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Amsterdam Designers Plan a Greasy 'Fatberg' for the Waterfront

A small island made entirely from grease would attract hungry seagulls and delight (disgust?) all in sight.

FATBERG/Kickstarter

Have you ever wanted to become “co-owner of the world’s first community-built island of fat?” If so, what’s wrong with you, and now there’s actually a chance to make your weird dream come true.

For a couple years now, designer Mike Thompson and artist Arne Hendriks have been experimenting with growing a “fatberg,” a giant bulb of calorific sludge made from various types of greases. The concept of an iceberg of fat was made famous in 2013, when a school bus-sized grease blob was found clogging a London sewer. Hendriks and Thompson are building theirs in a more-controlled setting, dripping liquid grease into a vat of water to make something resembling a shiny, mucous-colored tumor.

FATBERG/Kickstarter/Hanneke Wetzer

Now the duo have launched an ambitious Kickstarter campaign to evolve their fatberg to the size of a small island, which they plan to float off a wharf in Amsterdam. If they gather about $27,220 by November 19, they hope by next spring to build a floating dock for the oleaginous orb, and soon have it ready to host lectures on alternative energy sources, fatty-food cooking courses and tastings, and talks on the scientific and social natures of fat.

FATBERG/Space&Matter/Kickstarter

Thompson and Hendriks are serious about hauling this thing out of a dieter’s nightmares into the light of day: They have the backing of the gallery MU artspace, architects Space&Matter, and cultural institution NDSM. So that just leaves the question… Why? Well, they write that they want to “make this vital substance visible without falling into preconceived notions of what fat is, how it functions, what it means, or how we should regard it as a society. Our ultimate goal, is that FATBERG develops its own cultural presence, becoming a point of reference, existing outside of the current debate surrounding fat.”

If that didn’t completely answer things, check out their Kickstarter for more info; it’s fascinating enough just to see what’s in the Frequently Asked Questions:

In warmer temperatures, will the “island” melt and mix with the water?

We have yet to witness evidence of the fat melting and mixing with water. The fats we have been using typically melt at around 30-40 degrees Celsius, which only really becomes an issue closer to the equator. Our longer term aim is to tow the island to the polar regions as a floating energy reserve—but first we hope—with you—to build the island.

And also:

Will birds and other animals feast on Fatberg?

We certainly expect and hope so. Even in its current cylindrical tank we have discovered slime molds and small aquatic insects living in and around the berg so it already functions as its own ecosystem.

H/t Designboom

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.