The Waterhouse was built with the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, titled rīvus, that imagines rivers, wetlands and other salt and freshwater ecosystems as dynamic living systems. It extended upon the foundational principle of rīvus, “building upon what’s already there” and gifts agency to those who connect to it by empowering audiences to recognise that their journey holds great value.
The Waterhouse acknowledges the ‘teacher’ in all, manifesting in animals, plants, environments and humankind. It celebrates waters, trees, insects, and children as places and spaces that hold an abundance of knowledge to be collected and shared and creates conditions where the generative accumulation of knowledge is facilitated. By enabling learning to happen through the various teachers of life, we aim to shift the way we humans think about our place in the world and slowly, over time, change our practice of being ‘with’ the world.
The Waterhouse is a place with a history, developed in response to Casa M, Porto Alegre, Brazil; Artistic Director José Roca’s earlier project which formed the heart of the 8th Mercosul Biennale (2011). Casa M provided a habitat for gathering, a newly constructed, physical place for the community to come together, engage in critical dialogue, make and learn. Casa M was born from an identified need for greater infrastructure for artists and audiences.
The Waterhouse, as a product of its time is a place-responsive encounter that works with pre-existing architecture within The Cutaway at Barangaroo. Sustainable in thinking and in practice it looks towards questioning accepted modes of learning and sharing by presenting alternative possibilities. The methods and approaches are fresh and unexpected. They aspire to ground and expand our connection with rīvus and what it can offer us all.
As a tangible entity, it lives, and it breathes. Envisioned as a wetland, its edges are porous, like liquid – holding space for mystery, growth and symbiotic relationships.
The Waterhouse asks to be experienced – with consciousness and care.