Water is our most sacred resource, one that we take advantage of through our destructive relationship with plastic which is rapidly infecting our waterways. The current methods of treating plastic pollution are not effective nor fast enough to overcome our repetitively toxic relationship. ‘Below the Surface’ changes the dynamic of our relationship within the systems to mitigate and reduce plastic waste from entering our waterways. Uncover what cannot be seen and discover what’s really below the surface.
“plastic is a substance the earth cannot digest”Jeff Bridges
The normality of using plastic in everything is engrained into our culture. However, the use, relationship, and reckless disposal of plastics are having an extremely detrimental impact on all ecosystems, humans included.
This obsession with plastic, especially single-use plastic, has only become stronger with the recent developments of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Unfortunately, due to the relationship the societal system has with plastic, a large portion of this waste is becoming debris within our environment. In Wuhan, China, there has been a 500% increase in daily medical waste, Thailand has had a 320% increase in daily plastic waste and the UK has had a 300% increase in plastic littering (Duer, 2020).
Other elements within the site have been manipulated to work with the tide. This reinforces the new relationship between land and sea. Particular parts of the site, such as the tunnels are best used when the tide is high and other elements such as the artificial mangroves, are best used at low tide. These elements have been implemented to create a multitude of new and different experiences throughout all times of the day and night. At low tide, the design of the installation will be more confronting, as more representation of damage and pollution will be able to be seen and experienced. By working with the tides and adjusting the design, the message of ‘Below the Surface’ pushes and encourages societal behavioural change.
The project, the design and the installations, are all transformative over a temporal scape. The installations change over time to reflect the state, improvement and behavioural change within the community and local waterways. The Wade will eventually be removed, with the wading pool reinstated when the community reduces and stops their demand for plastics. Life will return to its normality when the water can breathe.
The root-like structures physically collect and catch debris within the environment and change behavioural perceptions of the users.
Perceptions are altered through experiencing and witnesses the issue first-hand within the environment. This differs from the Wade and the Sink, as the waste is tangible.
The Artificial Mangroves will stay in the site indefinitely, to continue capturing waste and mitigate the erosion of the new beaches. As time progresses and plastic is eliminated from the waterways, the Artificial Mangroves will become a place of habitat and learning.
Over time, the structures will become encased in sea life like barnacles, forming an ecosystem and reinforcing the structures. The learning opportunity arises for children and students to be educated about the adaptability and resilience of marine life.
Over the temporal scape, the Sink will be transformed into a place for idealistic recreational use. The place that is designed to be ugly, chaotic, disorientating and confronting, becomes one of beauty and joy. In doing this, the community is given a long-term goal to work towards.
This improves both the waterways of the site and the mindset of the people. Over time, the sites environmental condition improves as plastic use/demand reduces. The plastic debris within the cavities of the Sink, will incrementally reduce and eventually be void.
Societies consumption and disposal of plastic has been proven to cause damage to our environments. They are continuing to decline due to the overwhelming obsessive use and waste of plastic. Our current methods of treating plastic pollution are not as effective as we need them to be to end this repetitively toxic relationship.
‘Below the Surface’ changes the dynamic of the relationship that society has with the plastic. The project achieves this through the installation of confronting experiences.
To see, one must experience.
Ultimately, the demand of plastic is reduced through the use of confronting experiences. These experiences are reflected on by society, resulting in behavioural change.
The lack of demand reduces the production of plastic and therefore reduces plastic within the waterways.
To learn more about the significance, the project, my journey, and how it all connects, download the full report. Please share what you learn so we can end plastic pollution.
Rebecca Woodbridge is a Landscape Architecture major who has minored in Architecture, Interior and Industrial Design. She has studied this broad range of disciplines to obtain knowledge surrounding design psychology. Rebecca believes that it is important to understand how people act and react to a space, as the impact created by a place can alter everything.