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 News 16/10/2010
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Refreshment guaranteed: Why it's on our minds: drinking water

It's taken for granted in the USA that a drinking fountain is a publicly accessible source for everyone to use. The user simply has to press the button, and a stream of water is dispensed from the metal tap. Drinking fountains are in every school, every public building and they're used frequently. There are two things that should be avoided in its use: pressing one's hand or mouth on the spout. Ultimately it's a matter of hygiene.

When it comes to refreshment, the United States has set the bar across the board. Soft drinks were served ice cold back in the 1950s, and it is a matter of course from Maine to Arizona that the refrigerator is the natural source for ice and drinking water. It comes as no surprise then that cold drinks lovers look to dispensers for filtered water at the office.

Flowing water from the ta, is amongst the greatest feats of civilisation. Aqueducts carried liquid from the Alban mountains into the heart of the world's great metropolis Rome. Games and bread alone did not provide for the people's moral, but public fountains and sources for drinking water. Popes and Princes of the Renaissance remembered this fact, ordering magnificent fountains to be built outside and never forgetting how closely pleasure and necessity, water sports and the collection of water were intertwined. Free access to drinking water distributed through antique pipes to numerous fountains and basins throughout the city was essential.

Water is sacred. Perhaps because we are unconsciously aware that this vital combination of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom accounts for two thirds of what we are made of. Over the course of 80 years, roughly 50,000 litres cycle through the body.

Water is the most cherished substance of the past and the present. It is called upon and enjoyed, drunk, used and contaminated before falling from the sky anew as a soft substance in the eternal cycle of evaporation and rain only to once again seep away or turn into vapour. 'Water is the principle of all things', Goethe's Faust quotes Thales, the antique philosopher, 'all things come from water and return to water'. The German Drinking Water Act leaves no room for this sense of poetry. It stipulates that water must fulfill the following criteria: neutral in taste and cool, colourless, odourless and with dissolved minerals, as well as free from illness-inducing agents and must not be harmful to one's health.

What may seem commonplace poses a problem for the vast majority of nations. PET (polyethylene terephthalate) water bottles replace access to a water source that is contaminated, too high in mineral or chemical content, polluted or simply unhygienic. And yet water holds a certain magic for everyone reaching a wellspring. Natural springs have always held something ethereal. Baptismal fonts, grotto chapels and baptisteries call upon the element. They make it clear: this is the beginning, the core, the centre of the community. Only as the centuries passed did the communal spring, the public spigot in the square, make it to households between pots and pans skillets and dutch ovens. The sink joined the stove and later the refrigerator, to which Americans turned to get ice as a matter of course, as if it were an alpine spring. What a dramatic path from a mountain rapid to modern technology, encapsulating what is vital for life.

Refreshment is not a matter of location, but of attitude. Water is the central resource of our lives. The quality of water in Central Europe exceeds the quality of mineral water in many places. The refreshing liquid from the tap is one example of preserving resources: no plastic bottles, no weight, no logistics. It's what the Americans call convenience. Sieger Design created the source befitting the 21st century, elegant and unostentatious, practical and unassuming. The Drinking Zone, as we call it, does not have to be located in the kitchen; thanks to its informal reduction it can also be in other living areas, a small basin, small fittings. Nothing should detract from the act of taking water to oneself, nothing should disrupt such a natural action.

If the bath is the place making it possible to embark on a journey to ourselves, then the kitchen is the place from which community springs. Around the fire and around the water source. Buildings have always centred around this. The harnessed water source is a place's natural innate centre point that binds. Water is synonymous to civilisation. And always has been. It is elusive and beautiful, refreshing and mysterious, revitalising and life-preserving.

Refreshment guaranteed: Why it's on our minds: drinking water
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