knowledge Transfer to organize an exhibition.

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To safeguard the vital long-term supply of drinking water in Karlsruhe and its surrounding communities, including for future generations, public utility company Stadtwerke Karlsruhe has constructed a new water processing plant in a water protection zone called Mörscher Wald. Its waterworks adhere to the latest technical standards. In parallel to the construction project of the century, the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Visual Information and Knowledge Transfer was invited to use three rooms at the complex to provide detailed scientific information on the project, including artistic installations.

“The main challenge of this complex task was to create spaces and content for an extremely heterogeneous target audience,” explains Steinbeis entrepreneur Professor Anja Grunwald. The aim of the utility company was to use the creative project to appeal to a wide audience, ranging from schoolchildren and students to adults with an interest in such topics and even experts in the supply of drinking water, who are expected to use the new building for conferences and lectures. The result was a concept that adapts to different visitor scenarios by allowing for adaptable furniture elements, which impart information and educational content in such a way that visitors can delve into the issues of drinking water production on different levels, depending on their previous knowledge.

On the one hand, it would be important for the utility company to provide information on the responsible use of drinking water. On the other hand, from a corporate communication perspective, three core messages needed to be conveyed to the visitors:

  • The drinking water of Karlsruhe is a carefully monitored, high-quality product of consumption, which is always available.
  • The waterworks of Karlsruhe bank on the very latest technologies and ensure a sustainable supply of drinking water.
  • The waterpipe network in Karlsruhe is a sophisticated system that guarantees adequate supplies of drinking water for the region, even during peaks in consumption.

The exhibition spans three rooms, each with a different focus to form a tour.

Atmosphere: Immerse Yourself in the World of Water

In the foyer, visitors to the waterworks are met by a huge blue-and-green screen of rectangular elements, symbolizing the union of technology and nature on the one hand, and the process of drinking water production on the other. At the same time, the natural sounds of water can be heard coming from speakers on the ceiling and large pipe sculptures – dripping, swishing and swashing, splashing, or even the sounds of technology such as pumps, water wheels, or filters flushing. “The sound composition immerses visitors in the atmosphere of the world of water,” says Anja Grunwald, describing the experience. There are also ways to interact with the exhibits, with one of the tubular sculptures equipped with sensors to allow the sounds to be shaped by hand movements, like an instrument. If visitors start feeling thirsty during the tour, they can help themselves to drinking water from a dispenser in the foyer, which looks like an abstract pebble from the River Rhine.

Information: Understand the Interrelationships of Drinking Water Supply

The second room houses the drinking water exhibition itself, comprising 14 exhibition units. These range from graphical displays to animations, films, and interactive media, the aim of which is to convey information on the physical phenomena of water, personal and regional consumption via groundwater resources in the Upper Rhine river basin, drinking water extraction using deep wells, and even global issues such as climate change or the human right to unhindered access to drinking water. A ceiling-high model along one wall shows the topography of the Upper Rhine river basin around Karlsruhe. LEDs on the wall depict the entire network of pipelines in the supply area, also showing related technical infrastructure such as waterwork plants, pressure booster stations, elevated water tanks, and sampling points. Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences also played a central role in creating the exhibition room. To kick off the project, a joint curatorial workshop was organized to define topics with members of the drinking water department at Stadtwerke Karlsruhe. Based on their input, Anja Grunwald ran two seminars with students at the Faculty of Information Management and Media to develop initial concepts for the themed exhibits. Drawing on scientific advice provided by the experts from the drinking water department, the Steinbeis team then embarked on a two-year process to define specific content for the concepts and how this should be conveyed in media terms. Particular attention was given to ensuring information offered to visitors would be as comprehensive as possible, also focusing educational content on core aspects and ensuring it was readily comprehensible. Depending on the level of interest and their familiarity with different forms of media, visitors can absorb essential content on the large displays featured in the room, or become more active and actually engage with digital and interactive media. The themed exhibits are also housed in mobile units, so-called flight cases, allowing the room to be used flexibly for presentations and meetings.

Experience: Feel the Power of Water and Experience Technology

The final section of the exhibition takes visitors to the heart of the waterworks – the pump hall. This area helps to understand the technical elements of the waterworks on a one-to-one basis. A technique called projection mapping is used to portray powerful moving images onto the objects in the hall, showcasing water as a chemical element in its various phases and thus making its power as a life force more tangible. In addition, information is displayed on technical equipment and pumping capacities, underscored acoustically by a sound installation to turn the technology into a tangible experience.

The exhibition was opened on July 11, 2022 in cooperation with Mörscher Wald Waterworks. Guided tours can be booked by contacting Karlsruher Stadtwerke: +49 (0) 721 599-3202. For further information, go to www.swka.de/ausstellung


Prof. Anja Grunwald (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Visual Information and Knowledge Transfer (Karlsruhe)