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. Free bonus, it has 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 is so excited by the idea, that they already do a brainstorm before the festival begins. Sachi has a clear goal: the Hair-washer district needs to be more sustainable. For the TU Delft students that sounds 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 as follows: how to pump the water three meters high? How to heat and purify the water? What soap do we use? After this inventory of issues is made, materials are collected to build a hand pump, bio filters, a sun boiler, and of course, biodegradable soap. That's a prodigious, but having all the materials and making this work, is something else completely.


After some necessary coffees are consumed at the community tent, the team starts brainstorming and canvassing about the aim of the project, besides making it as eco friendly as possible. The Hair-washer District should be a place to interact and communicate with other Villagers(people who visit Welcome to The Village) through the intimate act of washing hair. Since the system will be driven by the energy of the sun and people, ‘clients’ will become more aware of their environmental impact at the same time. Work hard, relax hard.

The ideas all sound really nice on paper, but at the end of the week there needs to be a functioning system. How to start building this thing? Side note: the technical students have little (read: no) practical technical experience, which is no help to the cold feet everybody gets. Luckily, Sachi is a very hands-on person with a larger toolkit than the whole WTTV organization all together and she urges the team to get their hands dirty as soon as possible. The first problem to tackle is pumping up 500 liters of water daily, from the lake to the 4 meter high platform where the Hair Washer District actually is.

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

After trying several techniques to achieve this, the team is stuck with a mystery: the water just won't reach above 3 meters height. One meter short! Experts are consulted on spot to help out and one fellow DORP participants has a clue. The pump simply hasn’t enough capacity. The advice now, is to hire an electric pump. It would help, but undermines the sustainability goals of the project. But half a day of struggling later - pumping in the wrong direction, cutting tubes too short, unable to disconnect parts... - the team still fails.

But then, a random passenger is checking out the imposing construction. He tries something that is so simple, so gentle, that no current member of the project team tried out before. He pumps veeeeeeryyyyy slooooowwwly. And lo and behold, it works! Surely but slowly, drip by drip, water is reaching the basin on top.

Day 2

Sunday is a rainy day. Making the pump work revived the spirit, but after a good night of sleep, the team realizes that pumping slow will never raise enough water up. The team starts 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.” For this kind of thing, DORP Radio is invented. A hyper-local radio station, broadcasting only during DORP. After putting out a request on their frequency, the team quickly finds a wholesaler that is willing to supply 100 PET bottles the very next day.

As the district is quite an imposing structure, it draws a lot of attention. And sometimes, new team members. This is how Lodewijk joins the project. With quite some experience building solar boilers in Eco-Villages in Brazil, he's a valuable addition.

Sustainability first

Sachi's team now faces multiple technical challenges. Many of the material demands are 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’ seems quite surprised by the team’s unwillingness to compromise on sustainability goals. But just in case, the production coordinator can provide an electrical pump if it's really necessary. It's not, the team agrees.

Day 3 - this team is oN

Leave Sachi's team alone for a few hours and designs can change entirely. The planned 100 PET bottles have to be bought at quite a cost. Too high a cost, actually, so the team invents another solution. And so, ah-hoc as things go here, they build an alternative solar thermal heater with a tube network on an isolated base. Fellow villagers are very impressed by the look, but honestly, this still is all just one big experiment. 

Nena explains: "As soon as the sun was out we could immediately test it. In theory, the water warms up enough by traveling a long distance through the black tubes." But will such a structure work in reality? "As it turns out, we can reach a temperature of around 70 degrees." Also today, 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. "So, there's still an issue we need to address," Nena admits. 

Project member Beanne also worries about the colour of the filtered water, which is still a quirky 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." Her doubts about the water are gone as soon as Bauke, Sachi's production manager, starts drinking it and doesn't immediately 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', because this team is up to speed. As there is no time to waste, overthinking issues, is replaced by just doing stuff. Within just a few hours the platform is provided with a nice shady roof structure with the solar heater on top. It stands, it works, next!

A though decision is being made too: the handpump to get the water up the structure is not up to the task and will be replaced by a tank-and bucket system. Nena seems disappointed. "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 grab a bike and a bucket to get some water-cleaning micro organisms, 7 kilometers away from the festival. It seems like they take the water treatment very seriously. "The micro organisms, a.k.a. 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 pee 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 who will be actually washing the hair of all the people with dirty hair, need to get training. Sachi explains the process step by step: "People need to feel at ease," she says, "explain the process and the steps, make sure the water is not too hot and make sure they are comfortable. Oh yes, and don't poor water in the customer's ears.". Luckily, more than enough Villagers are willing to volunteer. The next day, the first real visitors will arrive, so better make those test runs count.

Although people might be strangers to each other, the intimate act of washing hair creates a space for openness and trust. People often share personal stories and the hairdresser becomes a secrets keeper
- Sachi Miyachi
One of the first people to ever try the Hair Washer District.

Festival hair

Friday, the first day of the festival Welcome to The Village, starts quietly. This gives the hairdressers enough time to cook the soap and take care of the last but necessary preparations. 

The first people coming by to take a look are V.E.P's. These Very Ecological People, are participants of another DORP project, ECO COIN and they are on the hunt to earn eco coins by conducting in eco friendly behaviour. A hair treatment is free for all visitors, but you can earn one of those eco coins by pumping some extra oxygen in the micro organism filter. 

A skeptic V.E.P. also happens to be a marine biologists and asks some critical questions. Luckily he gives his approval: “This is exactly how water is filtered on large scale as well”. The first freshly washed clients also seem satisfied, and leave the platform with a chilled out smirk on their faces. As the festival has just begun, most of them admit that their hair actually doesn't need washing. At this point, it's more about the experience of having your hair being taken care of. And that experience is quite nice. “I will come back tomorrow when I get the chance," one visitor says, as she moves on to one of the shows.

A serene place

On Saturday, the sun is out and the drying towels are a like a waving sign to the festival goers that the salon is open again. It's way more crowded today. Ten volunteers have to work in shifts to service all the 'customers'. The Hair-Washer District seems to benefit from some good old word-of-mouth advertisement and it doesn’t take long before there is a long cue. 

Who wants to have a hair wash needs to be patient, or come back early on Sunday. Which some do. Others wait. Luckily for them, they've got a great view of the festival, over the lake. In the end, after three days of festival hair, over one hundred customers get their hair washed. 

What a place to find some peace. Or, at least, clean hair.

This post was updated daily, for the duration of DORP 2017. 

- Story by Nena Bode