13 min read
Matthias Oetting

Clean, clear water cannot be taken for granted. The company OASE offers water technology from aquariums to pond pumps to the creative design of water features in city centres and at landmarks. We talked to Matthias Oetting, Marketing Director of OASE, about water restoration, the new brand identity and the magic of water.

Interview: Thomas Wagner

Putting the Question: In conversation with Matthias Oetting

Water has many different fascinating facets – from the water part of the human body to drinking and healing water to rivers and lakes, from agriculture to gardening and landscaping. Clean water in sufficient quantities has long not been a matter of course in many countries. Germany, too, already suffers from water shortages in hot summers. It seems that managing the scarce resource of water will not become any easier in the future.

Mr Oetting, what can be done in your view to deal with water more sustainably – and what can companies like OASE contribute in concrete terms?

First of all, there are lots of recommendations on how everyone can use water sustainably – from saving water when washing hands and taking showers to recycling systems. And here we are already at OASE: Of course you can water your garden from the drinking water connection at the house. But you can also install a water tank, collect rainwater, store it and then sprinkle the lawn with an OASE pump. Or let’s take a pond: such a pond is first of all an artificial water reservoir that can also help the surrounding area when water is scarce. But it is also much more, e.g. a biotope that supports biodiversity because not only insects but also birds find water here and, through the insects, food. And if you use the right technique, you will also be using water sparingly as a resource. A pleasant side effect: with a pond, you also enhance the value of the property in the long term. When it comes to sustainable management, it is not only ponds that need to be considered, but also lakes and inland waters. This is where OASE is active in the field of water technology. An analysis by the German Ministry of the Environment found that the water quality of up to two thirds of all inland waters in Germany is mediocre to poor.

How can this be changed?

The problem results to a considerable extent from too many nutrients being introduced into the water bodies. This can be quite normal leaves that fall into the garden pond. But agricultural influences also lead to a strong algae bloom in spring and summer. When the algae die off at the end of the warm season and sink to the bottom, lazy sludge eventually forms, which would lead to siltation of the water bodies in the long run. In smaller water bodies and ponds, pumps and filters can be used to ensure that the ecosystem remains in balance and algae formation is reduced. This is not an option for lakes. Here, fouling sludge is the cause of a variety of problems because space is taken away from the water. If a body of water silts up, there is less water. But less water does not only mean: less habitat and less element of life. It also means less oxygen. And it means: it becomes more difficult for all living creatures that exist in it to survive. Above a certain level of reduced oxygen saturation, fish mortality can occur, sometimes of dramatic proportions. To do something about this, we have, for example, developed a remedy called PeriDox, which actively adds oxygen to the water in the short term.

Is this a chemical agent? How should one imagine its effect?

PeriDox is a biochemical agent. I emphasise this because it has been adapted to the natural biology of water and does not introduce any harmful foreign substances into the water. In general, we only use media and active substances that also occur in nature or are completely compatible, so that they can show their effect without polluting water, animals or plants. PeriDox can be used in fish farming, for example, where the fish can be removed and eaten immediately after application. With other oxygenating agents, a decay period of several days or weeks is necessary before the fish can be consumed again according to German food law. This is not the case with our product, which is why I attach importance to the term “biochemical”.

You offer solutions for bodies of water in all sizes – from dams to swimming ponds to aquariums in the living room. What do you see as the relationship between technology on the one hand and design on the other?

Our principle is: we want to design living space sustainably with water. Design is the magic word here, because we don’t think in terms of individual products, we always think in terms of systems and overall applications. Let’s take the private sector as an example. The overall application indoors is an aquarium, a vivarium or a terrarium, i.e. a living space with water or only with plants, which must fit into a living space that has also been designed. It’s not a question of: which filter is in there? If we look at aquaristics, we want to integrate this hobby harmoniously and at a high design level into the habitat, so that those who live there can benefit from the beauty of the fish and pools and integrate a real, fascinating piece of nature into the interior. That’s why we work with Optiwhite glass, with seamless design panels, with push-to-open functions so that there are no annoying handles, with a smooth corpus – the furniture is the highest German craftsmanship quality. The overall appearance is very, very important to us, because first and foremost it opens up the view to the so-called aquascape, i.e. the artfully designed water landscape and the fish.

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<p class=”has-text-align-left”><span style=”font-size: 16pt;”>„Zu viel Mist, der schneller zu Müll wird, als wir denken, und der Zwang, in hohem Tempo Neues zu kaufen – das sind die Feinde.“</span></p>

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<p>– Stefan Ytterborn</p>

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But you only provide the framework.

No, we provide the entire system, i.e. the frame and the technology – the right filter, pumps, care products, fish food. We also offer design elements, so-called “gravels”, specially made in Japan. For everything else, there are numerous suppliers, aquatic plant dealers and pet shops for the fish. We set the stage for them. All this makes a high degree of creativity possible; after all, every aquarium is designed differently. We also maintain a close exchange with influencers; one of our close partners is the aquascaping world champion of 2013 Adrie Baumann or Oliver Knott from Germany. We now have more than 100 specialists worldwide with whom we are in regular contact.

Design, Lucius Burckhardt has noted, is invisible. It is not only about aspects of form, but also about social contexts, institutional conditions and so on. Now you make filters, pumps and wonderful aquariums. But the underlying technology is largely invisible. How do you deal with it communicatively? Or does it remain in the background of your products?

In the past – and by that I also mean before the brand change – OASE was very product-focused. But people want to know what they are getting into. When they then get more intensively involved with the experience, they quickly realise that it’s not just about the pool and the base cabinet. There is also a filter inside. This filter cannot be seen, but it works autonomously. And if it needs to be cleaned, it can be done in a few easy steps. We tell the story deductively: we start with the added value that the overall picture provides and then move on to the various individual parts. For a long time, aquatics had a rather difficult reputation and was often regarded as a “basement or children’s subject” by hobbyists.

With our high level of technical expertise, in which we are already the world market leader in the water garden, we then also dedicated ourselves to the aesthetic design of living and interior spaces and said: we can do that at a high design level and with an aquarium that is as self-sufficient as possible. If the design and technical entry is easy, the whole secret of aquaristics can unfold – without algae formation and dead fish.

You also design water features in large shopping malls. Does better technology guarantee a better experience here too?

Let me put it this way: we can design landscapes from small to large water features at the highest level – or supply the products for them. We also advise, because of course there are tips and tricks that we are happy to share, whether it’s just staging a space or a choreographed show with light and fire effects, video projections or all of the above. This also applies to shopping malls. If an operator wants to improve the shopping experience, we try to find out what the idea behind it is. Then we develop a design draft – either in-house or with external partners – which we can also realise technically.

What is your experience with your products and offerings in different parts of the world? Are such productions more or less in demand in hot, dry regions?

There are certainly investors who want to achieve a special effect with water precisely because it is scarce in the region. Take Dubai. At the foot of one of the tallest towers in the world there are large dancing fountains – and all around is desert. Of course, raw material is scarce there, everyone knows that. Nevertheless, these water features were built. Las Vegas is also in the desert, and yet there are an incredible number of water features and fountains in the city. But water in public spaces is by no means just about prestige or show. Water also helps to lower the overall temperature within cities, support wayfinding or water vegetation. Barcelona, for example, has managed to reduce the average temperature in the city by up to two degrees, not only but also through water in public spaces.

Saving water and still offering a great experience – does that go together?

The economical use of water is important to us per se. Of course, there are regions where reservoir solutions are preferable and the water circulates. But there are also completely different situations. It is important to tailor the use of water to the requirements. In 2009, the Banpo Bridge in South Korea was restaged, with moving water fountains over a length of more than one thousand metres. This bridge fountain has made it into the Guinness Book of Records. There, the water is taken directly from the river and fed back again. You don’t have to skimp on water here.

Depending on the culture – think of Japan – water has different symbolic and aesthetic meanings. Do such aspects play a role in larger projects?

Absolutely. In Japan, there is a strong connection to nature. The divine is seen in the natural. Water plays a major role in this, and as designers and manufacturers you must naturally adapt to this. In the Middle East, the display of water – in a cool and shady courtyard – has long had something luxurious about it, starting with the gardens of Babylon. In India, it is the Ganges, whose water is used for all kinds of rituals. In America and Europe, the swimming pool is very important. However, we observe that this is now often replaced by a more sustainable swimming pond. Under the aspects of biodiversity, sustainability, but also luxury, a swimming pond is currently the means of choice.

You recently presented a brand relaunch and graphically redesigned the logo. What was the idea behind this?

I’ll go through the logo history very briefly so that you know where we come from: After all, there is no further development without heritage. Where does the word mark come from? The OASE company started 74 years ago as a repair company for agricultural machinery. At that time the company was still called August Wübker & Söhne. At the beginning of the 1960s, the engineers also developed water transport pumps for agriculture to bring water to where there was none, namely to the pastures. For this, it has become customary among customers to say: “I need another OASE pump like that!

Very nice story!

We kept the name OASE because we love the idea of creating places that are comparable to an oasis. It is a beautiful image for the design of living space with water. That’s why we didn’t change the name, but added a new element: the flow. The last existing logo, a curved script with two water drops and the claim “Living Water”, was introduced in 2006 and designed by Peter Schmidt to emphasise the emotional more strongly. Since then, the company has developed considerably. Aquariums were added, the professional sector, water technology and much more that goes beyond technical solutions for outdoor use. Currently, the task was to create a modern brand identity that does justice to all this. And everything we do, I keep emphasising this, should offer added value, which we call the flow. By flow we mean a state in which one is neither over- nor under-challenged, or, quite concretely, a living space in which everything fits, everything is coherent. The corporate vision was formulated accordingly: “We create the right flow.

A high standard.

When people come into contact with water in their living environment, stress hormones decrease and happiness hormones are released. There are more and more neuroscientific studies that prove this. And it is precisely this mixture of application and positive effect that we strive for in order to get into a state of flow – at a retreat, when meeting friends or in a public place. We associate this aspiration with everything we do. That’s why we talk about the experience and how we can achieve the most ideal overall design. We thought for a long time about how we could design the flow graphically and looked at what the symbolism of water actually is. In the end, we ended up with alchemy.

When people come into contact with water in their living environment, stress hormones decrease and happiness hormones are released.

Does it need the reference to flow and alchemy?

It is our attitude that speaks from it. But it’s perfectly fine for us if the brand is easy to understand and people link us with the overall experience. After all, the brand is supposed to offer a clear identification that can be proven and charged. There will come a time when the flow can stand alone and everyone will know: This means OASE and this means a great experience in connection with water. From my point of view, brands always become magical when you can derive their substance. I want everyone who sees the brand to understand it immediately and also to have the opportunity to fill it with other facets.

The brand is supposed to offer a clear identification that can be proven and charged.

Does your technique help me as a client to become a magician?

We like to say about ourselves: we are technicians by nature, composers at heart. In alchemy, water is represented by a triangle with its tip pointing downwards. In combination with the idea of flow, the new symbol was created, in which you can also see a wave. But for us it is more than that. If we can convey what the brand is all about and the people who see the icon have a flow feeling, then everything is right. We like to think of ourselves as composers who have all the technical tools to make any composition possible. It’s not uncommon for something magical to emerge in the process.

OASE beim German Brand Award 2022
OASE was awarded “Gold” at the German Brand Awards 2022.

More about OASE

Click here for the official OASE website.

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