One of the most charming and provocative powers of design is the ability to translate abstract ideas and immaterial phenomena into physical form. Like the team from Maywa Denki with their nonsense machines they add color to the world and encourage us to look at the world from a different angle.

Flow Mill is one such project that takes a break from the bottom line and instead interprets the world in a different way. Billed as a tidemill, this building floats down the River Tyne in the UK generating sound from a score written by the river itself. The project was thought up and lead by Ed Carter and commissioned by the Arts Council England, and Owl Project created the musical machinery onboard. Flow reflects the changing environment of the river and the power it generates. Man has always lived next to waterways and they were and still are an essential component of life. The mill contains a number of machines (straight out of a Frankenstein movie) that read the quality of the water and turn it into sound. The bubble synth measures the level of nitrates in the water and synthesizes sound out of the information. The “Turbidatron” shoots a laser through a sample of water to measure its turbidity or murkiness. These and other machines all work together to create the sounds of the river. This information can be tracked on Flow’s website.

This auditory representation of the quality of water not only raises awareness of our effect on the environment but reminds visitors of the importance of the river and its power.