Practical And Environmentally-Forward: Colcom Foundation Promotes Sustainability Through the Water Cube Art Project


A piece of art created with the generous support of Colcom Foundation is refreshing the minds and bodies of Pittsburgh residents while simultaneously helping preserve the environment.

The Water Cube in downtown Pittsburgh is a functional art installation that dispenses free, chilled, still and sparkling water.

Possibly the first of its kind in the US, The Water Cube is a stunning work of art and a functional fountain. This permanent public art piece dispenses still and sparkling water, offering a unique amenity for residents, visitors, and district patrons alike.

A 5-by-5-foot glass cube sits gracefully on top of a sleek, 18-inch cylindrical base made of stainless steel. As night falls, the base of the Water Cube seems to vanish from sight, as the illuminated cube appears to float in mid-air, an otherworldly sight to behold. The cube comes alive with pulsating LED lights that breathe life into the installation, rhythmically pulsating, reminding us of our intimate bond with water. It’s a stunning work of art that fuses technology and creativity, a testament to the beauty that can be achieved when art and science work together.

The surrounding parklet features a revolutionary pervious paver system and a beautifully mounded landscape. This ingenious design allows water to flow naturally into the earth rather than being whisked away by the city’s stormwater lines, helping preserve the delicate balance between the urban and natural environments.

Located at the parklet of the 8th Street block of Penn Avenue, The Water Cube has become a gathering place for people to stop and enjoy either sparkling or still water while engaging in conversations with others. The parklet has also become popular with bicyclists and pedestrians, providing them with a much-needed rest stop.

The Water Cube’s design was a collaboration between the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and GBBN Architects / EdgeStudio, with generous support from Colcom Foundation. By providing funding for the project, Colcom Foundation is helping to promote the use of reusable water bottles and reduce plastic waste from single-use water bottles.

 It is estimated that morethan 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away every day in the US, and only about 12% of these are recycled. The rest ends up in landfills or pollutes our oceans and waterways.

The danger to landfills from plastic bottles lies in their non-biodegradable nature. Over time, they can leach toxic chemicals into the surrounding soil and groundwater, polluting natural resources. Moreover, landfills are running out of space from the sheer volume of plastic waste.

The environmental impact of plastic bottles extends beyond landfills. The production of plastic bottles requires vast amounts of fossil fuels, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbating climate change. Furthermore, the transportation and disposal of plastic bottles increases their carbon footprint, making them a destructive environmental choice.

Plastic bottles also contain various chemicals, such as Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, that can be incredibly harmful to human health.

BPA is an industrial chemical used to produce plastics and resins, including polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, commonly found in food and drink packaging. BPA has been linked to a variety of health problems, including reproductive disorders, developmental delays in children, increased likelihood of Alzheimer’s, childhood asthma, metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and durable. Phthalates are also linked to various health problems, including developmental delays in children, reproductive disorders, and cancer.

Colcom Foundation’s contribution to the Water Cube project promotes the use of reusable water bottles and aims to reduce the impact of plastic waste on the environment. A private philanthropic non-profit based in Pittsburgh, Colcom Foundation has a long history of supporting initiatives that protect the environment and promote sustainability.

Through grant-making programs, Colcom supports organizations and projects that protect the environment and promote green practices. One of its areas of focus is reducing plastic waste from single-use items, such as water bottles.

Beyond its functionality, the Water Cube serves as a symbol of hope and progress for the environment. By reducing the consumption of single-use plastic bottles, this work of art contributes to the ongoing fight against plastic waste, leaving a positive impact on the planet for generations to come.

The Water Cube is an excellent example of how public art can serve a functional purpose while also adding beauty and interest to urban areas.

By financially supporting the creation of this beautiful piece of environmentally conscious art, Colcom Foundation has not only contributed to the beautification of Pittsburgh’s public spaces and transformed what was once a mundane corner of Penn Avenue into a vibrant, eco-friendly public space but has also contributed to its larger, long-term mission of a cleaner and more sustainable environment for all.

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