Japanese artist Sachi Myachi tickles senses and washes hair

Although we could save lots of water and energy when doing so, not showering at festivals for days in a row is not cool. Therefore at DORP taking care of your bodily hygiene - especially your hair - will be turned into quite an experience! With her art installation “Hair-washer District”, Japanese artist Sachi Miyachi created a temporary salon where all your senses will be triggered. Lifted three meters high from the mass of people, you can enjoy a relaxing hair wash with home made biodegradable soap. With an amazing view over the lake. During DORP she teams up with three students from TU Delft to make the whole system fully sustainable. The challenge is: Can this luxurious salon function Off-Grid?

This is what building a hair salon looks like


The team was so excited that they already did a brainstorm before the festival began. Sachi had a clear goal: the Hair-washer district needs to be more sustainable. For the TU Delft students that sounded like Off Grid: the system should function without being connected to tap water or electricity. 

Given that the area is green and biodiverse, the challenge is to use the water from the lake. First, all the issues and needs were identified: how to pump the water 3 meters high? How to heat and purify the water? What soap do we use? After the inventory was made, materials were collected to build a hand pump, bio filters, a sun boiler, and of course, biodegradable soap. Will they make it work in just a couple of days?


After some necessary coffees were consumed at the community tent, the team started brainstorming and canvassing about the aim of the project. The Hair-washer District will be a place to interact and communicate with other Villagers through the intimate act of washing hair. Since the system will be driven by the energy of the sun and people, ‘clients’ will become aware of their environmental impact at the same time. Work hard, relax hard.

The idea sounds really nice on paper, but at the end of the week there needs to be a functioning system. How to start building this thing? The team got cold feet. Side note: the technical students have little (read: no) practical technical experience. Luckily Sachi is a very hands-on person with a larger toolkit than the whole WttV organization all together. Time to get the hands dirty. The first problem to tackle was pumping up water from the lake to the 4 meters high platform, to provide around 500 liters of water a day.

Trouble! After a pump was installed, the water wouldn't rise enough through te piping... 

After trying several techniques, the team was stuck with a mystery: the water just wouldn’t reach above 3 meters height. Experts were consulted on spot. Conclusion: the pump hasn’t enough capacity. The advice was to hire an electric pump. Three hours of struggling later - pumping in the wrong direction, cutting tubes too short, unable to disconnect parts.. - the team was about to give up their sustainability goals.

But then, a random passenger came by checking out the imposing construction. Like an angel sent from the heavens of innovation, he knew just the tricks to make the system work. Pump veeeeeeryyyyy slooooowwwly. And it worked! Surely but slowly, water was reaching the basin on top.

Day 2

Sunday was a rainy day. Making the pump work revived the spirit, but after a good night of sleep, the team realizes that the amount of water will never be enough. The team has started to think in plans B, C, and even D. Charlotte, a physics student, is busy calling a company that provides pumps driven by solar power. She explains: “Everyone is calling us crazy. They urge us to work with an electric pump, or even one powered by an electric car, but the whole point is that the system works independent from the grid. Therefore we will first try all options that run on renewable energy or human power”.

100 PET bottles

In the meanwhile Charis, the technical brain of the group, started researching options for a solar boiler to heat the water. Charis: “through contacts, we have found an online DIY manual to make a solar heating system. It’s a very low tech version of a solar boiler, that you can put on the roof to heat your water. We need to get at least 100 PET bottles as soon as possible.” The team can use some extra hands, so luckily Lodewijk has joined the team. Actually he has only one hand available as he broke his wrist, but he happens to have quite some experience building solar boilers in Eco-Villages in Brazil. After a request on DORP-radio, the team found a wholesaler that was willing to supply 100 PET bottles the next day.

Sustainability first

Sachi's team now faces multiple technical challenges. Many of the material demands were not foreseen and have to be improvised on site. Full of doubt and uncertainty, they are asked to pitch the project in the 'War Room’ (brainstorm room, red.) for the DORP organization. The ‘jury’ seemed quite surprised by the team’s unwillingness to compromise on sustainability goals. Just in case plan C or D may become reality the production coordinator will provide an electrical pump.

Day 3 - this team is on

Leave Sachi's team alone for a few hours and designs might have changed entirely. Due to the 100 PET bottles not being free, the team had to designed an alternative solar thermal heater with a tube network on an isolated base. Fellow villagers are very impressed by the look, but honestly, this is all one big experiment. 

Nena explains: "As soon as the sun was out we could immediately test it. In theory, the water warms up fast enough by traveling a long distance through the black tubes. It turns out we can reach a temperature of around 70 degrees." The first filter stages are installed and working. However, the flow rate of the water is way too slow to wash six heads per hour, which is the aim of the entire installation. 

Project member Beanne also worries about the colour of the filtered water, which is still a bit green. "I know the quality of the water is perfectly fine for washing hair," she says, "but Dutch people are so spoiled with the perfectly clear drinking water we have here in the Netherlands." Remaining doubts about the water are gone as soon as Bauke, Sachi's production manager, starts drinking it and doesn't get sick. [Also, as far as we know of, he's still in mint condition., red.]

DAY 4 & 5 - speeding up

Take a moment to turn on Rihanna's Work Work Work, this team is up to speed. As there is no time to waste, overthinking is replaced by just doing. Within just a few hours the platform is provided with a nice shady roof structure with the solar heater on top. 

A though decision is being made, too: the handpump to get the water up the structure, will be replaced by a tank-and bucket system. Nena seems disapointed. "I understand that the handpump isn't reliable enough, but we worked so long to try and make it work, I can't let go of it yet," she says.

Meanwhile, Lodewijk and Charlotte grabbed a bike and a bucket to get some water-cleaning micro organisms, 7 km away from the festival. It seems like they take the water treatment very seriously. "The micro organisms, aka super tiny animals, feed themselves from the soap and hair particles in the disposed water", Charlotte says. She laughs: "The supplier said they will probably die within a few days, as they usually eat a lot more. Like pie and poo."

DAY 6 - getting ready

Technically the salon is almost good to go. But what about the customer interaction? For the finishing touch, a small infographic is laser cutted in wood. A customer guide will lead visitours through water journey, from fetching the bucket to disposing the water. This way the treatment is not solely relaxing but also informative.

Last but not least, the hair washers need to get training. Sachi explains the process step by step: "People need to feel at ease. Explain the process and the steps, make sure the water is not too hot, Make sure they lie comfortable. Oh yes, and don't poor water in the customer's ears". Luckily more than enough villagers are willing to volunteer. Only a few more times to practice before the first festival visitors will come the next day.

This is heaven

This post will be updated daily, for the duration of DORP.

- Story by Nena Bode