Skip to main content

Coin Operated Wetlands

2021

Materials: Wetland plants, water tanks, water pump, commercial washers, sand, gravel

Description: Two laundry machines are connected to a wetland. Pipes and a pump connect the washing machines to an indoor wetland. The wetland consists of two clear boxes filled with aquatic plants, dirt, and water. There is a third box that holds the filtered water. The wetland and water boxes sit on a stack of shipping palettes. 

An Ecosystem on Rinse Cycle

The Coin-Operated Wetland by the Australian artist Tega Brain encourages us to reconsider our place in the environment. What if everyday appliances, such as washing machines, could be used to create ecosystems? 

This version of the project uses a closed wastewater system to grow a garden of wetland plants. It is inspired by the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the country, which includes Washington, DC, in its watershed.

In theory, the principles of an ecosystem like this, in which humans and nature collaborate, could be extended to whole cities.

Credit: Tega Brain. This project was developed in collaboration with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and Smithsonian Gardens.