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Henry Glogau’s ‘portable solar distiller’ wins the Lexus Design Award 2021

The Lexus Design Award 2021 was all about invention for the good of humanity, and New Zealand born architecture graduate Henry Glogau took first prize for his solar powered water distiller.

Since its inauguration in 2013, the Lexus Design Awards have always been shaped by the company principles of ‘anticipate, innovate, and captivate’, and the 2021 winner has ticked all the boxes with his first major undertaking.

In case this is the first you’re hearing of the annual competition, the Lexus Design Awards is an international event focused on design for the betterment of humanity. It targets up and coming creators on a global scale and strives to provide them with mentorship from vastly experienced figureheads of tech and architecture.

After carefully vetting 2,079 entries, which varied on the scale of greater world application and eye-catching design, six finalists were identified by a judging panel including senior curator at MoMA Paolo Antonelli, head of Toyota and Lexus Simon Humphries, lead designer at Vector Architects Dong Gong, and CEO of Piaggio Fast Forward Greg Lynn.

Stellar names all round, eh tech buffs?

Of the six finalists, this week Henry Glogau, an architecture graduate from New Zealand, was crowned the Grand Prix winner for his incredible ‘portable solar distiller.’

Having also studied extreme environments in his time at the Royal Danish Academy, Glogau wanted to find an affordable way of providing clean drinking water for developing nations – one with the potential to instantly bring relief to remote communities.

With such nous in engineering, his solution is simple, cost effective, yet genius in design. Creating an easily adjustable lightweight structure, Glogau’s ‘portable solar distiller’ uses solar energy to distil polluted water (or sea water) on a large scale. It no doubt helped Glogau that his creation is intricate and easy on the eye too.

Said to be easily configurable for those who intend to use them – and to make use of local resource production, such as sheeting for funnels and wood for stands – these versatile structures are also intended to provide shaded gathering spaces and bring respite from the sun for those without adequate shelter.

Of course, it goes without saying that this portable distiller could be huge in helping to make a dent in disease related deaths from global menaces like cholera and dysentery if it were to be rolled out on a wide scale.

Congratulating the burgeoning inventor on his success, the Lexus board stated that Glogau found the perfect balance between design and innovation to encompass its ‘Design for a Better Tomorrow’ theme this year.

Narrowly pipping his young peers, who developed equally innovative and potentially transformative creations to first prize (click here for the full list) Glogau had this to say:

‘When you look at the level and quality of the finalists and their projects and the progress that has been made throughout, any one of us could have been the winner this year.’

Paying respect to the continuous support from mentors such as Joe Doucet, Sabine Marcelis, Mariam Kamara, and Sputniko, he continued, ‘Their expertise in a variety of fields really strengthened not only our designs but us also as designers.’

‘We as finalists will cherish the thought-provoking questions and conversations we had, and we were so fortunate to experience them.’

Here’s to hoping many are fortunate enough to experience your invention in the near future Glogau.