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Architectural icons: water towers

Architectural icons: water towers

by Sarita Rao 3 min. 07.03.2021 From our online archive
You may not be a fan of rain, but have you ever noticed the architectural wonders that are the Waassertierm of Luxembourg?
Almost space age, Karbaukis has photographed a number of water towers (Waassertierm) in Luxembourg
Almost space age, Karbaukis has photographed a number of water towers (Waassertierm) in Luxembourg
Photo credit: Gediminas Karbaukis

Luxembourg’s landscape is sprinkled with water towers, that fill after a heavy rainfall. Whilst they obviously have a single function – to collect water (in most but not all cases), many are also amazing landmarks that can be seen from kilometres away, standing out on the skyline like spaceships. In fact, they come in all shapes and sizes.

Ban de Gasperich "lighthouse"

Probably the best-known (because you can see it from the motorway) is the water 68 metre-high water tower at Ban de Gasperich which was inaugurated in 2018.

The 68m high water tower at Ban de Gasperich stands out on the landscape
The 68m high water tower at Ban de Gasperich stands out on the landscape
Photo : Pierre Matgé

At night the many LED lights glow in different colours providing an almost lighthouse like quality to it, whilst the façade of aluminium panels with white metallic cladding reflects the steel industry glory days of Luxembourg combined with the symbolic purity of water.

Hivange "cone" tower

Another marvel is the water cone tank at Hivange, in south-west Luxembourg. Built in 2003 and designed by Reuter Architects, it’s a simple geometrical form visible from all sides and designed to fit in harmoniously with nature.

The concrete cone is covered in an aluminium shell and can hold 2000 cubic metres of water. It adapts to the changing weather and lighting conditions. On sunny days, you see it shine, whilst if the sky overhead is cloudy, it becomes almost invisible.

You may not know it, but this water tower was nominated for the EU Mies Award in 2005.

Dippach “L” tower

If you’re travelling in the vicinity of Dippach, you might spot the L-shaped water tower which is both an elevated and pressurized water tower. Completed in 2017 by Paul Bretz Architects, it adds an unusual touch to the surrounding farmland, almost like a strange sculpture from another dimension.

Lithuanian-born Gediminas Karbaukis has captured some of the Grand Duchy’s more space-age looking water towers in a series of black and white photographs. They would not be out of place on a science fiction film set.

There are some 87 local water towers featured here, reflecting both old and historic, and modern and contemporary designs. 

Alternative uses

Not all Luxembourg’s water towers still have the job of collecting this vital element. The old water tower in Dudelange, part of a former steel mill, now houses the Edward Steichen collection of photographs from the Great Depression in America, entitled “The Bitter Years” which opens again in March.

The 55-metre-high Aquatower in Berdorf pays homage to the wet stuff with an interactive display on water and information on how the Luxembourgers found and stored water in the days of yore. It offers fantastic views of the surrounding Mullerthal region from its viewing platform and is open Thursdays to Sundays from 14.00 to 17.00 (extending to 18.00 from April). A maximum of ten people wearing masks are allowed at any one time.

Often to be found on the outskirts of villages, Luxembourg’s water towers are stunning landmarks, and little architectural wonders.

They might have an industrial purpose, but they are also unusual and unique architectural icons.

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